The Toronto Blue Jays want Anthony Alford in their organization.
Alford wants at play quarterback this fall at Southern Mississippi.
The good news for Toronto is that as far as NCAA regulations go, Alford can still have his cake and eat it too. It might also be the only way the Blue Jays can sign him.
The Blue Jays raised eyebrows on Monday when they selected Alford, a 17-year-old high school outfielder, in the third round (No. 112 overall) of Monday’s MLB Draft.
Leading up to the event, Alford — a three time Mississippi state high school football player of the year who had been ranked as high as No. 56 in MLB.com’s pre-draft rankings — told clubs, including Toronto, not to bother using a pick on him because he was determined to play football and baseball at Southern Miss this fall.
Undeterred, the Blue Jays decided to take flier on him in the hopes they could convince him his athletic future lies on the diamond and not the gridiron.
“I wasn’t expecting to go in the top three rounds,” Alford told Hattiesburg TV station WDAM on June 6. “I told them I wanted to go to college, and I thought they’d pick me probably the 10th or 11th round…I was surprised.”
According to MLB’s new CBA, the signing slot for the No. 122 pick is $424,400, but the Blue Jays could offer Alford more than that as long as they don’t exceed their allotted bonus pool of $8,830,800 for their first 14 picks.
Five of the Blue Jays first six picks in this week’s draft were high schoolers. The lone exception was college junior and No. 22 overall pick, Marcus Stroman.
With their next eight picks, Toronto went exclusively with college seniors, players with little negotiating leverage likely to sign far below their slots, in theory providing them with a bigger pool of signing money to throw at high schoolers such as Alford.
On Wednesday, Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Andrew Tinnish said they plan on making a strong push for Alford.
“Anthony is an extremely athletic centre-fielder,” said Tinnish. “Obviously he’s a very good athlete and a very good kid, with a very short and quick compact swing. He’s probably a seven runner on our 2-8 scale. He’s very explosive. He’s a guy that we’d love to have as part of our organization.
“It’s something that we’re going to work hard to do but at this point, we’re just starting the process of communicating with him and his family.”
The Blue Jays are in the early stages of their courtship of Alford, while it appears Southern Miss has been making overtures beyond his scholarship offer for months.
According to themississippipress.com, one of the first moves new Southern Miss head football coach Ellis Johnson made when he took over in December was to hire his friend Steve Buckley as an assistant. Buckley was most recently Alford’s high school coach at Petal.
With four-year starter Austin Davis heading to the NFL, its believed Alford could start at quarterback as a freshman.
On the baseball side at Southern Miss, Alford is also quite familiar with head coach Scott Berry. Alford was a high school teammate and is close friends with Berry’s son Garren.
On Wednesday, Alford sounded as though he’s willing to see what the Blue Jays might offer, but at the end of the day, he still knows what he’ll be doing in the fall.
“I’m going to sit down with my family and talk about it,” he said. “We’re going to discuss the pros and cons, but we’re not really going to make a decision. I mean, I’m still going to school regardless.”
The Blue Jays would prefer to have Alford commit to baseball full-time, but another option is that he signs a contract with Toronto that still allows him to play football at Southern Miss.
NCAA regulations allow players to sign pro contracts in one sport while maintaining their eligibility in another.
Just last summer, the Blue Jays reached a similar agreement with undrafted free agent outfielder, and Rice University wide receiver, Luke Wilson.
On Wednesday, Tinnish didn’t rule out going down that road with Alford.
“I think that could be possible,” he explained. “This is a little unique because of where we took him in the draft. Luke was a post-draft sign. It’s too early in the process to say, yes or no to that, so I’d probably just have to say ‘maybe.”
Tinnish sounded less uncertain about Alford’s upside as a baseball player.
“I think he’s an extremely good baseball player. I think he’s got a chance to be an everyday player in the major leagues. As far as if he’s better at football, I’m not really qualified to make a comment. Certainly he must be pretty good if he’s got a scholarship at a Division I school at quarterback.”