Kyle Isbel Ends Season On High Note
Outfielder Kyle Isbel started the 2019 season with a bang, but it was interrupted twice with injuries that sidelined him for nearly three months.
In his first 13 games at high Class A Wilmington, the 2018 third-round pick out of Nevada-Las Vegas was hitting .348 with two home runs, five doubles and a triple.
"Kyle started out great,” Blue Rocks manager Scott Thorman said. "We were extremely excited about Kyle’s start, but unfortunately he was derailed by some injuries.”
Isbel went on the injured list on April 18 and was sent to the Royals’ complex in Surprise, Ariz., to rehab.
"It was a hamstring at first and then it was a hamate bone,” assistant general manager J.J.Picollo said. "Just when he was coming off the hamstring, he broke his hamate bone.”
The 22-year-old returned on July 4 on a rehab assignment in the Rookie-level Arizona League and homered and doubled in his first game. On July 14 he returned to Wilmington, where he homered in his first game back.
But he could not sustain the offense and ended up hitting .118 in 13 games in July in the Carolina League and .208 in August.
Thorman noted Isbel’s timing was awry "from missing most of the season.”
Picollo said they assigned Isbel to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost at-bats and play for Surprise, which Thorman managed. It turned out to be an excellent move.
Isbel rediscovered the timing in his lefthanded stroke back. He helped lead Surprise to a division title by hitting .319 with an .871 OPS. His .427 on-base percentage, 16 RBIs, 23 hits and six stolen bases ranked among the AFL leaders.
"He’s got an easy, sweet swing with some thump,” Thorman said. "He can drive the ball out of the ballpark. He’s a good-looking young hitter.”
Isbel, who can play all three outfield positions, was the first position player selected by the Royals in the 2018 draft after they chose five college pitchers in the first two rounds.
— Outfielder Nick Heath, who stole a minor league-leading 62 bases in 2019 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, is playing in the winter Dominican League. He likely would have been a September callup before an injury ended his season on Aug. 19.
— Righthander Tyler Zuber, a 2017 sixth-round pick out of Arkansas State who has 45 saves and a 2.92 ERA in 106 minor league relief appearances, is also pitching this winter in the Dominican Republic.