2018 Prospect Crop: Kyle Isbel

Bottom Line

KC’s 3rd round pick out of UNLV following his junior year. He’s got the glove to play any OF position, but could also see some time at 2B, which actually helps his fantasy value. He’s a bulldog, who might always wind up outperforming his tools. Good power for his build, patient plate approach, makes solid contact, could hit for a better average than projected by some scouts. Has been a terror on the basepaths so far in professional ball, but look for his speed to regress as he advances. There’s always room in real life and on your fantasy squad for a good ballplayer like Isbel.

Upside: .280/.360/.450, 15HR/20SB, OF/2B Eligible regular player

Downside: Organizational depth utility-man, no fantasy relevance

Scouting

Athleticism

Listed at 5’11”, 183 lbs. Looks a bit on the stocky side on tape. Looks to have some strength in his core and forearms, shoulders are broad relative to his height. He has the ‘bulldog’ player mentality. Saw some footage of him doing a nice job laying down bunts, beating out a throw down the line. He will do what it takes to get on base and succeed.

Hit (35/60)

Left-handed bat. Hands back, slightly above the shoulders. Sets hands and wrists there, and they remain quiet until he’s ready to unload on the pitch. Seems to track the ball well, laying off stuff in the dirt. He’s generally got a pull-side approach, but I’ve seen him use the opposite field. Leg kick is slight, uses it to stride into the pitch and maybe time up his swing. He’s got a patient approach at the plate, but his eye is good enough to see a cookie and turn on it when he gets one.

Power (30/50)

Generates pull-side power by clearing out his shoulders quickly, letting him square up to the pitch. Doesn’t look like he’s going to create any opposite field pop. Maximum power grade of 50 seems like his ceiling, but 55 pop maybe isn’t totally out of the question, depending on his plate approach.

Speed (50/50)

Some scouts have given him plus-grade speed, but he looks to be more quick than fast. That being said, he’s going to beat out groundballs and bunts for base hits on occasion due to his attitude and approach. Whit Merrifield comps being thrown around seem inaccurate. Isbel will be able to steal some bags, but he won’t do it based on speed alone.

Defense (50/50)

Looks like he can read the ball well, gets good enough jump to play any OF spot. Scouts have questioned whether he can stick in CF, but I can see it. He will have the attitude to work at the defensive aspect of his game. Has started 30 games in CF, 3 in LF, and 2 in RF as of 8/7, so the organization views him as a CF so far. Also played 2B and 3B at UNLV, so he’s got ‘utility-man’ in his toolkit. Defense will be a fantasy asset for him, as he could be multi-position eligible.

Stats

Level

The Royals started Isbel out in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, but he only lasted 25 games there before being promoted to the A-Full Season Sally League. I love to see teams take an aggressive approach with the placement of prospects in their first professional season. I think it is telling that the Royals thought that Isbel was capable of this advanced placement.

Hit

17.2% K-rate, 11.3% BB-rate as of 8/7. This is a nice profile, and if Isbel can hold it going forward he might even be able to out-perform his scouted 50-FV future hit tool. A 50 FV hit tool translates to an approximate .260 batting average. I could see projecting Isbel for a 60 FV hit tool (.280 average) if everything breaks right. I think that the Fangraphs grade of 30/50 on Isbel’s hit tool is low. Isbel’s batted ball profile at A-Full so far is 38.6% GB – 15.9% LD – 45.5% FB. This profile (if it holds) will ding his batting average. However, I’m not sure that this is Isbel’s future batted-ball profile, and I’ll need some more data to evaluate this further.

Power

Isbel has posted a .169 ISO in 15 A-Full Season games, down from a .229 ISO in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. This might just be a small sample illusion, but Isbel also might have been teeing off on Rookie-level pitching that he was just too advanced for. In college, Isbel’s power developed every year. He hit 1 HR as a Frosh., 6 HR as a Soph., and 14 HR as a Jr. at UNLV. He slugged .643 his Junior year. In the Cape Cod League in 2017, he struggled a bit hitting for power with wood bats, posting a .358 slugging average.

Speed

Isbel has been a terror on the basepaths this year, swiping 18 bags in 21 chances, for a stellar 85.7% success rate. His speed score so far in A-Full Season ball is 9.5, which is elite. I think Isbel is currently outperforming his scouted speed. There are 2 plausible explanations. 1) The scouting is just incomplete or wrong, and it missed how fast he is in game conditions or 2) Isbel, a smart player, is taking advantage of the opportunities that are presenting themselves for him to run wild on inexperienced players. I’m leaning toward 2.

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