A continuing look at the Rangers 40-man roster.
The Rangers were desperate for a drafting success story. Desperate being the operative word. So, they took their fourth-round pick of the 2013 draft, a kid drafted as a shortstop out of high school in Honolulu, and decided to make him a catcher.
They wanted to get his bat into the lineup and had too many holes so they thought they could just give someone on-the-job training as a major league catcher. It was a foolish thing to do.
That was in 2019. Isiah Kiner-Falefa responded with a bad offensive season. He hit .238 with a .299 on-base percentage.
So, going into the 2020, it appeared the Rangers had ruined another perfectly good talent. The catching experiement was a failure and Kiner-Falefa had no position.
Then, something strange happened. Kiner-Falefa made a lot of contact in spring training. And then after the shutdown, he made a lot of contact in the summer camp. It was obvious he needed a position. So, they made him a third baseman.
He responded with a Gold Glove and one of the better offensive performances by a Ranger, which isn’t saying much. While he started the season on fire offensively, he cooled off, ending with a .280 average, a .329 on-base percentage, and a not so good .699 OPS. His OPS+ was 91, meaning he was slightly below average. Yet, he was the shining star offensively for the Rangers.
He had only 13 runs batted in, with one home run. Those are not numbers a team can sustain from its third baseman.
So, for the third consecutive season, the Rangers are moving Kiner-Falefa to a new position in 2021. Shortstop. His offense can play there. He’s a significant upgrade over Elvis Andrus. And his glove speaks for itself.
The Rangers went into the offseason seeking upgrades at all four infield positions. They seem to have accomplished that at short with Kiner-Falefa.