(Photo via the Flickr Creative Commons, thanks to Buck Davidson for the shot of Alford)
Anthony Alford and Logan Warmoth are the third and fourth ranked prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays top-heavy farms system, and while both went to college in the States their paths to Toronto could not be more different.
Alford, the third ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system and 47th on the 2018 Top 100 MLB prospects list, could be the leadoff hitter the organization has been lacking since the departure of Jose Reyes. Alford was a first round talent but due to his desire to prioritize football throughout high school and university, the Columbia, Mississippi product fell to the third round (112th overall) of the 2012 MLB entry draft where the Blue Jays took a chance on the extremely raw product ($75,000 signing bonus), allowing him to continue playing football at school and baseball in the summers. Legal issues and a coaching change eventually forced Alford from the University of Southern Mississippi to the University of Mississippi, and after struggling at the FBS level in 2014, Alford stepped off the gridiron and began to play baseball full time, just as the Blue Jays had hoped.
Despite his time off the diamond, Alford’s ascension up the Blue Jays farm system was quick but far from painless. By 2015 the outfielder was already promoted to Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays, the highest minor league in the system, where he played 57 games hitting .302 with 15 stolen bases. Alford’s progress was hindered in 2016 by a series of trips to the disabled list for a knee injury and a concussion, and after a strong start his 2017 campaign with Double-A New Hampshire (.310/.406/.429 with 18 stolen bases), Alford was called up for his big league debut in May only to suffer a broken hamate bone and land on the disabled list for two months.
The 2018/19 season should see Alford return to form and the 23-year-old prospect should get another crack at the majors where his speed and ability to make consistent hard contact will be welcomed by the Jays. Though Alford is still a raw prospect, one with timing issues, a below-average arm, and a history of injuries, his raw athleticism has those around Blue Jays organization excited. Not bad for a third round pick who prioritized football for most of his life.
While Alford might not have had very high expectations when the Jays drafted him in the third round of 2012, the same cannot be said about Logan Warmoth, the fourth-ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system according to MLB Pipeline. In high school, Warmoth was ranked the sixth best middle infielder in the nation by Perfect Game, and eventually the Orlando, Florida product committed to North Carolina in 2014 despite offers from other Division 1 schools. Warmoth took over the Tarheels shortstop job just a month into his freshman season and never looked back, owning an impressive three-year college career where he hit .310/.378/.453 with 133 RBIs and 37 stolen bases. Selected 22nd overall in the 2017 MLB entry draft, the Blue Jays gave Warmoth a $2,820,200 signing bonus justified just a day later when Warmoth won the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s top college shortstop.
Though Warmoth is years behind Alford when it comes to cracking the big league roster, the 22-year-old shortstop is an exciting prospect. Warmoth is a gifted hitter who controls the strike zone and can use the entire field, and with 15 homers in college, he is starting to show power potential. He has solid speed, quick hands, and good instincts, making him a good baserunner and fielder. After hitting .306/.356/.419 with 20 RBIs in 39 games for the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League in 2017, Warmoth should begin what should be a fairly quick ascension up the Blue Jays farm system in 2018.
With all the hype surrounding the first and second ranked Blue Jays prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, the remainder of Toronto’s prospects have been lost in the shuffle. But do not overlook Anthony Alford or Logan Warmoth: Though both took drastically different paths to the Blue Jays, both display raw potential and should have fans excited about what the future holds.