Kyle Isbel's outstanding glove continues to justify his spot in KC Royals lineup

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There is a batting lineup hierarchy for a reason. Every spot in the order has its role and traits that make them successful. But that emphasis starts to weaken as you go down the lineup. Once you get to the sixth or seventh spot, you are usually seeing batters who are just plain bad but bring some value to the team. You have to go all the way to the bottom, the ninth spot, to find outfielder Kyle Isbel's spot in the KC Royals lineup.

Isbel hasn't batted higher than ninth so far this season for good reason. But the fact is his stellar glove continues to make him a net-positive force for Kansas City.

As of April 24, Isbel's 3 Runs Saved rank tied for 3rd among center fielders. The fact is, that is just par for the course in Isbel's career. He hasn't had a bad season in the field, with a career-best 13 Runs Saved back in 2023. He is marginally on a better track this season, with 54.6 innings per Run Saved last year, compared to 53.6 innings per Run Saved in 2024.

All those are the metrics, but Isbel certainly passes the coveted eye test in centerfield. Veteran Garrett Hampson holds his own patrolling Kauffman Stadium, but Isbel is clearly the best option on Kansas City's roster. His sliding catch during a rainy win over the Toronto Blue Jays is just the latest example in Isbel's stellar defensive portfolio.

Kyle Sibel's defense helps the KC Royals, but the bat remains a concern.

However, this remains true: Isbel doesn't belong as an everyday centerfielder, rather a platoon guy with defensive upside.

Isbel did have a strong series against Toronto ( 4 hits, 1 HR, 0 K), but his overall season hasn't started well. He is making contact with the ball, but not quality contact. His hard-hit rate is very low, and his 52.6% groundball rate is by far a career-worst and notably higher than the MLB average of 44.6%. Isbel has quality speed, but not enough to turn poor contact into infield singles consistently.

Isbel's plate approach isn't doing him any favors either. He is walking rarely, at a measly 2.8% rate. He is being more aggressive at the plate this season and the results have not materialized. His recent homestand has him trending in a better direction but said trend still points toward a below-average hitter.

It is a frustrating dilemma for Royals fans. But not every bat in the lineup can be as good as Bobby Witt Jr.'s or Salvador Perez's. Isbel leaves a lot to be desired at the plate, but his presence in the field only helps the pitching staff and iffy gloves flanking him. Until Isbel's bat is absolutely unplayable or a better option emerges, he is your Royals centerfielder.

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