Every team in baseball has high hopes for a player they draft and develop.
Throughout the process, some of those picks become top prospects in an organization.
Others move along as they should, never really establishing themselves as anything more than a future utility player. IKF (Isiah Kiner-Falefa) was progressing along that path.
Drafted in the 4th round out of Mid Pacific Institute High School in Honolulu HI, IKF was fast becoming a utility guy. Good defensively at multiple positions, but not the bat of an everyday starter in the big leagues. IKF was called up to make his major league debut in 2018 at 23 years old. He played in 111 games and hit .261 with an OPS of .682 and 4 HRs.
Last season he was moved to the catcher for an experiment to add another tool to his arsenal. It didn’t take long for the Rangers to realize that he was better served in the infield. It wasn’t that he was a bad catcher. He wasn’t good enough to make that a primary position. IKF proved his value was better in the infield. In 65 league games he hit .232 with a .620 OPS, which meant he was a serviceable utility guy but not an everyday starter.
Then comes 2020. Kiner-Falefa came into spring knowing that unless something changed, he was destined to be a utility man in the big leagues who could catch in an emergency. Well, something did change. Before COVID-19 shutdown spring training, IKF was having the best spring of anyone offensively. In 15 games he was hitting .378 with a 1.167 OPS and 4 HRs. That leads the team as he departed for Honolulu to quarantine with family.
When the team started up for Spring 2.0, IKF picked right back up where he left off. The first week he hit the ball hard again with multiple HR’s. Chris Woodward admitted he was hitting his way into a starting position. Kiner-Falefa is a bonafide everyday defensive infielder. It was always his bat that kept him out of the everyday lineup.
Apparently, that is changing. If IKF takes the new and improved version into the season, someone will be on their way to the bench or maybe worse.
Let’s look at the most likely candidates to be affected by the everyday starter Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Let’s also go in order from most likely scenarios to least likely, dealing only with other position players.
IKF becomes the everyday third baseman and Todd Frazier moves over to first. Right now Bird seems a bit ahead of Guzman which puts him on the floating roster and not on the active roster. He still has options and could be in the minor leagues.
Should the Guzman scenario play out with IKF and Guzman seems a better fit, then Bird could be left off the active roster and he would then have a decision to make. He could opt out and take free agency or hang out on the 60 man squad and wait for an opportunity.
Activating Bird requires adding him to the 40 man roster. That means someone has to be moved off of it. But, Burkes injury leaves room to add a player)
Nick Solak was coming into this year as the opposite of Kiner-Falefa. He was thought to be all bat with no great defensive position to lockdown. The second base is his best position. He has played third and outfield in the big leagues.
Odor has pretty much locked down second base this spring and IKF is locking down third. Solak might be relegated to a right-handed DH or utility guy. Utility guy? Hmmmmm……. wasn’t Isiah Kiner-Falefa supposed to be the utility guy?
The more unlikely situation is that Santana is relegated back to utility guy. Coming into the season he was slated as the starting centerfielder. However, he had struggled up until a few days ago.
This opened the door for Solak who has been knocked out of the starting second base and third base jobs. In the last few days, Santana has shown the bat that made him the MVP of the team last year.
GET OFF THE FLOOR! There are a few things that need to happen for this scenario to play out. It is also the most unlikely one. Elvis is signed through 2022 with a vesting option for 2023. Andrus is still a good SS. But Kiner-Falefa is better today. Of all the so-called utility guys on the active roster, IKF is the best defensively.
Andrus has had a storied career in Texas. But if IKF carries this type of bat into the regular season, the Rangers may see a player who can fill the gap at SS until Tejeda, Seise or Faggese hit the big leagues.
A player like Andrus might be attractive to a team looking for an upgrade at SS for the next couple of years. A trade is unlikely in 2020. However, this offseason there may be some interesting phone calls made to Jon Daniel.
Well, that’s it and this is all conjecture on my part. But as I was writing this last night at Globe Life Field, IKF went 2 for 3 off of Lance Lynn with a HR and two-run single to right field.
His third AB was an error by the second baseman. Since that wasn’t impressive enough for his spring numbers, he stole second base on the first pitch.
Featured Image: Louis Deluca/Dallas Morning News