Let’s Be Clear About IKF

If there is an upside to watching Isiah Kiner-Falefa play this season, it’s that it’s finally (FINALLY!!!) opened the eyes of many Yankee fans and media to the fact that making contact just for the sake of making contact is a garbage strategy. If you don’t wait for a pitch you can drive, you’ll rarely hit the ball hard and you’ll never draw walks. (For those of you joining us late, hitting the ball hard and drawing walks leads to many, many more runs than six singles per week.)

How bad has IKF been? Remember last season when we all couldn’t stop talking about how much Gleyber was killing the team? His offense was weak and his defense had become atrocious – he was so bad that eventually a poor defensive third baseman (more on that in a minute) had to take Gleyber’s place at shortstop before season’s end. We all couldn’t wait for the off-season to see Corey Seager or Carlos Correa signed as a free agent.

Yet…

Gleyber on August 1st, 2021: 85 wRC+, 0.5 WAR
IKF on August 1st, 2022: 81 wRC+, 0.5 WAR

Since Yankees fans (and media) have no problem piling on players they don’t like justifiably or not, allow me to continue with my dead horse.

IKF 81 wRC+, 0.5 WAR
Gallo 82 wRC+, 0.3 WAR

The larger issue, to me anyway, is unlike last season with Gleyber, one of the Yankees’ highest-ranked prospects is their Triple-A shortstop and he is killing it in the International League. After a slow start in Scranton, the 22-year-old Oswald Peraza has posted a .325 OBP, .446 SLG with a 105 wRC+ in 338 PA. Yesterday he hit home run number 14 on the season to go with 25 SB – against only three caught stealing. (The home runs, SLG and SB are all top three among Triple-A shortstops.) Let’s not forget, that what caught the attention of scouts in the first place was Peraza’s glove and speed – he’s since progressed and added power at the plate.

This isn’t weighing that Anthony Volpe is performing even better in Double-A Somerset and is going to outgrow that level very soon if he hasn’t already.

When 2022 started I was aware of IKF’s flaws but I thought he’d be an upgrade over 2021 Gleyber and that he would probably improve a little from his own 2021 season as well. I was wrong on both counts – it’s becoming increasingly hard to justify not giving Peraza a couple of weeks at the position and seeing where that leads. If IKF had a history of hitting better than this, that would be one thing, but his current wRC+ of 81 is exactly the same as his career average.

That said…

Given IKF’s performance and given that Josh Donaldson has been underwhelming (to put it mildly), there’s also been a lot of talk from Yankees fans about how the spring trade with Minnesota hasn’t really worked out for the Yankees. I say the following as a fan of both Gio Urshela and Gary Sánchez – if you feel disappointed by the trade, I see regular doses of Prevagen in your future.

Combined WAR, 2022:

Donaldson/IKF: 3.1
Gio/ Sánchez: 1.4

The combination of Urshela and Sánchez has literally been more than twice as bad as IKF and Donaldson.

Did I miss something? Let me know. Leave a comment below or yell at me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter and/or the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.

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