With the Texas Rangers declining Robinson Chirinos’ 2019 option, it seems Isiah Kiner-Falefa is their guy behind the plate.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa emerged as a pleasant surprise for the Texas Rangers last season. Not only did he swing a consistent bat, but he also displayed extreme versatility on defense. Versatile, as in 46 starts at third base, 20 at second base, 2 at shortstop and 35 at catcher.
We see players all the time play multiple infield positions or even rotate throughout the infield and the outfield. However, rarely do you see a primary infielder get consistent reps behind the plate.
Kiner-Falefa played catcher due to convenience and potential. His at-bats were productive and his composure impressive; thus, the Rangers wanted to do all they could to find him consistent playing time. Though, with Jurickson Profar playing great and Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre eventually becoming healthy, the team didn’t have a place for him in the infield.
IKF had some experience catching in the minor leagues, but catching him at the big league level was quite the zealous approach by the Rangers’ coaching staff. Thankfully, the rookie did not disappoint.
He proved his ability to control the pitching staff, call a game and ground the fundamentals. Plus, his athleticism and arm talent jumped off the page. Just like it didn’t take long for Texas to realize his prowess at the plate, it didn’t take long for them to realize his prowess behind the plate.
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Isiah Kiner-Falefa undoubtedly had a nice showing at catcher in 2018. Now, we wonder if he’ll start at catcher in 2019?
Currently, Kiner-Falefa is the lone catcher on the depth chart. The only other big league ready catcher within the organization is Jose Trevino. Trevino debuted last season, but played in only three games with the Texas Rangers. It’s unlikely he’ll be a candidate to start (at least regularly).
There are plenty of catchers on the free agent market, but none that really stand out. Frankly, Chirinos would be as good of a signing as just about any of them. The only free agent catchers that pose offensive threats are Jonathan Lucroy, Stephen Vogt, Yasmani Grandal, and Wilson Ramos.
Chances are the Rangers avoid a reunion with Lucroy; Grandal and Ramos will cost more than what the front office will want to spend. Stephen Vogt would be an acceptable sign. Texas could also sign a defensive specialist to platoon with Kiner-Falefa. Perhaps they’ll consider Martin Maldonado or A.J. Ellis.
Whatever the Texas Rangers decide to do, it seems evident they’ll turn to Isiah Kiner-Falefa for the bulk of catching duties. He’s earned it. Plus, he’ll surely refine his skill set over the offseason.
I’m all for IKF becoming the primary catcher. Though, it’s important the Rangers don’t wear him down at the young age of 23. He should still be used occasionally as an infielder and shouldn’t make more than 110 starts behind the plate. The key this offseason will be finding the right guy to provide him some relief throughout the upcoming regular season.