Last season was simply a learning experience. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was thrust into the mix at the catcher position, and he’s taken it in stride, but with a few bumps along the way. He’s a converted infielder, and really showed his ability to adjust and adapt to any situation given to him.
He played games at second base, short stop, third base, and of course, catcher. He caught 35 games for the Rangers behind the plate, and 76 from the field at varying positions. But let’s get into how he did at the position.
In his games at catcher, he had a 77.2 mph throwing speed from the position, throwing out 8 of 25 attempted base stealers, which is a 32 percent rate. That’s above the Major league average of just 28 percent, so he excelled in that aspect. But his arm strength is still something he needs to work on, but nothing that seems impossible.
He also will get help from Jeff Mathis, the clear veteran that the Rangers brought in to shore up the catching position, but to also mentor the young catchers for this team. Kiner-Falefa is the direct recipient of the veteran’s knowledge and tips. Learning to frame a pitch at a young age with limited catching experience isn’t easy. Falefa had a 40.7 called strike on borderline pitches according to Statcast, which was well below the Major league average of 47.3. However, he’s learning from the best of 2018 in Mathis, who posted an incredible 54.9 percent called strike rate, the highest in all of the MLB last year for the D-Backs.
“Just having Jeff around, just being able to see what he does calms me. Because last year, I really didn’t know what I was doing. To have a leader show what’s right and what’s wrong, that makes the biggest difference” said Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
It seems as though the Jeff Mathis/Kiner-Falefa experiment is working, and will only get better. Mathis has never caught more than 81 games since 2011, and Kiner-Falefa only caught 35 games last year, which only adds up to 116 games. With 162 games in the season, manager Chris Woodward can only help with Falefa’s experience by letting him attempt to catch more and more games, possible filling the rest of the unoccupied games. If they find a way to split the games 50/50, we could see a huge jump in production from Kiner-Falefa from last year, and could be possibly be looking at a catcher for the next 3-4 years.
Jose Trevino could also be a name to push for time in the majors at catcher, but at this point, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has the backup position locked in, hitting .529 at the plate with 3 doubles in only 18 plate appearances so far. It’s still early and the regular season hasn’t even started yet, but you can’t help but see the upside of IKF, only being 24 years old.
Expect him to take the next step in his young professional career, developing into a solid catcher offensively and defensively, becoming the ultimate utility player for the Texas Rangers.
The most recent podcast for Rangers Nation has dropped as well, with special guests J.C. and RDA from The Texas Power Hour. Below is the link to the latest show.
Featured Image: Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News