Kyle Isbel Intrigues With His Versatility
The Royals used their first five picks in the 2018 draft to select college pitchers. It was not until the third round and with the 94th overall pick that they chose a position player: Nevada-Las Vegas outfielder Kyle Isbel.
After signing for $592,300, Isbel was assigned to Rookie-level Idaho Falls, where he hit .381/.454/.616 with 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts in 25 games. On July 16, in his final game in the Pioneer League, he went 4-for-5 with two home runs and a double. He needed a triple in his final at-bat for the cycle. Instead he homered.
The 21-year-old Isbel, who bats lefthanded, joined low Class A Lexington on July 19. As the primary leadoff man, he hit .289/.345/.434 and helped the Legends win the South Atlantic League title.
Overall, Isbell hit .326 in his debut, with seven home runs and 24 stolen bases in 30 attempts in 64 games.
"Kyle has come in and he’s done everything he’s been asked to do," director of baseball operations Alec Zumwalt said. "He was here for the predraft workout the first week of June. He hits in this ballpark like he did at Lexington. He showed a lot of bat speed, and the ball came off his bat really well.
"He took fly balls in center field and came in and took ground balls at second base. He threw well.”
While Isbel can play all three outfield positions, he appeared in a few Cape Cod League games last year at second base. He was named to the summer college league’s all-star team.
"He’s a real blue collar-type player,” Zumwalt said. "He’s exciting to watch. He’s definitely a Royals-type player. He’s come on strong, He debuted great in Idaho and there was the opportunity to move him to Lexington and he did great there.
"Scott Thorman, our manager in Lexington, is such a hard-nosed guy and loves hard-nosed players. Isbel fit right in.”
In college, Isbel increased his home run total from six as a sophomore to 14 as a junior and hiked his OPS from .795 to 1.084.
Royals scouts found Isbel’s versatility appealing. The fact he can play the outfield and second base reminds some of Whit Merrifield.
"(General manager) Dayton (Moore) preaches all the time about guys being as versatile as possible,” Zumwalt said. "Kyle is extremely versatile."
• Cheslor Cuthbert, who was limited to 36 games last season because of back issues, is playing in the winter Mexican League to get more at-bats.
• The Royals re-signed outfielder Elier Hernandez and infielder Humberto Arteaga, who hit a career high .292 last season with Triple-A Omaha and is hitting .313 in the Venezuelan Winter League. Hernandez is playing in the Dominican Winter League.