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.