Anyone who is curious about Texas League batting leader Anthony Aliotti will have to dig a little to read about him.
The RockHounds first baseman has led the batting race for much of the season, continuing a steady improvement that has marked his five-year pro career. Despite enjoying a breakout 2013 campaign that included in his second straight Texas League All-Star appearance, the Boise, Idaho, native has yet to appear on any of the major prospect lists.
"It's nice to see your name atop a leaderboard," said Aliotti, who leads the league in average (.356), hits (103), doubles (25) and on-base percentage (.463). "But you're playing for your organization and whoever is out there watching. You definitely want to go out every day and play hard. It's almost a tryout every day. You want to show everybody what you can do, and if you stay consistent with that, good things can happen."
Like other less-heralded players across the Minors, the burden of proof may weigh more heavily on the 25-year-old Aliotti than some of Oakland's high-profile prospects. But Aliotti -- drafted out of St. Mary's (Calif.) College in the 15th round (453rd overall) in 2009 -- has slowly and steadily been building a reputation as a consitent hitter with a good glove.
He was a reserve on last year's South Division All-Star squad, finishing with a .292 average, 10 homers and 76 RBIs while matching a career high with 29 doubles. He was rated the California League's best defensive first baseman with the Stockton Ports in 2011 and earned the same honor in the Texas League last year.
This year Aliotti has shown some more pop at the plate. Listed at 6-foot and 204 pounds, he is second in the league in slugging percentage (.546) and extra-base hits (35) and could overtake recently promoted Astros prospect George Springer in both categories before the year is out -- assuming Aliotti isn't promoted himself.
"I definitely think I'm ready for the next step," Aliotti said. "Whether that comes sooner or later, I don't know. It's not really my business, so I stay out of that kind of news, but I think I've done what I've had to here and I'm ready for whatever is next."
Perhaps as a first baseman Aliotti needs to show more power, but he's showing progress in that area as well. With 10 home runs in 78 games, he's already matched his total from last season and is one shy of his career high in that category. What's more, his league-high 25 doubles are just four short of his single-season mark.
"I'm just staying in my zone, staying with pitches I can handle and do damage, instead of that borderline pitch on the corner," Aliotti said.
His improvement has been steady. Aliotti hit .239 with Vancouver in 2009, .278 at Kane County in 2010 and .276 at Stockton last year before showing signs of breaking out last season and this year.
"I wasn't where I am now physically and mentally," he said, attributing his improvement to old-fashioned hard work in the offseason. "It's a process. My swing wasn't where it needs to be. Each level you go up it sets you up for success at the next level."
But Aliotti admitted he may have surprised even himself with this year's performance.
"I wish I could have" predicted this season, he said. "I would've done it a few years earlier."
Cron jewel: Los Angeles Angels prospect C.J. Cron hit his first homer since May 27 with a two-run drive that lifted the Arkansas Travelers over the Midland RockHounds, 2-1, on Saturday. It was the sixth homer of the season and supported a three-hit effort by starter Mike Piazza (4-2).
Fatal frame: Frisco struck for seven runs in the top of the ninth inning in a 10-7 victory over Northwest Arkansas on Saturday. The RoughRiders got eight hits and a walk in the frame, highlighted by Ryan Strausborger's bases-loaded triple.
Quality relief: Tulsa is one of four Minor League teams wearing special jerseys this week to raise funds for Oklahoma tornado victims. Tulsa and league rival San Antonio will join Triple-A Oklahoma City and Omaha in wearing and aucttioning off gray jerseys that read "We Are Oklahoma" on the front.