Having entered the season as somewhat of an afterthought on Trenton’s roster, the 25-year-old outfielder has arguably been the team’s most consistent player, with his .267 batting average good for second-best among team regulars and his 15 stolen bases one ahead of Austin Krum for the team lead.
It’s been a slow, but steady climb through the system for the soft-spoken but personable South Alabama grad, and it’s his speed that has likely taken him as far as he’s gotten. Since debuting in the organization with Short Season-A Staten Island in 2008, Kruml has stolen 93 bases and been caught just 19 times, good for a 83 percent success rate.
“It’s just been a lot of work throughout the years, working with different coaches and different managers that I’ve had,” said Kruml, when asked to explain his prowess on the basepaths.
“I’m trying to pick up little tidbits from pitchers, anything to try to get an edge. Whether it’s trying to get something from the catcher, trying to get something from the pitcher and looking at him before the game in the bullpen, whatever. Timing is a big thing, you’ve got to know when you’re beat. If the pitcher’s too fast, you can’t steal on him. You’ve got to just shut it down and find another way to get from base to base. I guess I just pick some good times to go.”
Kruml has always considered himself as more of a speed guy, someone who hits ground balls and line drives and does his damage on the basepaths instead of trying to touch all four bases in one shot.
“I’m not going to drive the ball out of the ballpark very often, maybe once a year,” Kruml said.
“So I’m just trying to get on base and cause havoc that way. I can score from first on a ball in the gap if the guy behind me can hit me in. I can steal a couple bases, get in scoring position for those guys to drive me in.”
Kruml played football, starring at running back and wide receiver during his younger days, and described himself as always being that “smaller, fast guy.” But nobody had really described him as a prospect before. But in a system that is suddenly thin on outfielders, Kruml is slowly putting himself on the map for a possible call-up to Triple-A Scranton.
“I’m just trying to play my game, trying to do what I can to help the team win,” he said.
“I think if I learn my game a little bit better and trust it and learn what type of player I am a little bit better, I’ll be able to help out the ballclub a lot better.”
One thing Kruml admits he can improve on this season is his walk rate. In 120 at-bats, Kruml has just eight walks compared to 26 strikeouts. For someone with his speed, a little more patience at the plate can be key, and it’s something Kruml is well aware of at this early point in the season.
“I’ve been in the cage a lot just trying to lay off pitches,” he said.
“I’ve always had high punchouts, and I’m trying to work on that getting down. Hopefully as the season goes on, I can get the walks up and the punchouts down and try to even them out. But I’m not trying to go up there looking to walk. I’m trying to get on base any way I can, whether it’s a hit an error or anything. Walks will come as long as I’m patience and stay in the zone.”
Bunting, says Kruml, is also another weapon in his vast arsenal.
“I’ve had five or six bunts already this season for base hits,” he said.
“If the opportunity presents itself and the third baseman is playing back, I have no problem bunting. Maybe if I show bunt, I’ll draw them in and I’ll be able to shoot it past them at first or third. It’s definitely a weapon I can use to try to shift the infield and try to open up some holes.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com