The Yankees may have found their starting left fielder

isiah kiner-falefa, yankees
May 27, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) hits a walk off RBI single in the tenth inning against the San Diego Padres at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s one New York Yankees player who has faced a surplus of criticism over the last year, it’s former infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

At 28 years old, he’s proven competent at both shortstop and third base, but it’s his performance as an outfielder that has made a lasting impact. His transition to the outfield has been seamless, and he’s offered valuable contributions in recent weeks.

The Yankees are getting tremendous value from IKF:

Kiner-Falefa had a tough start to the season, especially at the plate, but he’s transformed his approach from purely focusing on contact hitting to striking line drives with power. Although he managed only four home runs in 2022, he’s already hit three in 41 games this year, indicating a potential to reach a career-first double-digit home run tally.

Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners, Kiner-Falefa held a .217 average and a .265 on-base percentage (OBP). However, he significantly boosted those figures during the game, adding four more runs batted in (RBIs) to his total.

“It’s been a while, a couple of years, but I’m feeling good, getting good pitches to hit right now and I just feel like I’m hitting the ball hard,” Kiner-Falefa said.

Just a day after recording lackluster offensive statistics, he’s now batting .243 with a .288 OBP, steadily rising from his slump. In fact, his slugging percentage now surpasses those of Anthony Volpe, Jose Treviño, and Oswaldo Cabrera.

Kiner-Falefa’s ability to recover from a performance slump exemplifies the grit and determination required to overcome challenges. It’s rare for the Yankees to see a player rebound from such struggles and offer substantial value in an entirely different position.

Indeed, the team’s management had to make the tough call to release Aaron Hicks just a few days ago, taking on nearly $30 million in unpaid salary over the next two years.

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Isiah Kiner Falefa’s rising offensive statistics:

Over the last 15 days, Kiner-Falefa has hit .310 with a .355 OBP, a .759 slugging percentage, and a 1.113 OPS. He’s added three home runs and eight RBIs, along with nine hits in 29 at-bats. Regardless of how one evaluates his recent offensive performance, it’s clear he’s been excellent, likely securing his place in left field moving forward.

Let’s also examine his defensive metrics, given his primary role as a utility player this season. He’s played 61 innings at third base, 8.0 at shortstop, 112.1 in centerfield, 9.0 in right field, and 81.2 in left. His fielding percentage in the outfield has been flawless, including one defensive run saved and two outs above average.

While Kiner-Falefa may not have a strong arm like Aaron Judge, he consistently executes routine plays and occasionally pulls off semi-difficult catches, contributing positively on the defensive end.

As long as Kiner-Falefa maintains his positive offensive performance, the Yankees have no reason to remove him from left field. His continued contributions could address a significant issue the team has struggled with in recent years.