Friday night at Redsfest on the main stage saw the organization hand out their awards to various players from both the Major League and Minor League side. There are four awards handed out to the Minor Leaguers, with the top award, the Sheldon Chief Bender Player of the Year Award being the top honor. There have been some heavy hitters take home the award in the past, but this season it truly was a heavy hitter. The award was given to first baseman Ibandel Isabel in 2018 for his performance with the Daytona Tortugas.
The Chief Bender Award is given to the top player throughout the entire #Reds minor league system. The 2018 award goes to Ibandel Isabel! Ibandel crushed a Florida State League record 35 homers for High A Daytona. pic.twitter.com/h4hAPxjbXI
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) December 1, 2018
When the season began, Ibandel Isabel wasn’t even eligible for this award. He was playing for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. But two weeks into the season the Cincinnati Reds acquired him in a trade for Ariel Hernandez. The Reds chose to send Isabel to Daytona where he would play first base, a little bit of right field, and serve as the designated hitter for the Tortugas.
Through his first six weeks in Daytona he was solid, but unspectacular – he posted a .756 OPS in 26 games with five home runs. On May 26th, though, he went on a crazy run for the next 10 games. Isabel would hit 10 home runs in that stretch, including three different 2-home run games. It’s hard to top something like that, so it’s no surprise that he didn’t. But that run put him in position to chase history. And he came through the other side, breaking the Florida State League record for home runs that had stood since 1951 (and tied in 1971) by hitting 35 home runs. He had a home run with Rancho Cucamonga before the trade, which gave him 36 total on the season.
For the season in Daytona he posted a .258/.333/.566 line with 11 doubles and 35 home runs. That came in 104 games played for the Tortugas. He would score 62 runs and drive in 75. His .900 OPS led the Florida State League, as did his .566 slugging percentage, and record breaking 35 home runs. All of those stats were also tops in the Cincinnati Reds farm system among players in the full-season leagues.