Yankees bench utility man as they search for hope in prospects

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

The New York Yankees have made it clear: the focus is now on nurturing young prospects in preparation for a hopeful 2024 season. While strategic, this forward-looking approach inevitably has repercussions for existing players on the roster.

The Uncertain Fate of Utilityman Isiah Kiner-Falefa

28-year-old utility player Isiah Kiner-Falefa (IKF) has had an active year, appearing in 100 games despite transitioning to the outfield. With a batting average of .253 and an on-base percentage (OBP) of .318, he’s contributed six home runs and 35 RBIs. IKF has proved his worth as a versatile asset, filling in at multiple positions plagued by injuries and skill gaps during this turbulent season.

However, as the Yankees focus more on their future lineup, IKF finds himself sidelined with just a month remaining in the regular season. The team has effectively benched him, allowing Oswald Peraza to assume the full-time role at third base.

“Definitely tough and not what I wanted to hear,” said Kiner-Falefa via the NY Post. “But at the same time, we are where we are in the season, I’ve been a part of this [before].”

Oswald Peraza: A Work in Progress

23-year-old Oswald Peraza is seen as a potential long-term asset for the Yankees despite being demoted multiple times this year in favor of seasoned players. With a low .159 batting average and a .303 OBP, his performance in the 22 games he’s played this year has been less than stellar. Since his recent promotion, Peraza has scored only one hit and two runs, clearly still adapting to the leap from Triple-A competition.

Kiner-Falefa’s Stats: Good but not Great

IKF is in a contract year and is eyeing free agency this winter. Despite the challenges, he stands by his season’s performance. He sports a 90 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) and a 0.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), along with a 17.8% strikeout rate and an 8.4% walk rate.

While his offensive stats may not be extraordinary, he brings significant defensive value. However, it’s unlikely that he’ll be a hot commodity in the free agency market. Teams are more likely to see him as a reliable utility player rather than an everyday starter.

“I felt like with the opportunities I got, I did a great job,” Kiner-Falefa said. “The biggest thing is it’s not easy to play sporadically, and I feel like I proved I can do that. A lot of guys, when they get in that situation, their numbers really drop.”

The Role of Consistency in Player Performance

Indeed, consistency in playing time often equates to more efficient batting and a greater ability to capitalize on successes.

Kiner-Falefa’s Future with the Yankees

While the Yankees are clearly pivoting toward a new generation of players, the question remains: Where does that leave IKF? He’s open to exploring other opportunities but holds a soft spot for the Yankees—provided he’s given a consistent role.

“I want to see what’s out there, but I would love to stay. I really would love to stay,” Kiner-Falefa said. “But I also want to play, too, so it’s a lot to think about.”

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