Isiah Kiner-Falefa is not someone we’d suggest ticking off.
The Texas Rangers‘ starting shortstop is dedicating his 2021 campaign to the haters, especially FanGraphs, the baseball statistics database that absolutely blasted IKF’s starting credentials prior to the season.
All of the fuel and motivation seems to be paying huge dividends for IKF early on this season, as he’s beginning to firmly establish himself as a key piece of the Rangers’ future.
Kiner-Falefa is arguably playing his best all-around baseball right now, with a .314 OBP, . 829 OPS and two home runs in 33 at-bats to date.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is thriving as the Texas Rangers’ starting shortstop in 2021.
As you can clearly observe, IKF hears your criticism. If you don’t believe me, perhaps the 107.9 MPH exit velocity on his home run will get you in the right frame of mind.
On the season, IKF has recorded an average exit velocity of 94.4 MPH off his batted balls, according to Baseball Savant. That’s a number that illustrates the amount of authority the 26-year-old is hitting the baseball with. It’s a pretty encouraging statistic since 94.4 MPH is, well, pretty fast (and hard).
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That figure is especially good for an allegedly “defense only” player or for a “catcher”, like FanGraphs seems to claim he still is.
No, Isiah Kiner-Falefa is not a catcher. He’s not a third baseman. He’s a shortstop. A Gold Glove-winning shortstop from 2020.
Sample sizes be damned, gold is gold last time we checked.
But we always knew IKF could play defense. The question was when his bat would begin to mature.
It seems as if the bat is maturing before our very eyes so far. All of that hard work, all of those critics and doubters, it’s all culminating in what could be a career year for the fan-favorite IKF.
The Hawaii native is thriving batting leadoff for a surprisingly competent Texas Rangers lineup. He’s all gas and no breaks, and obviously, always hustle.
The added pop in his bat this season has been a welcome addition to his skillset and another reason why he should be taken more seriously as a legitimate entity at shortstop.
It hasn’t been the easiest road for IKF throughout his career. He still doesn’t get the kind of respect he deserves for becoming a gritty and hard-working baseball player.
He’s making the most of his opportunity now, though, as one of the leaders on this young Texas Rangers team and as a starter at a key position on the diamond.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is blossoming before our very eyes, both with the bat and with the glove, and it’s time people started paying more attention to his development.