Coming into Spring Training, all eyes in Kansas City were fixed on the #2 overall pick in the 2019 draft: Bobby Witt Junior. Despite his short time with the organization, only playing in thirty-seven Arizona league games following the draft, many believed and were hopeful that he would find a spot on the roster come opening day.
There was a buzz that seemed to follow him wherever he went, whether it was last season at the team’s alternate campsite or this season on the field during the spring; Players, coaches, analysts, and fans couldn’t stop talking about who he was as a person and as a player. Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier would be singing his praises on social media during games in which they themselves weren’t playing. Roster cut after roster cut was made and to the excitement of many fans, Witt remained on the roster. That is until about a week and a half before the season started.
In the end, his lack of experience is what will keep Royals fans waiting in anxious anticipation of his debut. With Witt now off the table, the eyes of Royals fans turned to a different spot on the field. With Bobby Witt gone the middle infield would now need another player to fill the gap left. Whit Merrifield, who was slated to start in Right Field was now back to the infield.
This left a sizable question mark in the outfield grass that would be needing to be covered at Kauffman this season. Could Jarrod Dyson be making his triumphant return to Kansas City, this time as the starting right fielder? Or was another star in the making gearing up to make his debut?
Ultimately that question was answered in the final game of the spring. Kyle Isbel got the nod to start the game alongside the other expected opening day roster. Isbel, who just turned 24 last month, played a significant role in the Royals’ high-powered offense this spring. The team held the top spot in the Cactus League standings. Isbel tied for the team lead in runs scored and tied for the second-most hits on the team. He also worked six walks in his twenty-three games and was able to make a little noise on the basepath swiping a pair of bags as well.
Though fans were disappointed that Bobby Witt didn’t end up on the roster, Isbel wasted no time on opening day making an impact. Following a rough first inning for the Royals starter Brad Keller, the Royals quickly found themselves down five runs. As was frequently the case throughout the spring, the bats got to work quickly to cut away from the deficit. Merrifield and Benintendi started with two singles followed three walks by Santana, Soler, and Perez before the first out of the inning.
Before he could even have time to process it, Isbel was making his major league debut at the plate. On the fourth pitch he would see in the majors, Isbel laced his first career hit on a line-drive single to right field. He also collected his first rbi in the process. Isbel finished 3-5 in his debut, with two RBIs in the Royals 14-9 opening day win against The Rangers. He finished the series going 5-13 driving in three runs and scoring three runs himself. The team ended the opening weekend with two wins on the strength of 25 runs in the two wins.
While Isbel didn’t have a hit in the final game of the series, his future looks bright in Kansas City. With veteran players like Taylor in the outfield, Isbel will have the help he needs to further his development. Kyle Isbel looks to gain Major League experience while producing runs in the high-powered Royals offense.