It's been several days since Ibandel Isabel hasn't homered in a game, and he wasn't going to let the streak end on Saturday.
The 25th-ranked Reds prospect launched a two-run shot in the fifth inning to extend his long ball streak to five games as Double-A Chattanooga beat Birmingham, 7-4, at AT&T Field.
WIth two outs in the fifth, Isabel took a 1-0 pitch from Barons starter Blake Battenfield over the wall in right-center field, scoring Reds No. 2 prospect Taylor Trammell. It was his 100th career homer and came an inning after he singled on a soft line drive to center.
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"He's just got a powerful swing, man," Chattanooga hitting coach Daryle Ward said. "It's pretty impressive to watch. He's just got a good feel for hitting hard line drives in the air. Even when he gets under it a little bit, he's still strong enough to drive the ball out of the ballpark."
Isabel started his run on Monday against Biloxi right-hander Bowden Francis. After a day off on Tueday, No. 16 White Sox prospect Zack Burdi served up a solo shot on Wednesday. Isabel extended the streak in the third inning on Thursday against 19th-ranked Jimmy Lambert and pushed it to four games in a row on Friday against Barons reliever Mauricio Cabrera.
Ward said that Isabel was able to improve his swing, thanks to some video work that focused on what kind of position he was in before he got ready to attack the baseball.
"Earlier, he was kind of jumping off of his backside a little bit," Ward said. "Then he was able to stay on his back leg, so that way he could drive through the baseball."
Isabel possesses so much strength, the former Major Leaguer noted, that he can miss-hit the ball and still leave the yard. But there are times the native of the Dominican Republic commits to swinging at a ball before it's thrown, something Ward would like to eliminate.
"As hitters, sometimes you make up your mind that you're gonna swing at this pitch, no matter where it is," he said. "But just to remind him there's no place in the ballpark where he can't hit the ball over the fence, so there's no need for him to panic. He can just see the ball first and then explode on the ball when he gets a good look at it."
Isabel's power surge is occurring earlier than it did last year, when he tied Mets slugger Pete Alonso for the Minor League lead with 36 homers. Splitting the season between Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga and Daytona Beach after an April 17 trade sent him from the Dodgers to the Reds, the 23-year-old first baseman hit six homers through the end of May -- a total he could match or eclipse in the span of a week.
Isabel is batting .239/.298/.534 with a Southern League-leading 13 homers and 35 RBIs, two more than Rays No. 4 prospect Jesus Sanchez of Montgomery. He also tops the circuit with 77 strikeouts.
"Sometimes he chases some pitches out of the zone," Ward said. "For a hitter like him, I want him to be aggressive; I like him to stay aggressive."
Ward said the strikeouts don't concern him that much because of how aggressive Isabel is at the plate and how the ball jumps off his bat.
"I would like to see him cut them down a little bit without losing his aggressiveness," he explained, "but for right now, if he's gotta stay aggressive to do damage, then you just gotta deal with it."
Ward thinks Isabel's power can translate to the big league level if he polishes up a few things, including pitch recognition, which he said every Southern League hitter deals with at some level.
2019 MiLB include
"He's gonna run into 30 balls a year," Ward said, "and the only thing we would like to see him improve on is cutting down on some of the strikeouts and maybe taking a single or a double in the gap here and there to drive in some runs in key situations with runners on base."
Playing for the first time since Wednesday's three-homer game, Reds No. 30 prospect Chris Okey went yard again and drove in four runs for the Lookouts.
Seventh-ranked White Sox prospect Luis Alexander Basabe delivered a two-run double and walked twice for Birmingham, while Trey Michalczewski went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a run scored.