Player Update: The Novelty of Isiah Kiner-Falefa
|Photo credit: NJ.com|
Admit it: Isiah Kiner-Falefa wasn't your pick for starting shortstop for the Yankees while they were making their offseason moves.
Trevor Story and Carlos Correa were on the market. You watched in agony as each of them came off the board in the free agency fever dream after the MLB lockout. And the Yankees, in Hal-Cashman era fashion, end up with IKF (who was originally traded to the Twins but was literally freed up so that they can go get Correa… AGONY, right?).
And then you realize that you were in for a surprise. While IKF got off to a rough start in Pinstripes, he has more than righted the ship in recent weeks.
According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, IKF “initially struggled on both sides of the ball -- a few bobbles mixed with a 6-for-28, seven-strikeout first 10 games.” But, as of May 5th, he is hitting .311 (23-for-74), with 15 runs, seven RBIs and five walks. And unlike a parade of his teammates, he’s done all of that without hitting a single home run since the start of the season.
IKF is a novelty; he’s not here to hit “home run or bust,” and with the most notable exception of DJ LeMahieu as well as a few others, the Yankees don’t have too many players who fit that bill. On defense, he’s clearly an upgrade at shortstop from Gleyber Torres, who now has the freedom to play 2B -- where he is more comfortable. But IKF is also able to play multiple positions; his 2020 Gold Glove was awarded to him as a third baseman.
With fewer attempts to swing for the fences comes fewer strikeouts. In his 74 at-bats, IKF has struck out 15 times. For the sake of comparison, Joey Gallo has struck out 29 times. Josh Donaldson has recorded 24. And even Aaron Judge has struck out 28 times (though we can question how many of those were fair calls…).
Stats aside, IKF is an obvious team player, from his tweets showing his pride in shaving his beard as well as the photo he tweeted with his dad as a child at a Yankees game. Tweets don’t win games, but they can be used to express pride for your team and your teammates. From a strictly emotional standpoint, love for team increases clubhouse morale.
— Isiah Kiner-Falefa (@Isiahkf11) March 14, 2022
Og bleacher creature!!!! pic.twitter.com/yRotRlju1w— Isiah Kiner-Falefa (@Isiahkf11) March 16, 2022
It seems apparent that the Yankees, their fans and the press are all throwing their support behind IKF.
“The Yankees saw something in Kiner-Falefa well beyond the obvious moxie displayed that day,” New York Post’s Jon Heyman said. “The kid can play.”