2. Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s Job Isn’t Assured
When Didi Gregorius joined the Yankees, it was with the expectations he’d develop into a long-term replacement for Derek Jeter. It was a long shot, but it … well, kind of happened! Didi rocketed two of the most memorable playoff home runs of 2017-2019 and held down the position admirably in a post-Jeter landscape until his Tommy John surgery threw his Bombers future off-kilter.
When Isiah Kiner-Falefa joined the Yankees this offseason, it came with very few of the same expectations, even as fans attempted to buy in as hard as possible during March on his defense-first approach and reworked Justin Turner-esque swing. The bottom line is IKF is still keeping the seat warm for one of many Yankees middle infield prospects, and that seat has already gotten a few degrees hotter in the season’s opening week.
Kiner-Falefa rocked a double into the gap for his first Yankee hit on Sunday night, and ended the weekend 1-for-11 at the dish. The early-season jitters in the field were far more important than the bottom-of-the-order black hole he helped contribute to, though. In just three games, Kiner-Falefa dropped a hotshot Friday, couldn’t corral JD Martinez’s grounder up the middle Saturday, and threw a grounder away in the ninth inning of that contest that had every paranoid Yankee fan on earth manifesting a blown save (somehow didn’t happen/come particularly close). Add in his bobbled double play ball Sunday night, and you’ve got some converted true believers realizing that perhaps the numbers that showed he’s an elite third baseman/”meh” shortstop might hold some water.
Kiner-Falefa isn’t under the bus after an opening weekend mixed bag, but his role as a placeholder/eventual backup rather than a breakout seems relatively assured.