After an inauspicious start of his career with the New York Yankees, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is settling in as the team shortstop. He came in to the Bombers as a complementary piece in the Josh Donaldson trade, but with time, patience, and a lot of hard work, he is proving capable of being the perfect placeholder for the organization, as it waits for top prospects to develop.
On Sunday, he worked a crucial walk in a long at-bat against Kansas City Royals’ pitcher Dylan Coleman to start the seventh inning. The Yankees were losing by a run, but after the twelve-pitch base on balls to Kiner-Falefa, Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch and DJ LeMahieu walked.
Aaron Judge and Donaldson drove in a run apiece to turn the score around, and the Yankees wouldn’t look back. It all started with IKF.
“That’s the at-bat that sparked it all,” manager Aaron Boone said, according to Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media. “Every run we scored today, he was a big part of it,” Judge stated.
Kiner-Falefa is already up to a .303 batting average, a .721 OPS, a 113 wRC+, and two steals, with good defense at shortstop: you could say he has done a bit of everything.
The Yankees’ shortstop just wanted to give his team a competitive at-bat
About his at-bat on Sunday, he said: “I just wanted to battle. I just wanted to put up a scrappy at-bat.”
And boy, he did it.
“That’s a tough matchup,” Boone said of Kiner-Falefa’s moment. “That’s a tough right-on-right matchup there. To spoil, spoil, spoil and lay off a good 3-2 pitch — it’s a good at-bat, a winning at-bat.”
The Yankees have now won nine straight games, and IKF has been a big part of it. He is currently sporting career-highs in batting average, wRC+, OPS, average exit velocity (88.1 mph) and hard-hit rate (37.5 percent).
“What we’re going through now is something I’ve never experienced,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Just showing up to the field every day, I want to come to the field. I want to hang out with my teammates. That’s the biggest thing and the coolest thing — the camaraderie. I think if we can keep building, the sky’s the limit. We’re going to have a bumpy road. We know that’s going to happen. We just have to stick with it and pick each other up.”