Welcome to Blue Jays Nation’s Season In Review. Instead of doing boring-ass, standard player-by-player reviews or handing out some arbitrary report cards, I’m going to talk about 20 things that are on my mind heading into 2020. Today, we have Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford and whether one of them can take an opportunity and run with it.
When Derek Fisher became a Blue Jay, there was virtually zero fanfare attached to the acquisition.
The only ones excited by the addition, it seemed, were members of the front office. Ross Atkins came out and publicly talked about how thrilled the brass was to acquire Fisher, a unique player who featured a blend of plus speed, great power, an elite eye, and fair defence. Unfortunately, Fisher looked, uh, nothing like the player Atkins had raved about.
Meanwhile, Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini, two of the three players heading back to the Astros in the deal (along with interesting prospect Cal Stevenson) combined to throw a no-hitter just days after the trade was made. The immediate optics of the trade really couldn’t have been worse for the Blue Jays.
So, right off the hop, you have a new guy added to the fold that fans had already written off as a bargain-bin castaway who wasn’t good enough to have a role on a contending team. Regardless, this was a guy the front office really believed in and he was going to get a chance to show what he could do. Fisher jumped right to the top of Toronto’s crowded outfield depth chart, playing pretty much every day in August and September.
At the same time, you had Anthony Alford hanging out in Triple-A. Just about a year ago, Alford was mentioned in the same breath as Bo Bichette and Vlad Jr. as key members of the future to get excited about. Despite this, there didn’t seem to be much interest from the Blue Jays in giving Alford a chance to prove himself at the Major League level.
Alford was put through a bizarre situation at the beginning of the season in which he didn’t crack the roster out of spring training, but hung around with the team, ultimately getting added to the 25-man roster after Kevin Pillar was dealt to San Fransisco. His stint lasted one game and we didn’t hear from him until September. Even when he did get the call when rosters expanded, Alford only saw a handful of starts, as he was mostly stapled to the bench and used as a defensive replacement.
Fans were calling for Alford, a well-liked player who had top-prospect status not very long ago, to get an extended opportunity. Instead, they got the new guy who struck out a lot and caught a pop-fly with his face.
It was interesting that one guy was viewed as a key prospect who had a late-season surge to bring his slash line to .264/.348/.434 in Triple-A and needed to be an everyday player because of it while the other guy was a complete scrub despite slashing a .286/.401/.522 line the year before. It’s easy to forget, but Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford are only one year apart in age.
The optics of the trade were bad, there’s no doubt there, but you can’t let that cloud your vision of the player forever. On the other side, Sanchez will potentially miss all of the 2020 season due to injury and he was non-tendered by the Astros. Biagini didn’t crack any of the playoff rosters during Houston’s run to the World Series. Stevenson has since been traded to Tama Bay (where he can go on to be a Jays killer for the next decade) in exchange for a mediocre pitcher in Austin Pruitt.
If you squint hard enough, you can see the upside that the Blue Jays seem to be fawning over when it comes to Fisher. He’s never really had an extended look at the Major League level due to playing for a deep Astros club, but his numbers in Triple-A are impressive. He does have the raw skillset, too, with excellent speed and a powerful swing that causes damage when he makes contact.
That brings us to this season. Fisher and Alford are both on the 40-man roster and will be competing for roles on the 2020 Blue Jays. Both players are out of options and will either have to crack the team and travel north out of camp or be subject to waivers in order to be sent back to the minors. Both players also have their eyes on the gaping hole Toronto currently has in centre field.
When it’s all said and done, there’s a good chance Fisher is playing for the Blue Jays next season and Alford isn’t. Fisher has spent a lot of time in centre field and could grab that position if the Jays decide to roll with Randal Grichuk in the corner instead. Given the possibilities that come with the new 26-man roster, Alford could stick with the team, but he’s got a ways to go before jumping Fisher on the depth chart.
I know, it’s weird to say that the underwhelming new guy is ahead of the former top prospect on the depth chart, but here we are. As curious as it is that Alford didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself in September, he also didn’t really prove himself in Triple-A before that either. On the other hand, Fisher has crushed Triple-A competition. A role on this year’s team is his to lose. The same can’t really be said for Alford.