Kansas City Royals: Is 3rd rounder Kyle Isbel the real deal?

The Kansas City Royals seem to have had a very solid draft this year. A few of the early round guys they drafted have already started demanding attention. Kyle Isbel being one.

When outfielder Kyle Isbel out of UNLV was drafted in the third round by the Kansas City Royals, he was the first position player the Royals had drafted. Before him, the Royals had taken five pitchers. Taken 94th overall in the third round, Isbel is looking like an early round steal.

While attending UNLV, Isbel had a very nice career. Hitting a career slash of .322/.390/.512 with 40 doubles, 15 triples, and 21 home runs over three years and 170 games. What I find to be impressive was his plate discipline. He struck out just 124 times while walking 69 times. That’s good enough for a 1.8:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Going into the draft, Isbel was considered to be the 75th best prospect. Only 17 outfielders were rated higher than him. Here is a section from MLB.com about Isbel.

The left-handed-hitting Isbel has been raking all year in the middle of the Rebels’ lineup, showing a very good approach at the plate and compact swing that sends line drives to all fields. There’s some power to tap into as well, especially to the pull side, though he’s capable of driving the ball the other way. He could have average power when all is said and done, with 12-15 homers a more realistic possibility. Isbel has good speed on the basepaths and in center field, and his instincts could allow him to stay there.

Since being drafted

After having a very productive college career it was going to be interesting to see how he adjusted to his professional career.

After signing his contract he reported to the Idaho Falls Chuckers, one of the Royals Rookie-Level teams. To say he dominated would be an understatement. Playing in 25 games, Isbel hit .381/.454/.610 with 10 doubles, one triple, and four home runs. He also walked 14 times compared to 17 strikeouts. He then stole 12 bases out of 15 attempts.

It didn’t take long for the question of “when will he be promoted” to start appearing. At no surprise, the Royals did promote him to Lexington, their A-Ball team. He has been there for nine games, but it seems as if he will be getting a promotion again here soon.

Since joining the Legends, Isbel has hit .333/.436/.576 with three doubles, one triple, and one home run. To add to that, he has six walks and three strikeouts, and five stolen bases on five attempts.

That means that Isbel is hitting .370/.449/.601 over his first 34 professional games with 13 doubles, two triples, and five home runs. He has also struck out 20 times and walked 20 times, to go along with 17 stolen bases in 20 attempts.

Final Thoughts

I know the sample size is small, but when you look at what he has done you can’t help but be impressed. When you look through the Royals system and see what other players have been doing, Isbel looks to be the most efficient offensive player they have.

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His wRC+ through the two level’s are 166 in Idaho Falls and 185 in Lexington. He dominated in Rookie-Ball and seems to be on the same path in A-Ball. If he can continue this type of performance, he should be promoted to Advanced A-Ball Wilmington by the end of the year.

It is easy to get mixed up in the hype of a prospect. However, Isbel is showing something the Royals really don’t have within their system. He is the type of prospect that can play second base if needed but has the ability to play all three outfield positions at a high level. He has the ability to hit to all part of the field and is patient at the plate. He has gap power with the ability to hit 15-20 home runs. He has even drawn comparisons to a young Jason Kipnis and Scooter Gennett.

Isbel currently ranks 15th on the Royals Top-30 prospects, but I believe he should be higher on that list. If he continues playing like he has been all year he will move up on that list and could potentially crack the Top-100 prospects in baseball.

If I am a Royals fan that is looking towards the future and wanting to see which players are showing promise to be a part of the next wave, Isbel should be one of the guys you watch. What do you think?