The New York Yankees commenced the 2023 season with the expectation that Oswaldo Cabrera would be their primary super utilityman.
Able to play both infield and outfield positions, the 24-year-old Cabrera’s value had never been more prominent. However, his offensive contributions have been disappointing.
In 45 games, Cabrera has a batting average of .201 and an OBP of .253, along with a 50 wRC+. He’s hit three home runs and recorded 15 RBIs, with a 19.4% strikeout rate and a 6.3% walk rate.
Regrettably, he’s managed only two hits over his last four games, sparking a debate about whether the Yankees should reassign him to Triple-A.
Despite his struggles, it doesn’t seem like the Yankees are ready to give up on Oswaldo. His energetic presence in the locker room and his defensive skills remain valuable assets.
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The Yankees are reaping unexpected benefits from Isiah Kiner-Falefa:
The Bombers didn’t anticipate having another super utility option in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who delivered a walk-off victory in extra innings against the San Diego Padres on Saturday afternoon.
IKF hit a single down the left field line in the 10th inning, enabling speedster Greg Allen to score and secure a 3–2 win.
Despite his own offensive challenges, IKF has a superior wRC+ at 69 compared to Oswaldo and is batting .204 with a .26 OBP. His statistics have been gradually improving in recent days, with three home runs this season over 38 games (all within the last 10 games).
After hitting four home runs in 2022, he is on track to hit 11 this season, almost tripling his 2022 total.
Beyond his batting skills, Kiner-Falefa has proven to be a valuable defensive player. Before Saturday’s game, IKF had played at third base and every outfield position, supplementing areas of fatigue and weakness. He boasts a perfect fielding percentage in the outfield, with one defensive run saved and one out above average.
Surprisingly, Kiner-Falefa has been more valuable than Cabrera, despite the initial optimism surrounding the latter’s game at the start of the season.
At this juncture, it seems that IKF, who was nearly released during spring training, has secured a roster spot due to his utility value and improving offensive statistics.
Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising if manager Aaron Boone starts using Kiner-Falefa more frequently in the outfield, rather than Cabrera, who has been moving around primarily to alleviate fatigue.
Despite IKF only playing 64.2 innings in the field this season, his perfect fielding percentage and several notable catches indicate that he has fully transitioned and can provide sufficient support for the position.
We recently discussed the idea that the Yankees should adopt a hot-hand approach in left field, rotating players until one is able to maintain success, even if only for a few games, before making another change.
If general manager Brian Cashman does not plan to commit significant resources to this position at the trade deadline, the current strategy might be as good as it gets. If IKF can continue building on his recent success, his offensive numbers should rebound sufficiently to provide the necessary support at the lower end of the batting order.