Frisco, Texas —— Entering play on Friday night, Texas Rangers catcher/infield prospect Isiah Kiner-Falefa is slashing .289/.365/.400/.765 with 21 doubles, four home runs, and 32 walks in 81 games for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders, his second season in the Double-A Texas League. I observed the 22-year-old Hawaiian over six games in late May and early June; below is Baseball Census‘ full Isiah Kiner-Falefa scouting report, including video.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa Scouting Report — Video
Our video of Texas Rangers catcher/infield prospect Isiah Kiner-Falefa comes from his at-bats in those six late May and early June games against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals and the Arkansas Travelers:
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Isiah Kiner-Falefa Scouting Report — Notes
Very aggressive at the plate with pretty good contact skills to boot. Relies on a wide open start to his stance and a big leg kick for timing and leverage. Stays remarkably well-balanced through his swing even despite the leg kick, and rarely gets caught far out on his front foot mis-timing an off-speed pitch. Bat speed is above-average, and Kiner-Falefa does a very good job getting the bat head through the zone on pitches that cross the inner half, specifically. The Texas Rangers prospect has good strike zone awareness and even better plate coverage; he can hit line drives literally line to line with authority, and doesn’t get too pull happy in his approach. Very little power to speak of, but better than average speed (especially for a catcher) and decent athleticism. That, combined with his line drive approach, should have Isiah Kiner-Falefa hitting his fair share of doubles even with very little over-the-fence pop in his game.
Defensively, Kiner-Falefa has a fascinating skill set: he can catch one night, play second base or shortstop the next, and he’s equally as good at either one. I really like his receiving skills behind the plate, and his throwing mechanics and arm strength are above-average back there, too (in 2016, he caught 18 base stealers while allowing 29 steals, though he’s fallen back somewhat this year). In the infield, his soft hands translate well and he’s smooth, particularly at second base and third base, with clean actions and extremely good footwork. He’s a bit undersized for an everyday infielder, especially on the left side of the diamond, but he should have no problem in a utility role playing across the infield from time to time as he’s doing now in Frisco.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa Scouting Report — Projection
Isiah Kiner-Falefa is giving himself a legitimate shot at the big leagues soon thanks to his exceptional athleticism and versatility on defense. He’s not quite good enough to be an everyday catcher or an everyday infielder (except perhaps at second base), but the combination of both in a super-sub role coming off the bench is ideal for the native of Hawaii. A singles hitter with little by way to show of power, his bat won’t make an everyday impact in the big leagues either—but again, filling in as a super sub with good contact skills and plate coverage off the bench will make him an ideal 25th man that can float around on a roster as needed. He’s very aggressive at the plate—he’s up there looking to hack in a way that reminds me of another prospect I wrote up on Thursday—and that may burn him against better pitchers, but he’s weathering the Double-A transition pretty well now and that’s a good sign.
Kiner-Falefa is a good competitor and should complement the Rangers’ potential everyday catcher of the future very well in a sub/utility role. He’d be even better served on a National League roster one day, but there’s no reason the Texas Rangers couldn’t recoup quite a bit of value out of him yet. Consider ‘IKF’ the Swiss Army Knife of a 25-man roster: play him wherever you need him, and you’ll find yourself with a gamer who can hold his own in short spurts all over the field while being far from a black hole at the plate. Not flashy, but steady, with a unique skill set and a good feel for the catcher position—and all that is extremely valuable when used properly.