New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ OF Anthony Alford had a season to write home about.
After a sideways 2016 which was interrupted by injury, the 2012 3rd rounder did not break out this year like he did in 2015, when he burst onto the prospect scene after three seasons to abbreviated action while he pursued his college football dreams, but he had a fantastic 2017 campaign just the same. After making his MLB debut in May, he returned to AA in August after breaking his wrist, and was named the Eastern League’s 9th Top Prospect by Baseball America.
Alford blitzed Eastern League pitching, and was hitting .325/.411/.455 when he was called up to the Blue Jays. He broke his wrist after only 8 ABs, and was out of action for six weeks. When Alford returned, the Blue Jays wisely decided to sent him back to AA after a rehab stint at Dunedin.
That Alford was ranked only the 9th-best Eastern League prospect is not an issue; the loop was full of premium prospects this year. But he did show a combination of speed, reactions to fly balls, and power potential that led several EL Managers to compare him to former MLBer Rondell White. One Manager went as far as to say:
His breaks on balls were so good…….that it looked like he got going before the ball was hit.
Alford had a great deal of development time to make up for after committing to baseball in 2015. His baseball education is almost complete, and it’s time for him to compete for a major league job at spring training.
Conspicuous by their absence on the list were Pitchers Sean Reid-Foley and Conner Greene. Both had their struggles this season, to put it mildly. Reid-Foley’s command issues early in the season had him running into pitch limit troubles early in starts. He did improve as 2017 progressed, but his numbers were inflated by those April and May difficulties. Greene hit 100+ on his fastball numerous times, and wowed the hometown crowd at the Eastern League All Star game, but command issues plagued him for much of the season. No other starter in the Blue Jays organization had a higher pitches per inning average than Greene. BA stated:
He had the best fastball in the league and his curveball was in the conversation for best breaking ball, but he was more of a thrower than a pitcher, in managers/scouts eyes. He lived up in the zone a lot, for example, and could get hit. If he irons out the finer points of pitching and keeps the same stuff, the ceiling is very high. He wasn’t far off the list.
This season may just have been a speed bump for both, but it did bring about mumblings that we’ve heard before that one or both of them profile in the long run as power bullpen arms.
C Danny Jansen played at 3 levels this year, and had a breakthrough year at the plate. Jansen hit career highs in most offensive categories, putting up a combined line of .323/.400/.484, with 10 Home Runs. The EL list was the only one he qualified for, but BA’s Josh Norris felt he profiles more of a bat-first Catcher:
Scouts who I talked to saw him more as an offensive-minded backup type of catcher with work still to be done defensively. Particularly, needed work on his lateral agility as a blocker.
Prior to this season, Jansen had a reputation as a solid defensive Catcher. I have to admit that this was not the first time his skills had been questioned this summer. Jansen is a big guy, and he did seem challenged on some pitches in the dirt off the plate this year. Still, he is an excellent pitch framer, and presents a nice low target for his size. It will be interesting to see where his development goes from here. You have to think that he has an excellent shot at landing a position as Russ Martin’s understudy next spring.