10-14-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
I already wrote him off. Anthony Alford was removed from my thought process when his disastrous start to 2021 was rewarded with a DFA and outright to AAA. Out of the corner of my eye of course I saw what he was doing down there, but I dismissed it as a Quad A guy tearing apart AAA pitching.
His health cut short his opportunity in 2020 after a promising showing. His second opportunity in 2021 was stunted by injury. Fully healthy, he started hitting moon shots, played solid defense and showcased how his speed can help him capitalize on even poor contact, even if stolen bases remain an elusive artform.
Look, I still don’t think you can head into 2022 pretending this time he’s an answer, but he certainly made a case didn’t he? An athletic freak, he has more tools than almost anyone on the baseball team right now but that doesn’t always translate to success.
I mean paint this picture however you like, he’s still a guy who hit .233. I’m not trying to Joe Block this subject and tell you from August whatever to September whatever he is Babe Ruth, but this is his opportunity, and finishing strong, and continuing to hit mammoth homeruns did nothing but make the Pirates think.
It’s an uphill climb to be sure, no GM wants to be clowned twice by the same player. Alford’s performance in 2020 before busting up his arm making a catch was enough to head into 2021 expecting him to be worth seeing more, then he came out and laid an egg.
So a strong finish in 2021 may not be enough to have them try it again. Fair or unfair, that’s the truth. You’re only going to burn an organization so many times before you run out of shots.
My struggle with Alford is where do you bat him? His speed says leadoff, but his strikeout numbers, something I don’t see as being solved in any way, well they say hell no. Can’t have him bat 2 through 5 for the same reason. 6 or 7 make sense, but does his speed play down there? Maybe in a DH league he’s a guy who fits 8 or 9 in the order.
But here I am trying to think of ways to live with his warts. Does that in and of itself kind of answer the question?
What I fear most is his decent performance the last month convinces the Pirates they have an outfield of Reynolds, Alford and Gamel that could hold out until Swaggerty is ready. I fear that because it puts a ton of faith in the fact this is real, and if I’m honest is actually worse than the projected opening day outfield from this year. I’d really like an outside free agent brought in to compete, and I’d like that despite what Alford may or may not do.
I’m all for finding guys and having it work out, but his XBA is actually .188, just a paltry number that makes somehow his .233 seem lucky.
While he can give you shades of Starling Marte, he can also just as easily be Polanco. It costs the Pirates nothing more than a roster spot to keep him so really his battle is proving another shot for him next year is more valuable than whichever prospect that will be left unprotected.
He’s an interesting player, and case study for the patience level of this GM. Keep your eye on this because it might very well be a choice between retaining him and bringing in someone else.
If the choice were mine, I’d lead shopping, I doubt the Pirates will feel the same.