Yankees get a burst of great news with SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa hitting his stride

isiah kiner-falefa, aaron judge

New York Yankees shortstop acquisition Isiah Kiner-Falefa struggled considerably to open the 2022 season. At one point, he was hitting below .100 alongside Kyle Higashioka, but since then, Kiner-Falefa’s production has skyrocketed.

In fact, it seems as if he’s gained his confidence back and is finally playing his style of baseball. It is possible the Yankees tried to tweak his fundamentals in an attempt to unlock hidden power, but his true specialty is spraying the ball all over the field and getting on base.

Last season with the Texas Rangers, Falefa posted a 13.3% strikeout rate and .271 batting average. While his launch angle hovers below 6° and his barrel percentage is at a career 1.5%, he has some capabilities other players donning the pinstripes simply don’t contain. Those range from contact hitting to good base running.

“Getting my confidence back,” Kiner-Falefa said. “I kind of forgot who I am and what I do and my game a little bit. Just getting back to who I am and what I do best — spring the ball all over.”

Over the past two games, Kiner-Falefa has dominated against the Detroit Tigers, posting a combined four hits, two runs, one RBI, and one walk over seven at-bats.

Even manager Aaron Boone noticed how well Kiner-Falefa has been swinging the bat, making great contact but also putting some underrated power behind his swing.

Falefa has elevated his average to .286 this season with a 7.9% walk rate and 18.4% strikeout rate. With his confidence quickly rising and efficiency leveling off, his strike-out rate should lower a few percentage points, providing the back-end of the batting order with a reliable player.

“A lot of good contact,” Boone said, “even up to his last at-bat where he smoked the ball for the out to the second baseman. Just getting more and more settled. I feel like (he’s) hanging on his backside better and getting off some good swings and starting to barrel some balls.”

General manager Brian Cashman made it a priority to trade for IKF, who was acquired by the Minnesota Twins just a few days prior. In the process, the Yankees had to absorb the remaining $50 million and two years on Josh Donaldson’s contract. The early return seems to be fair, but it is a long season, and the Yankees are prone to wild swings of inconsistency.