Getting to know Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the newest Toronto Blue Jay

Photo credit:Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Prasad
3 months ago
The Toronto Blue Jays inked utility infielder and outfielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a two-year deal worth $15 million plus incentives on Wednesday.
After the re-signing of outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, the Blue Jays seek options on the infield. Toronto will consider the possible loss of Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield as an opportunity to add some utility depth with an experienced American League East player who has played every single position on a big league diamond other than first base.
Kiner-Falefa spent the 2022 and 2023 seasons with the New York Yankees after starting his career with the Texas Rangers. He was selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB draft out of high school in Honolulu, Hawaii, and made his Major League debut with Texas during the 2018 season.
The 28-year-old does all things from the right-hand side with an average athletic build and approximately a 55-60 grade on all tools aside from running and speed, for which 65-70 is appropriate. His bat was average at best in 2023 and that’s largely been the case throughout his career. He’s purely a contact hitter, more on the reactive side than the aggressive side.
In 2023, Kiner-Falefa recorded a 40% strike-out rate with regard to his walk-to-strike-out ratio. He will protect the zone at all costs, especially when in volatile counts, however he will choke-and-poke himself to an out, and or roll-over on a breaking pitch. His hitting ability is line-drive style, and his hits are known to stay in the hole or up the middle, with a 41.2% straight away. This season, he posted a .242 batting average with a .306 on-base percentage and a .340 slugging percentage. Kiner-Falefa finished with 79 hits, six home runs, 37 RBIs, and scored 39 times. 
Although his offence isn’t much to write home about and certainly won’t replace what Chapman brought in terms of power from third base, Kiner-Falefa does add some value with his wheels. He stole 14 bags last season for the Yankees and was a feared body when he was on the pads. All told, Kiner-Falefa has stolen 74 bases throughout his six seasons in the big leagues and he’s been caught 24 times. 
Ultimately, the Blue Jays signed Kiner-Falefa for his glove and versatility. He won the American League Gold Glove for third base while with the Rangers in 2020 and then spent the majority of the 2021 season playing shortstop for the same team. For his career, Kiner-Falefa has logged 2,691 innings at short, 1,207 innings at third, 586 innings behind the plate, and 566 innings in the outfield.
If the plan was to have him replace Chapman one-for-one at third base, it would be a downgrade, but the Blue Jays are likely going to use Kiner-Falefa as their new version of Whit Merrifield over the next two seasons. Merrifield played a handful of different positions and produced a .272 batting average and .700 OPS for the Blue Jays in 2023, so that level of offence plus the ability to play short would make Kiner-Falefa an upgrade as the team’s right-handed utility veteran.

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