NYCSportsNation

There is perhaps no more controversial player on the Yankees than Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Certain people think he is one of the more underrated pickups, while others want him to be replaced. If you continue reading this story, you will quickly find out that I land in that second group. Let me explain why.

One of the main arguments in favor of Kiner-Falefa is that he makes contact and hits for average. Most people know that batting average as a stat has been devalued, but let’s talk about it. Kiner-Falefa is currently batting .274. Yes, that’s not bad for today’s game, but when has that ever been an average that people bragged about? I remember fans complaining that Giancarlo Stanton was too much of a feast or famine hitter in prior years, even though he hit .273 last year.

Kiner-Falefa’s .274 batting average is accompanied by a .319 on-base percentage and a .322 slugging percentage, good for a .642 OPS. Given that context, his .274 average is nothing to write home about. DJ LeMahieu is a much better example of a contact hitter who provides value. He is hitting .288 with a .393 on-base percentage, .435 slugging and a .827 OPS.

Think of it this way. If I made chicken for dinner every night but undercooked it every time, you wouldn’t call me good at making chicken just because I do it a lot. Kiner-Falefa makes contact a lot, but that doesn’t mean he’s making good contact. He ranks in the bottom 10% of the league in key metrics like hard-hit rate, average exit velocity and barrel rate. Simply making contact isn’t enough, you have to be able to do something with it.

People also cite Kiner-Falefa’s defense. The defensive metrics give him mixed reviews. He has 6 defensive runs saved, which is solid. But he has -2 outs above average. Anyone who has watched the Yankees would likely also tell you that Kiner-Falefa seems to struggle with the routine plays. This makes sense when you look deeper into the Statcast metrics. Kiner-Falefa is at -6 outs above average on plays that require him to charge in. Is he better than Gleyber Torres was at shortstop in 2021? Yes, but that is a low bar.

Lastly, fans cite Kiner-Falefa’s speed as a reason to keep him as the shortstop. This is where I bring up the potential replacement. Oswald Peraza has 26 stolen bases this season in AAA, do you really think the baserunning will be that much different? Peraza is the second-ranked prospect in the Yankees’ system according to MLB.com. He is said to be major league-ready defensively, and has been raking since a slow start to the season.

Many have speculated that Peraza could get the call on August 20th, because at that point he would keep his rookie status for the 2023 season, giving the Yankees an extra year of control. Only time will tell if the Yankees are willing to make that move. If they want to give themselves the best chance to win, Peraza should get the call to the big leagues relatively soon.

Photo Credit: J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday

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