Texas Rangers: Kiner-Falefa’s progress stunted due to a healthy team offense
By Travis Koch
The Texas Rangers finally have a completely healthy offense. They’ve had great success as a result; however, one offensive player has been slighted.
It’s no coincidence. The reason the Texas Rangers are playing such great baseball of late is because their offense is finally healthy. Adrian Beltre is back, Elvis Andrus is back, and now Ronald Guzman is back after a 7-day DL stint. This is literally the healthiest the team has been since opening day. That is great news almost every way you look at it; however, it’s not such great news for at least one Ranger.
The long-term absence of Andrus allowed Isiah Kiner-Falefa to get his shot in the big leagues. It seemed Kiner-Falefa’s promotion was just a knee-jerk reaction until a more permanent solution could be determined. Even if it was, the 23-year-old infielder has not allowed the Rangers to send him back down. This reasoned by his stellar play.
He’s now found his way into the lineup in 61 of the team’s 87 games in 2018, including 57 games started. In total, Kiner-Falefa is hitting .250 with a .324 OBP and 30 runs scored. He has also proven to be the squad’s most versatile defender. And that is saying a lot when Jurickson Profar is also on the squad.
Kiner-Falefa has played four different positions this season–shortstop, second base, third base, catcher. Of course, his time spent at catcher stands out the most. Filling out at 5’10”, 176 LB., he hardly spent time behind the plate even in the minor leagues. Though, once backup catcher Carlos Perez went down to injury, Kiner-Falefa did what he had been doing all year-long…he filled a void.
The Texas Rangers rookie has now made four starts at catcher and he has done a very nice job. Unfortunately, that has become the only position available to him.
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Since Andrus returned to the team on June 18th, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has played in only five of 13 games. Four of those five positioned him at catcher. With every Ranger back healthy and most Rangers swinging hot bats, there is no route into the lineup for Kiner-Falefa. Andrus and Beltre own the left side of the infield and an improving Rougned Odor owns second base. Any infield flex goes to Profar. Plus, Robinson Chirinos‘ recent offensive numbers have him back to catching almost every game. There is no where for the young rookie to play.
Yet, the Texas Rangers have kept him on the roster. Kiner-Falefa’s continued major league stay speaks to his value to the team. It’s as if the Rangers desperately want for him to play consistently, but they just don’t have a way to make it happen.
He might just have to wait patiently until the organization makes a trade. Beltre could be on the move, as could Profar. Though unlikely, trade possibilities for Andrus and Chirinos will be whispered up until the July 31st trade deadline as well. All it takes is the departure of one of those players to open up a spot for Kiner-Falefa.
Ultimately, the Texas Rangers hate for Isiah Kiner-Falefa to lose at-bats, but they would also hate for him to not be on the team. With the deadline approaching and September call-ups not too far away, he will likely remain on the big league roster for the rest of the season. It’s up to management to find a way to keep him fresh.
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The offense is in such a good way right now that there really isn’t a need to play Kiner-Falefa. That is a good problem to have. Plus, there aren’t many players more trustworthy off the bench than Isiah Kiner-Falefa.