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Inbox: Will Alford get more playing time in OF?

Beat reporter Alexis Brudnicki answers questions from Toronto fans
@baseballexis
September 9, 2019

TORONTO -- As the season winds down and the Blue Jays continue to give glimpses into the future by offering opportunities to their freshest faces from the farm, a number of questions remain. With 18 games left in the regular season and Toronto on pace for 100 losses, there’s no

TORONTO -- As the season winds down and the Blue Jays continue to give glimpses into the future by offering opportunities to their freshest faces from the farm, a number of questions remain.

With 18 games left in the regular season and Toronto on pace for 100 losses, there’s no doubt that the query most often heard is how and when the team might start winning. Embracing the transition of a core of young prospects to the Majors seemingly all at once, the organization understands that question, and it believes those players have the ability to create an atmosphere where they will thrive.

“How do they impact each other?” Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro asked earlier in the season. “How do you start to place an emphasis and premium on not just getting to the big leagues, not just getting paid and staying there, but winning?

“Talk about their ability to impact beyond their performance. We really need to be exceptional -- we can’t just be good. We can’t just be average. We need to have an exceptional environment, and they need to perform at an extremely high level.”

Toronto’s needs have been outlined, and the hope is that the team's fulfillment will translate onto the scoreboard and into wins, but question marks surround the timeline of when that might occur.

“We’re doing everything humanly possible to push that envelope,” Shapiro said. “Every little thing we can do. With human beings, there is no finite date you can give, but we’re not going to set a limit to how soon that can happen, and we hope that can happen faster than anyone thinks is possible.”

While only time can truly offer that answer, I can respond to questions in this week’s Inbox.

Anthony Alford hasn’t had much playing time so far this month. Should we expect to see more soon, or is he likely to remain mostly a bench option given the crowded outfield?
-- Craig C., Toronto

The Blue Jays certainly put manager Charlie Montoyo in an unenviable spot when rosters expanded to start September, adding Alford and Jonathan Davis to an outfield that was seemingly expected to see Teoscar Hernández, Randal Grichuk and Derek Fisher playing most days, with Billy McKinney taking the occasional turn and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. expected back from the injured list at any moment.

With seven outfielders and only a couple weeks’ worth of games remaining, it would be hard to imagine how Alford would see a significant amount of time on the field to end the season. But as Toronto’s No. 20 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and an extremely athletic 25-year-old with all of the right tools, the Blue Jays should be taking advantage of every moment Alford is healthy, either to see what they’ve got in him or to give other teams glimpses of what might be attractive.

What options do the Blue Jays hold with Matt Shoemaker for next season?
-- Jamie B., Winnipeg, Manitoba

Despite signing a one-year contract with the Blue Jays ahead of this season, Toronto has control of the 32-year-old right-hander’s rights in arbitration through the 2020 season. The only scenario in which he would not return would be if he were not tendered a contract offer by the deadline in December.

Before tearing his left ACL early in the season, Shoemaker posted a 1.57 ERA over five starts and 28 2/3 innings with nine walks and 24 strikeouts, and he was certainly a bright spot for the Blue Jays over that span. In six seasons with the Angels, the righty had a 3.93 ERA over 545 innings with 490 strikeouts, and he would be a welcome member of Toronto's starting rotation for the 2020 season.

Is Corey Hart the Blue Jays' hitting coach next year?
-- Brent C., London, Ontario

While it is possible that I might be missing something, my first instinct would be to say no. Though Hart was successful at Triple-A Buffalo this season, working with Bisons hitters climbing the Minor League ladder and assisting those who returned to the level for a stint in order to reclaim success in the Majors, Toronto’s staff seems happy with first-year hitting coach Guillermo Martinez and the work he has put in this year.

Neither the Blue Jays' nor the Bisons' hitting numbers are ideal -- Toronto ranks last in the American League with a .234 average this season, second-to-last with a .301 on-base percentage and 11th with a .421 slugging percentage, while Buffalo sits 10th among 14 International League teams with a .261 team average, 11th with a .337 on-base percentage and 10th with a .434 slugging percentage -- but I’m not sure that the answer would be a promotion for Hart.

Is Elvis Luciano going to be back in Toronto? Does he have to be activated this week for them to be able to keep him as a Rule 5 Draft pick?
-- Colleen E.

Luciano should be with the Blue Jays as they start a three-game series against the Red Sox at Rogers Centre on Tuesday, and he should be activated from the 60-day injured list at some point in the near future.

Thrust into the Majors this year with little Minor League experience, the 19-year-old right-hander impressed at least enough in his 20 appearances and 27 2/3 innings to remain on the roster for the rest of the season so that Toronto can keep the Rule 5 Draft pick in the organization.

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.