The full list of minor league free agents came out on Thursday afternoon. 31 players from the Cincinnati Reds farm system are now free agents, but one name wasn’t on the list that was expected to be: First baseman Ibandel Isabel. He has re-signed with the organization for the 2020 season on a minor league deal.

The Reds originally acquired Ibandel Isabel in April of 2018 when Cincinnati traded Ariel Hernandez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In turn they acquired Isabel and relief pitcher Zach Neal. In a weird twist of fate, the Reds traded Neal back to the Dodgers less than three months later, along with Dylan Floro.

During his first season with the Reds organization, Ibandel Isabel broke the Florida State League home run record, hitting 35 homers in 104 games for the Daytona Tortugas. The record had stood for 68 years and had only been tied once since then. Until Isabel bested it by two home runs in the 2018 season.

This past year he moved up to Double-A. In his 90 games with the Chattanooga Lookouts he once again led his league in home runs. While he didn’t break the league record, he was only one of three players to top 20 home runs. His 26 dingers paced the league, besting the next two hitters who had 21 each. In one of the more hilarious statistical finds I’ve ever made, Ibandel Isabel’s isolated power number (SLG-AVG) had a bigger gap in the Southern League in 2019 between himself and the next best number in the league than that number and literally zero. The guy has power that’s just different level kind of stuff.

With that power, though, comes an issue with contact. In 2018 he struck out 36.2% of the time he stepped to the plate with Daytona. Last season he struck out even more. With the Lookouts he struck out 41.6% of the time. When he made contact he made it count. But making contact was a rarity for the big right-handed hitter. Isabel won’t turn 25 until June 20th of the 2020 season. The Reds will get at least one more season to work with him to try and cut back on the strikeouts.

9 Responses

    • Doug Gray

      That’s a risk you’re willing to take, I guess. Honestly though, I’d be surprised if he did. But, with the rosters expanding to 26 next season, maybe the Rule 5 gets a little more interesting.

      • jbonireland

        Doug, did I read that there is a limit on the number of pitchers you can carry on the 26 man roster?

      • RedsKoolAidDrinker

        So international free agents will sometimes wait to sign until a different signing period. Is that something that a minor league free agent would consider: to agree to sign after the Rule 5 draft? Maybe offer a little extra signing bonus.

    • Wes

      He may go but doubt he stays on that team. How u gonna make a roster spot for a guy who will strike out over 50% of time against major league pitching ? I think his spot is safe.

      Nice observation though Doug. It will be a bit more interesting R5 draft w 26 spots out there.

  1. AirborneJayJay

    Speaking of the Rule 5 draft JP Morosi had these observations while helping to announce from the WBSC Premier 12 now in Mexico.
    >”Team USA outfielder Mark Payton, who homered last night before a heavy @MLB scouting presence, is a name to remember for the Rule 5 draft if #Athletics don’t protect him on their 40-man later this month. He posted a 1.053 OPS at Las Vegas this year. LH-hitting corner OF.” Payton can play some CF too.

    >”#Padres infielder Esteban Quiroz has impressed scouts at the @Premier12 while playing for @MexicoBeis. San Diego’s 40-man roster is crowded, but Quiroz can play in @MLB right now. Reminds me of Kole Calhoun at the plate.” Mostly a 2B, but can play all 3 OF spots and all the INF minus 1B.

    >And Heyman has this from Japan, “Neftali Soto, former Cincinnati Red, is drawing attention of MLB teams after hitting 41 and 43 HR last 2 years for Yokohama Bay Stars in Japanese League. Candidate for MLB contract after contract is up after 2020 season.” Not until next year.

    I like the Payton kid and he could possibly stick a whole season in Cincinnati next year.

  2. Jim m.

    Hey Doug, sorry to hear about your dog. Mine is 12 and i hope she can live a long healthy life. I know i dont look forward to seeing her suffer.

    Anyway my question us about Ibandal Isabel . I would like to see Donnie Ecker help him like he did Aquino. I keep hoping he is the next guy to replace Votto with that power. I see him on the 40 man roster too