The Pirates have claimed outfielder Ka’ai Tom off waivers from the Athletics and designated fellow outfielder Anthony Alford for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster, per a club announcement. Tom, the Athletics’ selection in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, was designated for assignment by Oakland earlier this week. He’ll maintain his Rule 5 designation with the Pirates, meaning he cannot be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers and being offered back to his original organization, the Indians.
Tom, 26, went just 1-for-16 in limited action with the A’s, but he forced his way onto their Opening Day roster with a huge spring showing: .310/.412/.552 with a homer, two doubles, a triple and four walks against eight strikeouts through 34 trips to the plate. His last minor league season was similarly encouraging, as he logged a combined .290/.380/.532 in 554 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A, adding 23 homers and five steals.
Tom has never rated as a top prospect, but he has a rock-solid track record spanning his entire minor league career and his days as a star at the University of Kentucky. Following the Rule 5 Draft in December, FanGraphs Eric Longenhagen wrote: “Tom is one of those prospects who makes me wonder, “Are we all idiots?” because he has a consistent track record of above-average offensive performance all the way from college through the upper minors, and yet because he’s a little guy without huge power he is consistently dismissed by scouts.”
The Bucs ought to be able to give Tom plenty of leash to show he has the chops to continue that strong performance in the big leagues. He started just four games with a win-now A’s club, but the Pirates aren’t expecting to win much of anything in 2021 and can afford to give him regular playing time if they choose. Alford and Dustin Fowler had been splitting time in center field for the Pirates, but neither has hit so far, leading to today’s roster shuffle.
Alford, also 26, is a wildly gifted athlete and former two-sport star who didn’t fully commit to baseball until more than two years after he was drafted. He was one of the most touted talents in the 2012 draft but worked out a deal with the Blue Jays that allowed him to play football in college. He continued doing so until Sept. 2014, and in the years since that time he’s battled injuries — most notably wrist surgery and a torn hamstring. He’s still tallied just 117 plate appearances in the Majors since his 2017 big league debut.
Alford ranked among the game’s top 100 prospects from 2016-18 on virtually any publication of note, but his opportunities to this point have been limited. He was 2-for-24 with the Pirates this season, and he carries a career .150/.222/.262 batting line in the Majors. Pittsburgh will have a week to trade him or attempt to pass him through outright waivers. If he clears, the Pirates can keep him in the organization without dedicating a 40-man roster spot to him. He’d then presumably be in line for everyday reps with their Triple-A club once the season gets underway.
Felt like this was only a matter of time. He didn’t collect a single hit in his first 20 or so plate appearances. He’s a nice dude too, so it was hard to watch him struggle. Though I am excited to see Castro who was recalled today, maybe just for the double header but still.
Dumpster Divin Theo
Baseball needs more nice guys. Less Trashstros
Alford no 🙁
Alford played QB in college. i wonder if he could pull a Josh Booty.
Yeah he played qb. For a program that hadn’t had a losing season in over 20 years, by the end of the year the team didn’t win a single game, Alford transferred and played db at ole miss.
You wouldn’t think there would be a worse outfield option than Alford, though this guy appears to have all the tools.
Are the Pirates trying to move the team to Miami?
Ghost of past pirates
And are you really STEVE I DA HO. BUCS are 8-10. So take your trollisim and slither back under the rock
Even though it’s his last name, I’m rooting for Tom. I have a level of comfort with him already and it makes me feel like I’m calling a close friend by their first name. I’m going to see if I can learn something about him now to further cement that comfort and belief in him.
Dumpster Divin Theo
Count me as a member of the Tom Tom club as well. Wordy Rappinghood.
@Dumpster Divin Theo. I’m quite sure most readers have no idea what you are talking about but I do! I would play wordy rappinghood on the tape deck in my ‘71 beetle super loud over and over! Thanks for the memories 🙂
Good for him . Now TOM this is your chance to get your Lenny Dykstra on . Lay off that high fastball you’re only 5″7 . Best wishes
Fowler and now Tom? Pirates love A’s outfielders.
Not as much as Jerry Dipoto loves former Oakland arms.
*terrible A’s outfielders
Dumpster diving, woo!
I’m rooting for Tom, if for no other reason than his first name is freaking “Blaze”.
and he’s got some speed too, so the name fits.
Hope Alford gets a chance to reset and regain his confidence. He hasn’t gotten the opportunity to prove he can hit out of a slump.
I think it’s a reasonable gamble for the Pirates. At a minimum, I don’t see anything that screams out ‘he has no shot’. He had AA stats that you’d want from someone 2-3 years younger, but that could be his FB decision.
1 Goose Man
Alford’s fate was sealed when he committed to football early on. Maybe he should get his time in Japan or Korea.
Japan or Korea wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some everyday reps in
Peart of the game
The NPB probably would have interest in him as a fourth outfielder type. He simply hasn’t stayed healthy enough for the KBO to come calling.
surprising. this cost the Pirates $250,000. That’s a lot!
Why did the A’s bother to take him if they weren’t going to allow him more than 16 plate appearances to prove himself? Seems really stupid.
I believe that Anthony Alford is a late bloomer. 117 at bats in the bigs and whatever in AAA and AA are not enough to teach him how to hit. He needs much more and better coaching.
Bautista didn’t hit until he was 29. Alford is 26.
Alford needs to find a hitting coach in whatever league [or country] to teach him how to hit. I suspect if he went to a hitting style like Walter Hriniak used to teach, he would speed up his ascent to a MLB level ballplayer.
Incidentally, Hriniak taught to “swing down on the ball”, take it up the middle and to take the upper hand off the bat at the end of their swing.
Peart of the game
Bautista’s career ops+ was 91 before his 2010 season changed everything. Alford simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy in the MLB. Bautista had much more plate appearances than Alford has so far. Alford could use AAA time.
Joey Bats, not sure I’d go that route. He was close to getting DFAd by the Jays and found this massive power. Nothing fishy about that. And I was disappointed the Bucs got rid of him.
Alford will not become the next Lloyd Moseby. Your words.
Bautista’s minor league numbers weren’t all that bad. Not off the charts but certainly better than Alford. Alford never hit for average, never hit for power or even got on-base enough to justify a table setting position. He was highly ranked due to athleticism, a poor farm system (at the time) and projection thanks to his athleticism.
Alford is a AAA outfield filler and a 40-man candidate. At least Bautista was a serviceable bench player capable of playing multiple positions. But, Blue Jays should take him back and stash him in Buffalo. They appear short on OFs in AAA even with Palacios and Davis going back.
Alford has struck out as many times as Tom has been to the plate. Really nothing to lose here for the Pirates at this point a scarecrow in CF would be about as productive
Don’t say that. They may get one.
If it’s a really, really cheap scarecrow, maybe.
With Ka’ai and Ke’Bryan on the same team, they now have a 1-2 punch of Ka’Ke’.
I would love to see Tom back in a Cleveland uniform but I think they are banking on Rosario/Luplow CF platoon.
I’d love to see a real CF on this team but I’m guessing they just throw random junk out there until Hayes comes back then they can shift Reynolds to center and Evans to a corner spot.
Ghost of past pirates
Wholey camels what an intelligent reasoning you give. Im impressed especially coming from a mindless troll
Sure hope the Pirates keep surprising everyone by winning so we don’t have to depend on the waiver wire for players.
Alford was not ready for the big leagues. Might as well try Tom. This team is headed for a 100 loss season even after the “decent” start. I do think Alford will probably end up at the alternate site/Indy.
Hopefully Michael Perez is next. I know the Pirates don’t have many other options but still