Midland Rockhounds first baseman Anthony Aliotti is arguably having his best season in the minors since joining the Oakland A's via the draft in 2009. He is playing his first year in Double-A but is not letting a new league get into his head.
"This has been fun," Aliotti said. "I've played with most of these guys throughout my career. The locker room stays light. As far as Double-A goes, it's been all I could ask for so far. I've played well, the field isn't bad and the league is nice. The only downfall is maybe the traveling but I've been pleased with everything else."
Of all of the current Rockhounds starters (Michael Choice is out for the rest of the season) with at least 100 at-bats, Aliotti is leading in batting average (.282), slugging percentage (.416), OPS (804) and RBI (54). His OPS is ranked 14th in the Texas League while the RBI count is 11th. The East Bay native is also near the top of the team in hits (97 in 344 at-bats), runs (55), doubles (18) and walks (59).
While Aliotti wishes his power numbers were higher, he is generally satisfied with his performance thus far.
"I'm very pleased," he said. "I need to get my power up a bit but I'm not going to argue with where I'm at right now. Cutting down the strikeouts would be nice but as far as my overall performance at the plate, I've been extremely pleased."
Aliotti credits his off-season work as a reason why he has been so successful.
"I tried to fix some of the holes I had," he said. "I worked on my approach and plans and things like that. It seems to have paid off so far. If I can just finish up the season nice and strong it would be awesome.
"Coming into the season I wanted to really improve my defense so most of my goals this year are directed towards that. I try to keep my defensive work strong. I pride myself with that part of my game."
Aliotti, widely considered the top defensive first baseman in the organization, has done a good job of fielding this season. The first baseman has committed five errors in 93 games played. That is the best ratio among ‘Hound players with at least 50 appearances.
The St. Mary's College alum is accustomed to getting walks in his career. His patient approach earned him the third most base-on-balls among A's farmhands in both 2010 in Low-A (92) and 2011 in High-A (80). This year however, he has changed things up.
"I went to a little more aggressive approach," he said. "I try to not let that many fastballs get by. I mainly get one or two pitches an at-bat to try to do something with. I went in this year with an attack approach. I still wait for my pitch but if they give me something that I could potentially do damage to, I'm going to swing at it."
That change in approach led to an outstanding first half of the season, which led to Aliotti being named along with six other Midland players to the Texas League Mid-Season All-Star team. Aliotti had trouble remembering the last time he made an All-Star team.
"That's the first All-Star team I've been on since maybe tee-ball," he said. "It was a lot of fun. The guys I met down there were all good guys and they made the experience a blast."