The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Conner Crumbliss, selected in the 28th round by the Oakland A's in last year's amateur draft insists that his approach to hitting should define the progress he's made in the Midwest League.
"The last month I have started feeling more comfortable at the plate and am seeing the ball better," Crumbliss, a product of Division-II Emporia State, said.
"Getting the walks has been part of my approach all year – being selective and only swinging at good pitches. At the beginning of the year, I didn't set out to draw a certain number of walks. I don't feel bad about it and love to get on base all the time. I would walk 200 times if they'd walk me that many times."
Crumbliss has taken advantage of nearly a full season of experience in the Midwest League. The ability to study the pitching staffs of different teams is starting to pay off with his recent roll. It also plays into how he takes each at-bat.
While the walks have come in bunches this season, Crumbliss recently had three games in-a-row without a walk.
"It depends on who's pitching that day and how they're pitching," he said. "It goes into a lot of stuff. If I'm hitting real well, maybe I'll go up there and get after it right away. A lot of days, I'm looking for something in the middle-third of the plate. If it's not there, then I'm not going to swing until we get two strikes. Most of the time, I'm just looking for a good pitch."
After Crumbliss hit .397 with a Division II-leading 92 runs scored in his final college season, it became apparent that he would need to become a different type of player to succeed at the next level.
It didn't take him long to settle in as a professional. Crumbliss signed with the A's shortly after the draft and proceeded to hold his own during a 71-game stint at Vancouver and Kane County. He hit .290 with a .427 on-base percentage while striking out just 37 times in 315 plate appearances.
"Ever since I've been in pro ball and having spent all my summers with wood bats in college, I've gotten into this mode," he said. "I played at a smaller college and wasn't as selective. I was more of a free swinger because I could get away with it. It was a lot harder for me to get extra base hits and home runs with wood bats, so I've tried to get on base instead of necessarily going up there to create offense.
"For me it's the perfect approach. It's not like I'm going to go out there and hit 30 home runs if I swing at the first pitch all the time. This style of hitting is in my favor. I'm trying to be real selective and make the pitcher work as much as possible."
While Crumbliss is dialed-in on the offensive end, he's being challenged with a position change by manager Aaron Nieckula. After playing much of this season at second base, his natural position from college, Crumbliss started in centerfield for the Cougars on Thursday.
He has experience at both positions, a trait that could serve him well as he ascends through the A's minor-league system.
"My freshman and sophomore years, I was a second baseman but then I got injured," Crumbliss said. "I came back 20 games later and our second baseman was hitting .370. I landed in center field and spent pretty much all of my junior and senior years out there. [In professional ball] it's been about half and half. It doesn't make any difference to me, because I'm confident I can play anywhere."