Anthony Alford was a top prospect back in the mid-2010s with the Toronto Blue Jays. After constant underperformance in the upper minor leagues and injuries, the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to purchase his contract from Toronto in 2020. He opened the next season as the team’s starting centerfielder but failed to capture the role. But after a fine performance at Triple-A and hot end to the 2021 season, Alford likely has clung onto a roster spot through at least the first few weeks of April next season once again.
Back in April, Alford started the season with 29 straight plate appearances without a single hit. He drew 4 walks, but couldn’t find a hit to save his life. After that disastrous start to the season, the Pirates DFA’d Alford, but he went unclaimed. That sent him to Triple-A where he had a phenomenal stint.
Through 226 plate appearances, Alford posted a strong .307/.420/.593 line, .434 wOBA, and 168 wRC+. He also slammed 14 home runs while swiping 9 bags. This earned him a promotion back to the bigs in early August where he continued to post solid numbers. Alford’s final 119 PA’s of 2021 saw him post a .266/.328/.477 line, smack 5 home runs and have an overall .341 wOBA, and 114 wRC+.
Despite his strong results at Indianapolis and late into the 2021 season, there are still some major concerns. Even when Alford was doing good, there were a ton of noteworthy red flags. His 168 wRC+ at Triple-A also came with a massively inflated .454 batting average on balls in play. While he was walking a ton (14.7% of the time), he also struck out 34.5% of the time. Strikeouts continued to plague Alford when he was hitting in the majors. He struck out at a very high 35.3% rate while keeping up a high .387 BAbip.
The Pirates don’t need Alford to keep hitting like he did at the end of last season, or like he did at Triple-A. They’ll likely get either Travis Swaggerty or Canaan Smith-Njigba up in the majors by May. If he can at least hit .200/.300/.400 with a wRC+ around 88-95, at least for a month until either Swags or CSN is ready, he’ll be good enough of a month-long holdover.