The Royals announced some roster moves earlier today, with outfielder Kyle Isbel going on the 10-day injured list with a hamstring strain and left-hander Austin Cox optioned to Triple-A. Those roster spots were taken by infielder/outfielder Nate Eaton and right-hander Jonathan Heasley, both of them getting recalled from Omaha. Manager Matt Quatraro tells Anne Rogers of MLB.com that Isbel has a Grade 2 hamstring strain and will be sidelined for six weeks.
Isbel, 26, was a third round pick in the 2018 draft and has been considered one of the club’s top prospects in recent years. Baseball America had him in the top 10 among Royal farmhands for four years straight beginning in 2019. He reached the majors in 2021 and has had roughly a full season’s worth of playing time since then, getting into 160 games with 457 plate appearances.
He hasn’t been able to contribute much at the plate in that time, currently sporting a batting line of .222/.274/.359 for a wRC+ of 73. He’s struck out in 25.6% of his trips to the plate and walked in just 5.9% of them. He has been able to contribute in other ways, however. He’s played all three outfield positions and has accrued +16 Defensive Runs Saved, +14 Outs Above Average and a 9.1 grade from Ultimate Zone Rating. When combined with his 13 stolen bases, he’s been worth 1.3 wins above replacement, even with that tepid offensive production. Any kind of step forward at the plate would make him a solid everyday player.
Unfortunately, he’ll now have to miss the next few weeks with this injury, which is unfortunate timing. Despite his lack of offense this year, he may have been able to continue getting regular playing time. The Royals traded Michael A. Taylor this winter, seemingly at least partially motivated as a way to clear a path for Drew Waters to get everyday playing time in center field. But Waters suffered an oblique strain in February and has been on the injured list all year. He was set to start a rehab assignment this week but it was recently reported that some lower back tightness has put those plans on pause. That could have allowed Isbel continued reps at the position but he’ll now have to join Waters on the IL instead.
The Royals will now have to figure out how to proceed up the middle without either of those two. Quatraro tells Rogers that Jackie Bradley Jr. and Nate Eaton will be the primary options with Maikel Garcia in the mix as well. Bradley is an excellent defender but has been one of the worst hitters in the majors in recent years, including a tepid .156/.255/.200 showing this season. Eaton is primarily an infielder but has some time on the grass, while Garcia has only played infield thus far in his career.
Why did they option Cox? He did really well in his debut. And for Heasley? He sucks. What a stupid move.
Dave Pond 2
They had to get a fresh arm up.
Claim Daza until the Waters is turned back on?