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2021 Season in Review: Kyle Isbel

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The rookie could be part of the future.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The speedy, contact-hitting outfielder, Kyle Isbel had a very eventful season in 2021, where he was able to experience much adversity across Triple-A and the Majors. His season (much like Andrew Benintendi’s) can be split into four separate parts. He started off with the big-league team before being quickly shipped out of town. Once the Triple-A season started, he struggled with his swing, but eventually found great success and finally made his way back up to the Majors by September. He showed great flashes of contact, speed, defense, and his ability to get on base throughout his games played this season.

Kyle Isbel’s 2021 in four parts

Time Frames League Games Plate App. At-Bats Batting Avg On-Base % Slugging % OPS Walks Strikeouts Steals Runs RBI
Time Frames League Games Plate App. At-Bats Batting Avg On-Base % Slugging % OPS Walks Strikeouts Steals Runs RBI
4/1 - 4/21 MLB 12 36 34 .265 .306 .324 .629 2 15 1 5 3
5/4 - 7/7 AAA 50 228 200 .220 .316 .360 .676 21 52 12 31 19
7/8 - 9/11 AAA 55 223 194 .320 .399 .531 .930 24 39 10 31 36
9/12 - 10/3 MLB 16 47 42 .286 .362 .524 .886 5 8 1 11 4
Totals AAA 105 451 394 .269 .357 .444 .801 45 91 22 62 55
Totals MLB 28 83 76 .276 .337 .434 .772 7 23 2 16 7

Right out of the gates on Opening Day, starting right fielder Kyle Isbel came out hot. In his Major League debut, he tallied up three hits and batted in two runners in a comeback win. Following this performance, Isbel tallied a single and a triple in the second game, convincing us fans early on that we may have our right fielder for the future. Unfortunately, Kyle went on to get only four more hits in his next 25 at-bats before being abruptly sent to the alternate site, and then off to Triple-A. In his first stint in the bigs, Isbel showed that he had the skill to hit but was still very inconsistent and it seemed that his timeline may have been rushed. His 42% strikeout rate over his first 36 plate appearances exemplified this the best, proving that he was not quite ready.

From Isbel’s debut in Triple-A through July 7, he struggled immensely in his first fifty games in the minors. To Kyle’s defense, he went from being drafted in 2018, to playing rookie ball and High-A in 2019, then played no official games in 2020 due to the pandemic, and was next launched up to the opening day roster in 2021 after a few promising spring training games. When a player is progressed at that rate, it is only natural for there to be some regression along the way. His lack of experience paired with facing much higher levels of play was the main reason behind his .220 batting average through these first 50 games.

In the last 55 games that Kyle Isbel played in Triple-A, he did what all great hitters do and adjusted. His strikeout rate was only 17% in this stretch compared to 22% in his first half and he also batted 100 points higher throughout this span. Isbel also showed his ability at the most sought-after skill combination in the league, he hit for power and showed off his speed. He hit nine bombs and stole ten bases in those last 55 games, proving that he could potentially have all of the tools needed to return to the big league level.

Finally, on September 12, Kyle Isbel made his way back to the Major League club where he was finally able to get another chance. He wasted no time making his impact, where he had four hits in his first two games, including his first (and currently only) Major League home run at a game that I happened to be in town for. Isbel slashed .286/.362/.524 with a .886 OPS in his sixteen games back with the Royals and displayed his defensive versatility by playing every position in the outfield and taking the majority of his reps in center.

I hope that Kyle Isbel can find his way into plenty of playing time in 2022, as I thought the team would consider him as their starting center fielder next season until Michael A. Taylor was extended. On next year's crowded team, I believe Isbel will get most of his reps in at right field or in a possible platoon role in center field on the days Taylor sits. Either way, I believe that Isbel has earned himself a serious shot next season and that the team should not let him go to waste in the minors. He showed resilience, made adjustments, and was just beginning to prove that he has what it takes to be an everyday player.

Poll

What would you rate Kyle Isbel’s 2021 season?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    A
    (26 votes)
  • 65%
    B
    (195 votes)
  • 24%
    C
    (72 votes)
  • 1%
    D
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
297 votes total Vote Now