Isiah Kiner-Falefa is among the Texas Rangers looking great thus far in camp. He continues to impress and he’ll play a key role in the lineup this season.
There are all sorts of storylines surrounding Texas Rangers spring training. Everyone wants to know what the rotation is capable of this season, if the club’s young core can carry the offense, and which prospects will break camp with the team. While those curiosities are consuming most folks’ minds, the Rangers’ hopeful starting catcher is quietly dominating the spring.
In six games, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is hitting .462 with a .500 OBP and a 1.269 OPS. Among the Rangers with over 10 at-bats, he ranks second in batting average, second in OBP and fourth in OPS.
Spring numbers can be misleading, but not for hitters like Kiner-Falefa. I’m not saying he’ll hit over .400 this regular season, though he’ll certainly be one of the team’s most consistent bats.
Consistency plays; it will always play. That’s why Elvis Andrus has held a spot in Rangers’ lineups for so many years, and that’s why Michael Young is one of the best players in the history of the franchise.
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Kiner-Falefa’s game is reminiscent of Andrus’ and Young’s. He has a flat swing path, the ability to hit the ball to all fields, he takes what the pitcher gives him, and he takes a selfless approach at the plate. Sound familiar?
Kiner-Falefa has a long way to go before accomplishing what Andrus has or what Young did, but his future is definitely exciting. If he can be half of what Andrus has been or one-third of what Young was, then he’ll have a home in Texas for a long time.
An assumed 2019 lineup stacked with left-handed power hitters, the current Rangers bunch needs a hitter like IKF. He’ll provide much-needed balance, and he’ll be the perfect on-base guy to wedge between sluggers.
Texas will have a couple of contact hitters at the top of the order (Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo); Kiner Falefa will be the contact hitter towards the bottom of the order. If he gets off to an impressive start, there’s a good chance he gradually rises in the lineup. However, he’ll likely hit 7th or 8th on opening day.
The Texas Rangers couldn’t find a reason to send him back to the minors after they brought him up last April. They couldn’t find a reason to keep him out of lineups either. Now, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is one of the main guys at camp.
He’s expected to catch most of the time in 2019, but he’ll swing around the infield some as well. No matter his defensive status, Texas will aim to get 23-year-old in the lineup in at least 150 games this season.