With Opening Day just nine days away, Chris Woodward hasn’t made a final decision on the starting nine, but the beat guys report that Woodward said today that Isiah Kiner-Falefa has an “edge” in the battle for a starting corner infield job. Todd Frazier was signed in the off-season as a third baseman, but also can play first base, and would move to first if IKF was the regular third baseman.
This is a continuation from this spring, when Kiner-Falefa showed up to camp stronger and with a new swing that was resulting in much better quality contact. He’s long been viewed as a terrific defender at third base, but hasn’t been expected to hit enough to be a legitimate starting option there. Both the scouting, the metrics and the results this spring indicated the bat had taken a big step forward, however, and that has continued into summer camp, with Woodward saying he’s been one of the team’s best players.
The flip side to that is that Ronald Guzman and Greg Bird, the two players expected to battle for the first base job, have disappointed. Neither had a good spring training before camps were shut down, and so far at summer camp they haven’t turned things around to where either has made a solid claim on a starting job.
Nick Solak and Danny Santana have both been mentioned in the past as possible third base options, but both are outfielders for now. Solak has been working in center field and could push Santana for a starting job (or end up in left field if Willie Calhoun’s hip issue sidelines him), while one gets the feeling the coaching staff would prefer to have Santana in more of a utility role.
In any case, Kiner-Falefa has been one of the big stories in both camps, and it is looking like he will get a chance to show that the improvements in his bat are legit.