Athletics' Crumbliss Shows Leadoff Acumen





OAKLAND—Conner Crumbliss understands exactly where he fits in a lineup, and the 5-foot-8 second baseman's goal is to excel at the skills that make a leadoff hitter.

"My only goal is to get on base every time I come to the plate," he said. "A lot of guys want to hit doubles and homers. I just want to get on base. I'll never be a guy who hits 30 homers."

A lefthanded hitter, Crumbliss led all minor leaguers with 126 walks this season, while batting .271/.421/.371 with 30 doubles and five home runs for low Class A Kane County. He also stole 24 bases in 32 attempts.

It's that walk total that draws attention from the Athletics, but farm director Keith Lieppman said the 23-year-old Crumbliss must still fine-tune his small-ball portfolio.

"He is already a good bunter, but he has to become a master bunter," Lieppman said, "and a master at hitting behind runners and doing all the little things that help a team. He isn't afraid to get behind in the count. He fouls balls off and works the pitcher. He gives our team a chance to see all the pitcher's pitches in his first at-bat."

Crumbliss saw time at all three outfield spots in addition to second base in 2010. If not for a hand injury suffered in college, he might not have attained that versatility.

In a four-year career at Emporia State (Kan.), Crumbliss played second his first two years and then center field in his last two. He lost his first gig while sidelined during his junior year, and he returned as a senior to hit .397 with 30 doubles to earn MVP honors in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association.

The A's seemed like a natural fit for Crumbliss in the 2009 draft. Area scout Yancy Ayres had served as Emporia's pitching coach during Crumbliss' first two seasons, and he urged the A's to make the selection as the rounds ticked away. They finally relented in the 28th round.

Crumbliss' goal for the offseason is to work on sharpening his defense in the outfield and infield because versatility could well be the key to advancement.

A's ACORNS

• The A's tabbed Ron Romanick as big league pitching coach in the wake of Curt Young's unexpected departure. They also added Joel Skinner as bench coach and reassigned first-base coach Todd Steverson to Triple-A Sacramento.

• Dominican righthander Michael Ynoa was rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery at the organization's spring training base in Phoenix. He had not yet begun throwing.