TORONTO -- Anthony Alford's decision to pass on football and pursue a full-time career in baseball seems to be paying off as the promising outfielder has cracked MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list.The Blue Jays' lone representative, Alford is ranked No. 42 overall. The former University of Mississippi defensive back didn't
TORONTO -- Anthony Alford's decision to pass on football and pursue a full-time career in baseball seems to be paying off as the promising outfielder has cracked MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
The Blue Jays' lone representative, Alford is ranked No. 42 overall. The former University of Mississippi defensive back didn't crack the preseason rankings a year ago, but his soaring stock can be tied to the fact he is now focused solely on baseball.
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The 21-year-old Alford is coming off his first full season in the Minors. He has been in Toronto's system since 2012, but his time with the Blue Jays was often overshadowed by a college football career. Not anymore: Alford has gone all in, and so far, it is paying off.
"I looked up to guys like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders," Alford told MLB.com in January. "Two-sport guys, and they made it look easy. I said, 'Well if they can do it at that level -- NFL and MLB -- I can definitely play college football and professional baseball.'
• MLB Pipeline's 2016 Top 100 Prospects list
"But the further I got along, I started falling behind in baseball, falling behind in football, because it's not like high school, it's not as easy. You have to actually put time into it, work on it in the offseason. I wasn't getting the time to work on baseball in the offseason, because I was playing football. I wasn't getting time to work on football in the offseason, because I playing baseball. So I was falling behind in both sports. I had to choose one or the other."
Prior to 2015, Alford had been limited to 322 plate appearances over three years in the Minor Leagues. He dwarfed that number last year with 487 trips to the plate. Alford hit a combined .298 with a .398 on-base percentage and an .820 OPS in 107 combined games at Class A Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin.
Alford projects as either a center fielder or right fielder with a plus arm and the ability to make hard contact. There is a tendency to strike out too much, but there's also untapped power in his bat and lightning speed on the bases, giving Alford the potential to become an impact player at the big league level.
The annual ranking of baseball's Top 100 Prospects is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2016 season are eligible for the list. The rankings follow the guidelines laid out by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, in terms of who falls under the international pool money rules: Players who were at least 23 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
"I feel like I did, but I really don't look back on the past," Alford said when asked if he made up for lost time in 2015. "I feel like I had a lot of catching up to do, and I feel like I've caught up somewhat.
"I possibly could have been further along if I came out of high school and played baseball full time, but I don't have any regrets. I just continue to go out to the field every day, have quality at-bats and continue to try to help the team win. I think everything else will take care of itself."
Alford finished the 2015 season in Dunedin and likely will either begin the season there or be promoted to Double-A New Hampshire.
"This time a year from now, I feel like it's realistic to say I'd love to be in Toronto, or be ready to break camp with Toronto," Alford said. "That's where I would like to be, and if I said I would like anything less, I'd be selling myself short. That's what my goals are."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.