The New York Yankees’ Isiah Kiner-Falefa is making an unexpected move to the outfield, as the team’s starting shortstop for 2022 appears to be slotted for a utility role in 2023.
Kiner-Falefa is no stranger to versatility, having played multiple positions during his time with the Texas Rangers before being traded to the Yankees in July. But the 26-year-old had primarily been a shortstop since his MLB debut in 2018.
The decision to move Kiner-Falefa to the outfield likely stems from the Yankees’ plans for Gleyber Torres. While Torres has played shortstop for most of his career in New York, there’s been talk that he may make the move to second base in 2022. If that’s the case, Kiner-Falefa wouldn’t be needed at shortstop, and the Yankees would want to find a way to keep his versatility and athleticism in the lineup.
Moving Kiner-Falefa to the outfield could be the solution. Despite not having a lot of experience out there, Kiner-Falefa has the speed and range to handle the position. He’s also a sure-handed defender, as evidenced by his 1.000 fielding percentage in the outfield during his time with the Rangers this season.
Of course, there’s always an adjustment period when switching positions, and Kiner-Falefa will need to work on reading balls off the bat and getting comfortable with the angles in the outfield. But the Yankees have time to get him up to speed.
The move to the outfield not only gives the Yankees another option in the outfield, but it also opens up more possibilities for the team’s infield. With Torres moving to second base, DJ LeMahieu could shift to first base, leaving Kiner-Falefa as a potential option at third base or as a super-sub who can play all over the field.
While the move may be an adjustment for Kiner-Falefa, he’s embracing the opportunity to expand his skill set.
“I’m all about doing whatever it takes to win,” he said. “If it means playing the outfield, I’m all for it.”
It remains to be seen how Kiner-Falefa will fare in the outfield, but his versatility and willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team should make him a valuable asset in New York.