After appearing in 110 major league games over the past three seasons with the Tigers and Nationals, Ian Krol began the 2016 season with the Braves at Triple-A Gwinnett. After 12.1 innings of Triple-A ball in which he limited left-handed hitters to a .136 average and 10 strikeouts, the veteran reliever was promoted to the major leagues on May 10. In a season in which the Braves starters struggled to pitch late into games, Krol made a career-high 63 appearances. In 51 innings, the 25-year-old posted career-best numbers with a 3.18 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 10 holds, a 25.8 percent strikeout rate and six percent walk rate. Once destined to be a LOOGY, Kroll faced more right-handed than left-handed batters and allowed a lower OPS against righties. Entering 2017, Krol should be a lock to rejoin the Braves bullpen, although it is unclear what his role will be with Arodys Vizcaino returning from an oblique injury that plagued him for much of the 2016 season. While his job in the big league bullpen appears safe, Krol is unlikely to notch saves or bulk holds anytime soon.
Krol agreed to a one-year, $900,000 deal with the Braves on Friday, avoiding arbitration, MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports. He pitched quite well out of the bullpen last year, posting a 3.18 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 56:13 K:BB in 51 innings. However, he is not particularly close to competing for saves, and should see most of his opportunities in middle relief in 2017.
Krol recorded his sixth hold of the season in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Milwaukee. Entering the eighth inning with no outs and a runner on first, the left-hander retired both batters he faced on twelve pitches. Krol lowered his ERA to 2.57 on the season, as he hasn't allowed a runner to reach base while recording at least one strikeout in each of his last four appearances (four innings).
Krol has allowed five earned runs across 13.1 innings since being called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on May 10. In his first season with the Braves, Krol is showing signs of improvement after a disastrous 2015 campaign that he ended with a 5.79 ERA. He's posting a 30 percent strikeout rate while walking just 7 percent of batters, and the southpaw has dominated left-handed hitters, as they're just 3-for-23 against Krol. However, right-handed batters are hitting .400/.471/.667 with him on the mound.
Krol was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Krol struggled to the tune of a 5.79 ERA in 28 innings for the Tigers last season, but he's been dominant against left-handed batters over the past month with Triple-A Gwinnett. The 25-year-old will give Atlanta a second lefty presence in the bullpen alongside Eric O'Flaherty.
Krol recorded three strikeouts in a scoreless inning of work in Triple-A Gwinnett's 8-5 loss to Charlotte on Friday. Krol has pitched well in the early going and his scoreless outing lowered his season ERA to 3.68. The 24-year-old holds a minor league career 3.36 ERA to go along with 300 strikeouts over 321 innings so it's obvious he's got some talent. The lefty will likely spend most of 2016 with Triple-A Gwinnett and if he continues to make effective relief appearances, he could receive a call up sometime later this year.