Yankees‘ Isiah Kiner-Falefa has presented quite a polarizing narrative, and I’m sure a lot of fans agree. However, it doesn’t matter what the fans think, as Aaron Boone will continue to fawn over his abilities — even if there is more lack thereof than actual talent there.
The Yankees may have an interesting plan in store for IKF, even if his time here has been anything but gleeful. The IKF experiment was fun while it lasted, but it appears that this season could see him get just as much playtime if not potentially more. Chris Kirschner of The Athletic stated a very interesting comment made by Boone in spring camp.
“Aaron Boone said if Oswald Peraza wins the SS job at the end of camp, that Isiah Kiner-Falefa could have a lot of different roles on the team, even including playing in the outfield.”Chris Kirschner
Isiah Kiner-Falefa doesn’t really bring anything to the table for the Yankees:
Now, IKF has fans that defend him vehemently and swear by the fact that he’s a good player in a specific role. However, that just isn’t the case. He posted a 85 wRC+ last season, which was good for worst on the team out of all guys that qualified with the requisite amount of PAs. He cannot play shortstop full-time, has never played 2B or the outfield, and yet Boone is imagining him as a potential utility guy. In order to be a quality utility role player, normally one would have to actually play other positions — and play them well. The Yanks already have two quality guys for that role, in both DJ LeMahieu and Oswaldo Cabrera, why do they need a third?
IKF’s 85 wRC+ came off the back of solely being able to hit for contact and average. The beloved Joey Gallo actually posted the same wRC+ as IKF at 85, and he was booed so much that he had to request a trade and leave the state entirely. Yet, IKF has defenders lined up around the block, and for what reason? He batted .261 last year, and it was a roller-coaster .261 average, as despite being a contact hitter, he was wildly inconsistent. He doesn’t work walks, as indicated by his 6.6% BB Rate, and even with his 13.6% K Rate, it comes with empty at-bats.
It was abundantly clear that he cannot handle shortstop every day, yet now Boone is expecting to toss him in the outfield and figuring it out as he goes. Even with the NRIs of both Ortega and Calhoun, I’d feel better with one of them on the roster in favor of IKF. He was immediately signed back to a $6 million deal right as the offseason began, and I cannot help but feel like he has special treatment from the organization, both Boone and Cashman seem to love his abilities. He posted a .642 OPS and a 1.3 fWAR last season in his first year in pinstripes. The uber-disliked and somewhat undeserving of such, Josh Donaldson posted a .682 and 1.7 fWAR in the worst season of his career.
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IKF hasn’t done enough to justify trying to shift the team around to get him PA’s:
Essentially, Donaldson’s worst season to date was better than one of IKF’s better ones. His baserunning helps save some of his value, as, fortunately, he runs the bags quite well and has some quality speed to his name. Yet, that shouldn’t be enough to justify not only keeping him on the roster but actively looking for ways to fit him in the lineup. He posted the third-lowest Hard Hit % in all of baseball, at just 20.0%, and paired that with the second-highest Groundball % in the league, hitting it into the ground 54.9% of the time.
I cannot continue to justify Boone’s decision-making when it comes to IKF if what he stated is true. If the Yanks are more willing to give a guy who has never played a single second in the outfield reps out there instead of using other talent in the system or simply signing Jurickson Profar, I will be lost for words. I understand not sending death threats to the guy, as that is way too far a reaction over a game, but I also understand the team should be playing to win. If the Yanks were to hypothetically roll into October and run IKF in the corner outfield, no opposing team will take that seriously.
IKF truly brings next-to-no value on this team, and his inability to field the ball when it’s hit directly at him leads me to believe that lineouts and flyballs to left field, or left-center, will be absolute nightmares. He doesn’t do anything well enough to justify him getting more playtime than numerous other guys fighting for a spot, and the Yanks should be looking to move his $6 million owed in favor of playing other guys and using that money to potentially take on a contract at the deadline.
IKF should be moved to another organization before he’s moved to the outfield
I know that Kiner-Falefa is a good person, and it’s unfortunate that his play leads to him getting abuse he doesn’t deserve. However, I cannot justify him playing over even Aaron Hicks in the corner outfield spot. Last season, despite Hicks’ blunders and lackadaisical moments out there, he still posted 8 DRS and 1 OAA in just 413.0 innings in left. He is a much better option than IKF, and oh, he also posted a better wRC+ (90 to 85), and fWAR (1.5 to 1.3) than the former. The same player that was benched in the postseason in favor of two rookies is now being tested in the outfield and heralded as a “good utility player.”
Hopefully, these comments are nothing more than a smokescreen to increase interest from other teams over IKF. If he is starting in LF on Opening Day, that’s worse than him getting the shortstop job, as he at least has spent time at that position. We’re not talking about a Jazz Chisholm-esque athlete that can maybe handle the outfield full-time thanks to his raw talent and athleticism, but instead, a guy that gets immediately in the slums when he makes a mistake or has criticism come his way.
I have had enough of the IKF experiment and would much prefer the young guys get their shot — Dunham, Pereira, even the pipe dream of Dominguez — or the NRIs of Ortega and Calhoun over him out there.