Isiah Kiner-Falefa

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Isiah Kiner-Falefa
(Hawaiian Hustle)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Isiah Kiner-Falefa made his major league debut for the Texas Rangers early in the 2018 season, filling in at second base for an injured Rougned Odor. On June 20th, he started his first game as a catcher and formed one half of the first hyphenated battery in major league history when he caught Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who started the game on the mound.

In 2020, he became the starter at third base and was a surprise winner of the Gold Glove Award for his defensive work at the hot corner. He had originally been drafted as a shortstop and was also used at second and third base in the minors, before the Rangers decided to have him work behind the plate as well, increasing his value to the organization. In addition to his stellar defensive play, he batted .280 in 58 games with an OPS+ of 93 - not bad for someone who was seen strictly as a utility player only a couple of years earlier. His development as a stand-out defensive player changed the Rangers' plans and following the 2020 season, they announced that he was being penciled in as the team's starting shortstop for 2021, replacing long-time incumbent Elvis Andrus. He had started 15 games at the position in 2020. Of course, the combination of SS/C was a very rare one at the major league level, with Kyle Farmer the only other active player to have as many as 10 games at both positions. Historically, a few names like Dave Cochrane, Jamie Quirk, Bobby Bragan and Moe Berg fit the criteria. He was not expected to do any more catching moving forward, except in emergencies, however. He played 158 games, 156 of them at shortstop, and hit 271 with 25 doubles, 8 homers and 53 RBIs. While he did not win another Gold Glove, his defensive work was considered above average, and his OPS+ of 85 while well below average, was not bad for a standout defensive player.

Still, the Rangers were looking to improve their offensive production from infielders after the 2021 season, and went all out in the free agent market, signing Marcus Semien and Corey Seager just before the lockout. It looked like Kiner-Falefa would still get a chance to compete for the vacant third base job, but on March 12, 2022, shortly after the lockout was resolved, he was instead traded to the Minnesota Twins along with P Ronny Henriquez in return for C Mitch Garver. The Twins' starter at shortstop the previous season, Andrelton Simmons, had just signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs the day before, leaving a vacant slot for him to fill. However, the Twins had other plans, as on the very next day, March 13th, he was traded to the New York Yankees as part of a blockbuster deal, joining 3B Josh Donaldson and C Ben Rortvedt in return for C Gary Sanchez and 3B Gio Urshela.

He is a distant fourth cousin of famed Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Ralph Kiner.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Stephen Hawkins (Associated Press): "Rangers trade INF Kiner-Falefa to Twins for catcher Garver", Yahoo! News, March 12, 2022. [1]
  • Andrew Simon: "C to SS? Why this rare move could work", mlb.com, December 1, 2020. [2]
  • Randy Miller "The secret is out: Disrespected Yankees shortstop is related to a Hall of Fame slugger (and beloved Mets legend)", nj.com, April 6, 2022. [3]

Related Sites[edit]