Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 3B
2020 was Kiner-Falefa’s first season operating as a full-time infielder, which promptly saw him receive a Gold Glove for the first time in his very young career.
In the years leading up to 2020, Kiner-Falefa bounced all over the place in terms of his defense. He saw reps at second base, shortstop, third base, and even catcher between 2018 and 2019. While Kiner-Falefa still ended up playing a bit of SS this past season, settling into a more consistent role at third clearly allowed him to play a more relaxed game on the defensive side of things.
Kiner-Falefa logged 366.1 innings at the hot corner in 2020, recording 32 putouts and 79 assists – compared to just five errors. The 26 year old also finished among the top ten infielders in regards to Statcast’s “Outs Above Average” metric.
An impressive stretch of ball for the former fourth-round pick.
While Kiner-Falefa obviously thrived playing 3B this past season, the Texas Rangers have primarily been playing him back at shortstop here in 2021. His fielding percentage is currently a career-high at the position (.975), but he’s already logged 3 errors. It’s unlikely that he’ll be moving back to third anytime soon with Culberson and Holt on the roster, so my guess is that the Rangers are simply expecting him to continue developing as a “plus” defensive option at SS.
Regardless, Kiner-Falefa’s year-long defense at third this past season was exceptional, and it was awarded appropriately by the MLB.