Dynamite comes in small packages. For proof, look no further than the top of Reno’s batting order, where Adam Eaton and Jake Elmore – both undersized, overachieving Pacific Coast League All-Stars – are igniting the Aces with an explosive one-two punch.
Dubbed the "E-train" by manager Brett Butler, the Triple-A rookies hold the league’s top two spots in batting – Eaton at .376, Elmore at .370 – and in three other statistics: runs (Eaton 97; Elmore 86), on-base percentage (Elmore .459, Eaton .454) and stolen bases (Eaton 30, Elmore 29).
"We kind of have the same approach, just scrappy guys that like to get on base and put pressure on people," said Eaton, 23. "That’s kind of what we’re built for – getting on base and setting the table for our big guys to drive us in."
Before Ryan Wheeler was promoted to the Diamondbacks on Friday, he had a PCL-leading 90 RBIs while batting third for Reno (60-43), which absorbed a 12-4 defeat by the 51s (59-43) on Monday night at Cashman Field.
"That’s because (Wheeler) had the E-train on in scoring position all year long," Butler said. "Eaton is the prototypical leadoff guy who’s going to start the engine and get things going, and Elmore’s the best two-hole hitter I’ve had in my eight years of managing.
"They know how to play the game and I believe they both can play in the big leagues."
Partly because of their size – Eaton is 5 feet 8 inches, 184 pounds, and Elmore is 5-9, 183 – both were late-round draft picks by Arizona coming out of college: Eaton in the 19th round in 2010 and Elmore in the 34th round in 2008.
Rather than fume about his draft position, Eaton used it as motivation, heeding the advice of his late uncle Dale – who had inspired Eaton’s hard-nosed playing style before dying of cancer.
"He always said that just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t give a punch," Eaton said. "I always dedicate every season to him and want to make sure I make him proud."
A left-handed-hitting left fielder, Eaton hit .385 in rookie ball in 2010 and a combined .318 last year between Single A and Double A. He played 11 games for Double-A Mobile this year before joining Reno on April 18, and he leads the minors in hits (147) and runs (108).
Elmore, 25, a right-handed-hitting shortstop and second baseman, had a career-best 31-game hitting streak this year and already has set career highs in virtually every offensive category.
Elmore, who barely played during his lone season at Arizona State, also has been driven by doubts about his size and ability.
"Proving anybody who says you can’t do it wrong has always fueled the fire," he said.
While Eaton and Elmore share similarities, Butler said their bread-and-butter skills aren’t the same.
"Eaton is electric," he said. "He’s got plus speed, a plus arm, a plus glove and he knows how to steal bases.
"Elmore is David Eckstein. There isn’t anything he does above average; he just does everything extremely well. He’s just an old-fashioned baseball player."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.