Monday Dish:Gritty D-II Star Off to Quick Pro Start

Conner Crumbliss has always had to be worried about being sold short.

At 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, the former Emporia State star has had plenty of success, but he’s also encountered plenty of skepticism. But ever since the A’s drafted him in the 28th round last month, the second baseman/outfielder has been producing as the table setter for the short-season Vancouver Canadiens.

He’s hitting .303/.465/.440 with one home run and eight stolen bases in nine tries through 33 games and 109 at-bats. Crumbliss currently leads the league in on-base percentage and walks (34). 

Yancy Ayres, an A’s area scout stationed in Kansas, was responsible for signing Crumbliss. He had an inside track with Crumbliss, as Crumbliss was a freshman when Ayres last coached at Emporia State in 2006 before leaving to become an A’s scout. Crumbliss became the only four-year starter in Emporia State history and he holds the school records in hits, doubles and runs scored. But when it came time for the draft, Crumbliss was still uncertain whether he would even be drafted. Most scouts worried that he was too small to play pro ball.

"I had to sell him pretty good in the draft room," Ayres said. "I like him in the line-up. He can run, throw , get on base, and he’s a good defender in center field…He has no fear. He doesn’t back down to anyone."

The Athletics announced Crumbliss as a second baseman on draft day which is where Crumbliss spent the first two years of his collegiate career before shifting to center field. He has spent time at all three outfield spots and second base thus far in his professional career though the majority of that time has been in the infield. Crumbliss has indicated that he’s recently started taking ground balls at third before games too. 

"He’s a utility guy that has speed," Ayres said of Crumbliss. "I compare him to (the Los Angeles Angels) Chone Figgins but he’s the left handed version."    

Crumbliss is an easy guy to root for with him coming out of a D-II school as a college senior late in the draft. Thus far Crumbliss has been a nifty return on investment for the A’s but his future will become much clearer as he gets to the higher levels of Oakland’s system. Ayres likes the way Crumbliss plays the game and it’s something that he thinks will suit Crumbliss well in his professional career.

"We used to tell him, ‘Find a way to first base and go.’ …He likes to get deep in the count," he said. "He makes them pitch to him. He’s very comfortable hitting with two strikes and not afraid to hit at all with two strikes…He’s a nice little spark plug."