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High school coach raves about Alford

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays selected a player many believe to be a first-round talent in Anthony Alford during the third round, No. 112 overall, of the First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday.

Potential signability issues may have scared some teams off from Alford, who has committed to the University of Southern Mississippi on a football scholarship.

Alford, 17, is a center fielder who attended Petal High School in Mississippi for four years and was a standout baseball and football player, two sports he will continue to play if he stays at Southern Mississippi.

He told teams not to draft him because he intends to stay at school and has already started taking classes, but will listen to see what the Blue Jays present to him.

"They were talking to me in the first round, but I was up front with them," Alford said. "I didn't think they were going to take me that early. Right now, I want to enjoy it. I was excited, but I'm not going to make any quick decisions. I'm going to think about it for a while."

Alford considers football his number one sport, but since the Blue Jays took many college seniors who don't have nearly the same amount of leverage as him, they may be able to sign some of those players under slot and use the leftover money to beef up the offer to Alford.

He considers himself to be a strong hitter with good speed and would like to work on his arm strength. Alford, who was at school when he received the news, has all the confidence in the world in his abilities.

"I think I can be a five-tool player, but I have to make a lot of improvements," Alford said. "But I can also adjust to the game real fast."

At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Alford is said to be toolsy, a plus runner and was ranked as's No. 56 Draft prospect.'s prospect guru, Jonathan Mayo, said Alford has as much upside as anyone in the Draft.

Alford's high school baseball coach, Larry Watkins, echoed the same sentiments as Mayo.

"He's a great baseball player, a great athlete," said Watkins. "He's a first-round-type guy. He probably would have gone first round if he hadn't said he was heading on to school. I hope it works out where he can continue playing baseball."

Watkins raved about Alford, calling him one of the best baseball players he has ever seen. Alford started all four years he played at Petal High School, and helped the team win state championships in his sophomore and junior years.

Alford missed a number of games in his junior year with an ACL injury he sustained while playing football, but he is fully recovered and the injury hasn't appeared to affect his speed. He ran the 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds at a Perfect Game USA showcase last year following his injury.

"He is very advanced right now, very coachable, and can hit to all fields," Watkins said. "He has alley-to-alley power and he can run. He's a triples guy who will steal bases. A very explosive runner. Very aggressive running the bases. Very instinctive, and reacts very well to what is going on on the field.

"He plays the game hard and he's very talented and a great kid. Add those three together and you got something special right there."

Watkins describes Alford as a very humble kid and a special athlete who was also good at basketball, in addition to baseball and football.

"For a pitcher, it is tough to get him twice," Watkins said. "He plays the game like it is supposed to be played."

While Alford might be perceived as a tough sign, that didn't scare the Blue Jays away. Watkins said the Blue Jays have coveted Alford, and were scouting him all season long. Alford said he will begin discussions with the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

Alford, who has two brothers and a sister, is studying business at Southern Mississippi.

The recommended bonus for the 112th pick is $424,400.