SAN BERNARDINO — When Jack Kruger was drafted in the 20th round of last year and signed at the eleventh hour, it was primarily for the bat. In his final year at Mississippi State, he hit .358 with a .451 on base percentage.
Evaluator Taylor Blake Ward asserted at the time, [Kruger’s] “swing will be what helps him at the professional level”, complimenting his level bat path, large frame, and overall strength. A season later, the scouting reports on Kruger have changed very little, just like Kruger’s dedication to fundamentals and simplicity.
Constantly using an up-the-middle approach with a compact swing, Kruger had the following to say regarding his strategy in the batter’s box. “Get a good pitch in the zone, stay aggressive in fastball counts and attack it. Stay simple, don’t make it too complex.” The main difference between high-A and previous levels in Kruger’s experience is that “with two strikes, these [pitchers] are a lot better. Put the ball in play with two strikes, make someone make a play.”
Hitting for a .278 batting average with a .331 on-base percentage in 28 games at Inland Empire, it’s clear that his approach is paying dividends. Perhaps the more striking number, however, is not the results but the willingness to let the ball travel deeper in the strike zone and use all parts of the field. Among IE 66ers with 100 plate appearances, Kruger’s 44.7% opposite-field contact ranks first. Among all hitters in high-A with 100 plate appearances, Kruger’s opposite-field mark places him 8th in the entire level.
Hitting isn’t the only part of his game, though.
A lingering arm issue sidelined the backstop from taking the field for a while, but it has not prevented him from putting in the necessary work.
Kruger’s biggest strides have come behind the plate, where his quiet presence and steady hands provide reliability and stability to his pitching staff and the home plate umpire. Asked if this was intentional following the game, he explained ““Absolutely. You want to be as quiet as possible, and I’m not trying to steal strikes, just trying to give a better view to the umpire that he can have to make the call. The better the view I can give him, the better the chance that I can get a borderline pitch called a strike. Our pitchers attack the zone, and they do a good job of that. My job is to do a good job [of presenting].”
It’s clear that Kruger’s approach at the plate has not interfered with his development behind it. “Catching is the most important part of being a catcher.”