Aliotti, A's Embracing New Approach

OAKLAND—When Anthony Aliotti joined the Athleitcs, he seemed to fit right in. He lived by that mantra of taking pitches and working deep counts.

But Aliotti, and the Athletics themselves, have been changing.

"I used to be a very passive hitter. I'd let a lot of pitches go," Aliotti said. "This past year, I started to change. If they're going to throw me a first-pitch fastball over the plate, I'm going to hit it."

And hit he did. Aliotti, 25, had his best season as a pro, batting .292/.385/.426 with 10 homers at Double-A Midland. The 15th-round pick in 2009 out of St. Mary's has started to draw attention in the organization as a first baseman with a shot to advance.

Farm director Keith Lieppman compares Aliotti's advanced defense to the likes of Keith Hernandez and Mark Grace, heady praise for a prospect.

Aliotti's change reflects a change in the organization. The A's were once renowned—and renounced—for teaching a take-take-take approach in the minors to try to develop high on-base hitters.

"We've almost gone 180 from that mentality," Lieppman said. "The new plan is getting a pitch to hit. If that comes early in the count, then hit it. We were too narrow in our scope. We're much more aggressive than we were in the past."

Oakland had emphasized that hitters should look for the pitch to hit, but many young players had trouble with mixed messages and grew passive in their approaches. Recognizing the problem, the A's and hitting coordinator Todd Steverson are moving back to a more aggressive approach.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Aliotti has emerged as a player to watch in the system. He had always been a long-count hitter, but he knows he must change both his thinking and his hitting.

"He's doing a good job adjusting to that, and it's not easy when you've done things one way all your life," Lieppman said. "Because of his hand-eye coordination and his bat control, he's able to do these things."

Aliotti comes from a football family. His father Joe is on the coaching staff and serves as dean of students at fabled powerhouse De La Salle High in California, and he has two uncles coaching football at the University of Oregon and American River (Calif.) JC. Anthony dropped football to concentrate on baseball before high school at De La Salle, but he still likes to spend the offseason watching the games.

A's Acorns

• Righthander Shawn Haviland had Tommy John surgery in December and will miss the 2013 season. The Harvard grad had impressed the organization moving through the system, notably when he went 9-6, 3.65 at high Class A in 2010.

• Righthander Michael Ynoa was scheduled to be one of 43 players reporting to the organizatoin's Dominican Republic winter camp. Many of those players will later report to spring training in Phoenix, and the camp will provide them with a head start on training and nutrition.