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Ben Krauth Capitalizing on Left-Handed Potential

Ben Krauth Capitalizing on Left-Handed Potential

| On 12, May 2018

Being left-handed in baseball confers certain advantages that right-handed players don’t receive. An old story at Livescience.com (old meaning it was posted in 2008) indicates that about 10 percent of the population is left-handed, but 25 percent of Major Leaguers are left-handed. For High-A Lynchburg Hillcats reliever Ben Krauth, being a lefty has always been an advantage in baseball.

“Growing up everyone always said you are going to have a job (in baseball) if you are left-handed,” said Krauth. “It seems to be true, but pitching is still the same. You have to throw the ball over the plate, challenge the guy in the batter’s box.”

Greater difficulty in stealing second base, and being tougher to hit because many batters don’t get to face left-handers as often, are two reasons why being a southpaw is an advantage on the mound.

Krauth grew up in the Walnut Creek area of California, about 45 minutes north and east of San Francisco. A trip on the BART could take him to AT&T Park or Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, though he preferred to follow the Giants rather than the A’s.

A 16th round draft pick by Cleveland in 2016, Krauth began his journey to the professional ranks by staying close to home. He pitched two seasons for the Diablo Valley Vikings, a junior college in the Bay area.

“Going to junior college was interesting and fun,” he said. “You get guys that weren’t the cream of the crop, but that work very hard to get where they are at.”

Krauth’s second season as a Viking showed the results of such hard work – a 9–2 record, a 0.52 ERA, and 116 strikeouts in 103 2/3 innings over 14 starts. This led him to two years as a starter at Kansas, where the Indians drafted him following his senior season, shifting him to a relief role.

“I don’t throw as hard as a lot of the other guys,” Krauth said about a shift to the bullpen. “I was prepared for starting or relief. It’s the same kind of mentality as coming in as a starter.”

His work ethic and the way pitchers in the Cleveland system work on setting routines to develop good habits has supported Krauth’s success.

In his first season, he rapidly progressed from the Rookie-level Arizona League, to the short season rookie level at Mahoning Valley, and finished with two games at Low-A Lake County. Over the three stops, he had 46 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched, the same pattern of success that led him from Walnut Creek, to Diablo Valley, to Kansas, and into the Indians farm system.

“I think every single year, if you can improve your craft, hone your craft, and know what you need to improve on, I think you’ll get better every single year until you’re done,” says Krauth.

Spending parts of two seasons with the Hillcats, he pitched successfully in each. In 2017, he made 10 appearances, including a spot start, pitching 17 innings with 20 strikeouts and a 1.59 ERA.

Following his own wisdom, Krauth has improved in his second tour with Lynchburg. His K/9 ratio sits at 15.95 in 14 2/3 innings pitched. Early in the season, he was the Hillcats most consistent reliever. Of his nine appearances, four have been for two or more innings. It is his split changeup that has befuddled Carolina League hitters and put him in a key role in the bullpen.

“Last year was a tough year as far as strike throwing,” said Krauth. “I got away with a lot of stuff, but I’ve really tried getting ahead in the count early.”

The frequent early work has also helped him get into a groove as far as a pitching routine. This early success earned him a temporary promotion to Akron, where he made his AA debut for the Rubberducks in Bowie against the Baysox.

He would replace Cleveland’s #5 Prospect, Shane Bieber to start the seventh inning. After a leadoff double, two outs, and walk, Krauth would face former Hillcats battery mate, Martin Cervenka. Now a catcher for the Baysox, Baltimore selected Cervenka in the minor league phase of the Rule V draft the previous winter after Cervenka signed as a minor league free agent with the San Francisco Giants.

“I actually think I got him to 0–2,” Krauth said about facing his former teammate, “then he fouled off a couple pitches and worked the count to 2-2 before flying out to right.”

He got out of the inning and would also pitch the eighth, maintaining Akron’s 9–4 lead. Two days later, he returned to Lynchburg and pitching in the Carolina League. The short trip up to the AA level opened his eyes to what he needs to do in order to continue to perfect his craft of pitching.

“Facing some of these guys really allows you to lock in on what you need to focus on,” said Krauth about his mindset on the mound. “For me, it’s getting ahead of guys, or they’ll make you pay for it.”

For Krauth maintaining his routine, working each day with pitching coach Tony Arnold, or one of Cleveland’s roving pitching coordinators, continues to keep him focused on being successful in practice and during games.

The only blemish on his season was his most recent outing, where he allowed three hits and three runs on one third of an inning pitched against the Frederick Keys. Just like all his previous experience Krauth will learn from that outing and strive to do better the next time out.

“To come in with the starter’s mind set, but where you don’t have to hide pitches for four innings, so that you have something later,” he said about working as a reliever. “You can go in and air everything out, give them your best stuff.”

From Northgate High School to Lynchburg in the Carolina League, Krauth continues to make the effort to improve.

“I think my mentality is cutthroat,” he said. “If I’m going to get you down, I’m going to put you away, that’s as simple as it is.”

With his determined approach, expect to see Ben Krauth toeing the rubber for many years to come, and perfecting his skills pitching skills each step of the way.

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