Kyle Isbel (KC): 4-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI.
The Kansas City Royals are trying to find out who will be part of their long-term future this year and who they could be moving on from after this season.
Kyle Isbel is undoubtedly one of those players who is under evaluation.
There’s no doubt Isbel has potential. It was expected that he was going to have a regular shot in center field in 2023, especially after the Royals traded away Michael A. Taylor last winter. However, the injury bug struck Isbel, as a hamstring injury has limited him to only 51 games and 182 plate appearances this season.
Even in that limited work though, the results for Isbel have been mixed this year. He’s been stellar with the glove, as he ranks in the 89th percentile in Outs Above Average. On the hitting end though, he is only hitting .230 with a .655 OPS and that includes four home runs and four stolen bases. That may not be enough for the Royals to commit to Isbel in 2024 and beyond.
That said, Isbel has been turning it on as of late, with yesterday’s performance being a key indicator of why the Royals have given Isbel a shot at regular playing time this year, when healthy.
Against the Twins, who are in first place in the woeful AL Central, Isbel collected four hits and two RBI. That’s the kind of performance that can not only make him a regular outfielder in Kansas City for years to come but perhaps make him a deep league fantasy sleeper, especially if he can reach that double-digit home run and stolen base total by the end of the season.
Isbel has two months to stay healthy and show what he can do with the Royals.
If he continues to have more performances down the stretch like Saturday, don’t be surprised if his name is being thrown around as a late-round dark horse come draft season.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Marcell Ozuna (ATL): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.
Atlanta scored nine runs on 11 hits and three home runs against former Atlanta pitcher Julio Teheran on Saturday, with Ozuna having three of those hits and two of those home runs. Ozuna has been a valuable power bat at the bottom of the lineup this year, as he is posting a .778 OPS and has hit 21 home runs in 345 plate appearances. He’s on his way to having his best season in Atlanta since his first season in 2020, when he hit 18 home runs and posted a 1.047 OPS in only 60 games.
Alejandro Kirk (TOR): 3-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
After an All-Star campaign in 2022, it’s been a bit more underwhelming for Kirk in 2023. He is only hitting .260 with a .702 OPS and his barrel and hard-hit rates are both down from a season ago. In front of a sold-out crowd packing the Rogers Centre on Saturday due to Shohei Ohtani coming to town, Kirk did look like his 2022 self. He collected three hits, three RBI, and hit two home runs, the latter raising his season total to six. A healthy and effective Kirk down the stretch would boost the Jays’ playoff chances.
Isaac Paredes (TB): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
The Rays were walloped by the Astros 17-4, but Paredes certainly showed up, as he hit two home runs and collected three RBI for Tampa. Paredes now has 20 home runs, 62 RBI, and is posting a .869 OPS in 349 plate appearances. Originally seen as a nice streaming option a couple of years ago when he was traded to Tampa from Detroit, Paredes has suddenly become one of fantasy baseball’s most productive hitters. In addition, at 24 years old, he is a long-term option in dynasty formats as well.
Max Muncy (LAD): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Muncy had himself a day against the Reds, as he hit two home runs, his 26th and 27th of the year. Muncy’s average is always squeamish to look at (.199 as of Sunday). However, he makes up for it in the power and OPS categories (.826). He is striking out 27.5% of the time this year, which would be his highest mark in that category since his rookie season. That is something to pay attention to with Muncy over the next couple of months.
José Abreu (HOU): 3-3, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB.
After posting sub-.600 OPS marks in April and May, Abreu posted OPS marks of .821 and .806 in June and July, respectively. It’s not a sign that he’s back to his former MVP form, but it shows that he can be a contributor on a playoff team, even at 36 years old. On Saturday, he hit his 10th home run of the year, and his fourth in July alone. It’s possible that if he keeps his June and July pace in August and September/October, he could be a 20-HR hitter by the end of the year.
William Contreras (MIL): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Contreras’ first season in Milwaukee hasn’t matched his 2022 All-Star campaign in Atlanta. However, he still has been pretty good, as he is posting a .797 OPS in 85 games and hit his 11th home run of the year on Saturday. The Brewers are fighting off the Reds for the NL Central crown, and they hope to finish strong this year, compared to a season ago when they faded down the stretch and allowed the Cardinals to pass them. A solid finish from Contreras would help Milwaukee finish with the Central Division crown.
Zack Gelof (OAK): 2-6, HR, 3 R, RBI, 2 SB.
The A’s have won two games in a row in Colorado, and Gelof has made the most of his MLB debut. He currently is posting a .833 OPS and a hard-hit rate of 44.1% in 56 plate appearances. Furthermore, he has stolen five bases and hit three home runs, with his latest two stolen bases and last home run coming on Saturday. On the flip side, Gelof is only hitting .235 and striking out 30.7% of the time, which shows that he is far from a finished product just yet. Nonetheless, Gelof has given some hope to A’s fans during a dark season both on and off the field.
Endy Rodríguez (PIT): 2-4, 2B, 3B, 2 R, 4 RBI.
Rodríguez, who has only 11 MLB games under his belt, has been more known for his rocket arm so far this year. On Saturday though, the 23-year-old showed what he could do with the bat, as he collected a double, a triple, and four RBI in a 7-6 win over the Phillies. Rodriguez is hitting the ball hard (50% hard-hit rate) and barreling balls (9.1% barrel rate) at a decent amount over his small 37-plate appearance sample. Thus, with the Pirates season entering “rebuilding” mode again, he will likely get a lot of opportunities to prove that he belongs behind the plate long-term, even with former first-overall pick Henry Davis also in the lineup (albeit in the outfield, not at catcher).
Aaron Judge (NYY): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Judge returned to the Yankees lineup on Friday, his first game since June 3rd. On Saturday, Judge showed that his toe injury may be behind him, as he collected three hits and hit his 20th home run of the season. With only 51 games under his belt, Judge’s numbers this year will pale compared to what he did in 2022, even if he stays fully healthy for the remainder of 2023 (it was going to be hard to hit 60+ home runs again anyways). When in the lineup though, Judge is proving that he’s one of the league’s most-feared hitters, even if he may not be 100%.
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)