The Triple-A Reno Aces have completed roughly half their season schedule and one of the club's position players leads the minors in hitting. Unlike outfielders A.J. Pollock or Adam Eaton or third baseman Ryan Wheeler, you won't find the identity of said batting leader on any Diamondbacks pre-season prospect list.
Yet 25-year-old middle infielder Jake Elmore, a righthanded hitter and 34th-round draft pick from Arizona State in 2008, has opened a nine-point lead on the Tigers' Nick Castellanos in the race to claim the minor league batting title. He ranks second to Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley (.477) in the on-base percentage department.
THE COMPANY HE MIGHT KEEP
||2004||Colo. Springs (PCL)||.366|
||2005||New Orleans (PCL)||.383|
||2006||Las Vegas (PCL)||.380|
||2009||High Desert (CAL)||.345|
On the season, Elmore is batting .391/.471/.528 with 19 doubles, 23 steals and a 39-to-25 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 233 at-bats. He's collected a hit in 25 consecutive games and reached base in 40 straight, both Reno franchise records. However, Elmore would need to hit in 36 more games in a row to match the Pacific Coast League record of 61 set by Joe DiMaggio in 1933.
Elmore's on-base streak began on May 3 and from that day forward he's gone 68-for-159 (.428) with 15 doubles, five triples and 25 walks, while striking out just 11 times and going 20-for-21 in stolen bases. He has split his time evenly at second base (24 games) and shortstop (27) with Reno this season, though he's also appeared at third and on both outfield corners during his hit streak.
Elmore is batting .468 (29-for-62) versus lefthanders and an even .400 (44-for-110) away from home, though it should be noted that he plays virtually all his games in the favorable hitting conditions of the PCL's western venues. As a team, Reno sports an insane .880 OPS at home and a .795 mark on the road. The PCL average is .774, and two of Elmore's teammates—Eaton and Wheeler—rank fourth and fifth in the minor league batting race.
For all his hitting exploits this season, scouts regard Elmore as a lukewarm prospect, one with average feel to hit and average defensive proficiency at the keystone. His throwing arm and running speed, however, receive below-average grades, while his power potential is non-existent. In other words, in the opinion of most scouts, Elmore will not be the answer at second base for Arizona, though his versatility and willingness to work pitchers could earn him playing time as a utility grinder.