Notes: Isbel makes OF case; Duffy; Davis

March 21st, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Thanks to the Statcast setup at Salt River Fields, 's leadoff home run in the Royals’ 6-6 tie with the D-backs on Saturday did more than pass the eye test -- it gave some definitive data. It went a projected 428 feet with an exit velocity of 110.3 mph, the highest of the game.

“He’s a good hitter,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “He figures out how to put a good approach together. He hasn’t looked overmatched at all, put together some great at-bats overall.”

The talk around camp has been, deservedly so, about Kansas City top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., who is fighting for a spot and making a case to be on the Opening Day roster. But what Isbel -- the Royals’ No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline -- has done this spring hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff, either. Isbel went 2-for-5 on Saturday with the home run to right field and a single the opposite way. He’s hitting .346/.419/.654 across 31 plate appearances this spring.

“I think a number of times I talk about Bobby, I’ve been talking about Kyle in the same sentence,” Matheny said last week. “Talking about two guys we’re just watching do things really well on a pretty consistent basis. The little details, the skillset, the consistency of the at-bats.”

Isbel’s arrival in the Majors is blocked for a little bit by a crowded Royals outfield, with Andrew Benintendi, Michael A. Taylor and Whit Merrifield as the regulars to start the regular season, and Jarrod Dyson as the fourth outfielder. But if outfield depth is needed, Isbel could be one the club turns to based on a solid spring.

“We keep track of the quality of at-bats, and Kyle Isbel, percentage-wise, has probably had the highest percentage of quality at-bats all the way through so far,” Matheny said. “Hard hit, deep counts. Grinding at-bats, getting guys over, getting them in. Those sorts of things go into how we have our own metric of quality at-bats. But Kyle’s been as good as anybody we’ve had.

“It’s been impressive, and we really like how he plays defensively. He’s a smart baserunner. The whole package there with the skillset of being able to do just about everything we’d like to see.”

Isbel started in left field against the D-backs before moving over to center, where he made an impressive catch at the wall on David Peralta’s deep fly ball in the fifth inning. The Royals have no issues with Isbel’s ability to one day play the expansive center field at Kauffman Stadium.

“And saying that while wearing a Royals uniform is a big statement,” Matheny said. “I have as much confidence in him as any of the young players we have to be able to cover center field.”

Duffy happy with what he sees

Danny Duffy isn’t what he calls a “scoreboard peeker” when it comes to the radar gun -- most of the time, that is. The lefty admits he did check a few times on Saturday, though, when he felt how the ball came out of his hand and was pleasantly surprised. The Royals starter was flashing 94-95 mph with his fastball, a jump from the 91-92 mph he typically hits.

“Pretty explosive stuff today,” Duffy said. “Not much of a scoreboard peeker, but I saw a couple ‘fives out there today I was really excited about. So the electricity seems to be there. My fastball command was pretty good. … I’m used to seeing a lot of ones and twos, but I worked really hard to put on some weight this offseason and get what I had before back. I feel really good.”

Duffy allowed four runs (one earned) in four innings, giving up two hits and striking out six D-backs. The third inning got away from him when Hunter Dozier dropped an infield popup, but otherwise, Duffy looked sharp with his changeup and slider.

Davis continues strong spring

Wade Davis has not allowed a run scored in six Cactus League outings this spring, continuing that streak on Saturday when he got through a scoreless sixth inning. The right-hander yielded just one hit, a hard-hit ball through the left side of the infield that shortstop Jeison Guzmán made closer than it typically would be.

Davis, a non-roster invite this spring, seems on track for an Opening Day bullpen spot with what he’s shown thus far, from a jump in fastball velocity to his experience. The 35-year-old has allowed four hits across six innings in game action, but Davis has avoided any damage against him.

“He’s been really fun for us to watch not knowing exactly what we were going to see coming into camp,” Matheny said. “Came in prepared, came with an edge, came in to fight and earn a spot. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him, and just watching him go about his business, he’s just a pro. And then he gets the job done when he’s on the mound. It’s fun to watch him.”

Worth noting

• Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and Royals minority owner Patrick Mahomes was in attendance at Salt River Fields on Saturday, taking in the game from the top deck with his family.

• Right-hander Brad Keller, tabbed as the Royals’ Opening Day starter, will start Sunday’s game against the Rockies in his second-to-last Cactus League outing before April 1. Lefty Mike Minor will follow on Monday against the Padres. Both games will start at 3:05 p.m. CT.