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Blue Jays 40-man Roster Review: Isiah Kiner-Falefa brings value defensively but isn’t an ideal everyday third baseman

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Photo credit:Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Brennan Delaney
3 months ago
Can Isiah Kiner-Falefa produce like Matt Chapman did in 2023?
Realistically, no. At least, not with the bat, as they’re bringing in Kiner-Falefa for his glove and the ability to play a bunch of positions.
Throughout Kiner-Falefa’s career, the 28-year-old super utility player slashed  just .261/.314/.346 with 26 home runs in 2415 plate appearances from 2018 to 2023. Chapman in contrast, certainly had his struggles in the 2023 season, especially after April, but his year of slashing .240/.330/.424 with 17 home runs in 581 plate appearances for a 110 wRC+ far surpasses Kiner-Falefa’s career-high totals.
What they are getting with Kiner-Falefa is a pretty darn good defender. With the Yankees in 2023, he played 240.1 innings and had 3 Defensive Runs Saved and 3 Outs Above Average. On a rate basis (if he played the 1200+ innings at the position Chapman did), Kiner-Falefa would’ve had 15 DRS and 15 OAA, beating out Chapman’s 12 DRS and 4 OAA. Interestingly, Kiner-Falefa has only played 1207.1 innings at third base, less than Chapman played in 2023. However, the 28-year-old former Yankee has 19 DRS and 22 OAA.
Of course, Kiner-Falefa is a super utility player, meaning his defence at other positions is pretty good, especially at shortstop. He only played eight innings at short in 2023, but in 2021 and 2022, he had 10 DRS each season in 2,545 innings, with a much less impressive -7 OAA.
The Yankees also moved Kiner-Falefa to the outfield for the first time in his professional career, where he played 566.1 innings (248 in left, 278.1 in centre, 40 in right) in the grass. Altogether, he had -4 DRS and -2 OAA, mainly due to his time in left field. However, in centre field, he only had -1 DRS and actually had 1 OAA.
It makes sense that with time and innings in the outfield, Kiner-Falefa’s defence will improve to at least average, but possibly above average with how well he plays elsewhere.
Still, the signing of Kiner-Falefa is questionable as the Blue Jays have numerous players that play this role. Santiago Espinal, Ernie Clement, Otto López, Cavan Biggio, and Davis Schneider all play various positions and are already on the 40-man roster. So unless the Blue Jays have a trade in the works, adding another super utility player is odd, unless they plan on letting Kiner-Falefa play third base full-time, which isn’t that great of a decision.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads @Brennan_L_D.

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