Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Gregory Fisher | USA TODAY Sports

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the Yankees‘ biggest liability and it’s not even close. He was the biggest liability even when Joey Gallo was on the roster. Again, it wasn’t even close there between the former Texas Rangers.

Kiner-Falefa is a net-negative in every single phase of the game. He’s a below-average hitter despite his ability to avoid the strikeout (by hitting weak ground balls). He’s a terrible defensive shortstop even though he’s good for a few flashy plays once in a while. And his mindless baserunning was on full display in the Seattle series where he ran himself into an out with DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge coming up behind him.

As a hitter, IKF doesn’t strike out and he’s fast. Those are the only positive aspects he brings to the table. That’s it.

He doesn’t hit the ball hard, won’t walk unless the pitcher presents him with a gift, and even though he makes contact, he still chases a ton of bad pitches.


The Yankees have a starting shortstop who hits like a defensive whiz with one small caveat — he might be worse with the glove than he is with the bat. He’s sitting pretty at minus-4 outs above average when lined up at shortstop per Statcast and the image of it is comical.

The Yankees can tout him as a Gold Glover all they want, but he’s downright brutal when he’s lined up as a traditional shortstop. And for what it’s worth, IKF won that Gold Glove at third base during the shortened 2020 season.

Now, let’s backtrack to one of his redeeming qualities as a hitter — he’s fast. There’s no denying his speed and athleticism. He can steal a base in the conventional sense and also by pushing the envelope going first to third. The problem is that he can be aggressive to a fault.

There is no way to describe that baserunning blunder other than “bonehead.” Kiner-Falefa’s explanation of his decision-making doesn’t inspire any confidence either. He sounds like a guy who knows he can continually stink it up without any consequences.

And the thing is, IKF should feel comfortable in his current spot. The Yankees have shown no urgency to fix the shortstop position. They won’t even acknowledge that it’s a problem. The company line is that they are smarter than everyone else and their in-house metrics say Kiner-Falefa is actually a great player.

If the organization was bone dry in minor-league talent, it might be easier to understand the front office’s stubbornness with IKF. Sticking with a veteran over a middling prospect would make sense. The problem with that line of thinking is that the Yankees have a top-ranked shortstop prospect who is mashing at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — Oswald Peraza.

Peraza, 22, ranks second among Yankees prospects and 35th among all MLB teams. His on-base plus slugging was a pristine .914 in the months of June and July. If Peraza isn’t ready for a shot at the big-league level now, when will he be? Are the Yankees trying to juke his service time at the expense of a World Series run?

Even if Peraza comes up and struggles, the Yankees can go back to the safety and security (heavy sarcasm) that Kiner-Falefa provides at shortstop. They don’t lose anything by giving Peraza a month to see if he’s ready. Anyone who has watched the Yankees over the last month knows they need a spark.

So this brings us back to the crux of this entire debate: Kiner-Falefa is a bigger problem for the Yankees than Gallo ever was. The counterargument to the Gallo hate was always simple: He won’t be in the lineup when the postseason rolls around. IKF on the other hand? He starts every game at a premium position.

Kiner-Falefa won’t hear the boos like Gallo because he doesn’t strike out. The out-of-sync outfielder was a much easier target for the fans, but the frustration was misguided. IKF is a walking deficiency and the Yankees don’t care.

Follow ESNY on Twitter @EliteSportsNY

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.