The Yankees are gearing up to re-start the Isiah Kiner-Falefa experiment

isiah kiner-falefa, yankees
Mar 1, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) throws the ball for an out during the third inning against the Washington Nationals at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees‘ third baseman Josh Donaldson hurt his hamstring in the game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday. Despite hitting a home run, the start of the 2023 season hadn’t been kind to him since he is sporting a 29 wRC+ and a 35.3 percent strikeout rate.

Now that he will presumably be out for at least a couple of weeks, the Yankees need to figure out what they will do at the hot corner. Having DJ LeMahieu start there for as long as Donaldson is out would be ideal, but he is being used as a super-utility infielder this year with starts at first, second, and third base.

The Yankees will surely prefer to keep him in that role and have Isiah Kiner-Falefa take over Donaldson, probably in some kind of a rotation with LeMahieu.

Oswaldo Cabrera could potentially play third base since he is a natural infielder and has an incredible throwing arm, but it’s not a position he is really familiar with.

IKF, on the other hand, has won a Gold Glove as a third baseman. It happened in 2020 when he was with the Texas Rangers, and he had seven Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and five Outs Above Average (OAA) in 366.1 frames at the position.

He is a capable fielder there, but the Yankees can’t have his well-below-average bat in the lineup every day. He hasn’t gotten a hit or even a walk in 10 plate appearances to open the year, and he had an 85 wRC+ last year in 531 trips to the plate. 100 is considered league-average performance.

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What the Yankees might be doing to solve third base:

LeMahieu offers a similarly good glove at third. It’s part of the reason he won a Gold Glove himself at the newly introduced utility spot. If the Yankees want offense, they will have to use LeMahieu at third, Gleyber Torres at second, Anthony Rizzo at first, Aaron Judge at center, Cabrera in left, and Giancarlo Stanton in right, with Aaron Hicks appearing in left and sending someone to the DH spot on occasion (if that’s the case, Cabrera could play right and Stanton would DH).

Another arrangement we will be seen a lot of is IKF playing center field, where he left a positive impression in limited samples this season, with LeMahieu at third and Judge in right. This could allow manager Aaron Boone to make his pick among Stanton, Cabrera, and Hicks for left field and DH spots.

Basically, the Yankees want to keep running a rotation system, and IKF enables them to do that. Hopefully, he can at least contribute a few singles here and there because the offense could suffer a lot with him in the lineup on a regular basis. He is a fine backup, but extended playing time usually exposes him, and that’s exactly what happened last season.