Sitting in the training room at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium one afternoon, Anthony Alford saw Jose Bautista and asked the all-star right-fielder how often he takes swings in the batting cage. In the clubhouse, he picked the brains of Domonic Brown and Devon Travis, and discussed defending the outfield with Kevin Pillar. Even when Alford wasn’t an active participant, he soaked up every bit of knowledge he came across during his time in camp with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Seeing what adjustments they had to make, what was the difference in going from this level to the next level, so I know what to prepare for. I feel like that’s way more important than the mechanical part, your swing,” says the 21-year-old centre-fielder widely regarded as the club’s top prospect. “I sat in the cage and listened to Josh Donaldson talk to some people.
“I just listen a lot and talk less. That’s where most of my learning is coming at.”
That learning should serve Alford well in minor-league camp after the Blue Jays over the weekend reassigned him and fellow prospects Rowdy Tellez, Richard Urena, Roemon Fields, Danny Jansen, Jon Berti, Matt Dean and Taylor Cole plus depth players Ben Rowen, Scott Copeland and Pat McCoy.
Alford’s next destination isn’t yet clear – the Blue Jays could challenge him with double-A New Hampshire or give him some more time at single-A Dunedin, where he slashed .302/.380/.444 in 57 games to close out 2015. Wherever he starts, he’ll be looking to pick up right where he left off, making up for the time he lost while playing college football.
A third-round pick signed for $750,000 in 2012 – he would have gone far higher if not for his commitment to play quarterback at Southern Mississippi – Alford made only 110 plate appearances in the minor leagues plus 152 more in Australia from his draft year through 2014.