Tagged: Kila Ka'aihue

Kila Ka’aihue: Finally?

By Eriq Gardner //

Kila Ka’aihue is zooming up the charts as a potential breakout player for the 2011 season. In 46 spring training at-bats, the Royals first-baseman has hit .413/.449/.804 with 5 HRs and 2 SBs. Not only has Ka’aihue finally won a full-time job at the age of 26, but Royals manager Ned Yost has praised his defensive progress too, telling reporters that Ka’aihue should see more time at first-base than Billy Butler this season.
For the past few years, Ka’aihue has generated a lot of conversation in the scouting community.
On one hand, Ka’aihue has demonstrated the rare combination of elite power and excellent plate discipline. In the last three seasons in the minors, Ka’aihue has slugged a home run once every 19 at-bats and walked 206 times compared to just 152 strikeouts in 842 at-bats. 
These stats are very noteworthy. When his time at AA and AAA gets translated into a full-season 2011 MLB projection, the results raise eyebrows. Most services project 20 HRs in under 500 at-bats, presumably giving him a shot at 30 HRs with a healthy on-base percentage if he plays a full season in the bigs.
Will that happen?
Ka’aihue has his doubters, too.
Some point to the fact that he achieved those gaudy statistics in the minors at a relatively advanced age. Others have labeled him a “Quad-A Player,” too good for the minors and maybe not good enough for the majors, on the belief that the much-better breaking stuff of MLB pitchers will eventually bedevil Ka’aihue. Finally, a few point to results from Ka’aihue’s debut at the major-league level last season, which at first glance, don’t seem very promising.
We’re on the sunny side here.
Ka’aihue may have achieved enormous things in the minors at the age of 25, which is a little bit old, but still youthful enough it shouldn’t be dismissed. Other players have succeeded after proving themselves in the minors at advanced ages. Nelson Cruz, for one, didn’t hit it big in the majors until age 28. Plus, Ka’aihue was knocking them out of the park and showing his great plate discipline all the way back in 2004-05 at Single-A when he was just 19 years old. He’s been overdue for a call-up for some time now, so it can hardly be counted against him that he hasn’t gotten a real shot.
Some might suggest that 2010 was his opportunity to prove himself. Last year, he suffered a .217 AVG in 180 at-bats.
Look closer, however, and last season gives more reason for hope than otherwise. He struggled badly in his first 84 at-bats in August, as do most call-ups, but then had a pretty outstanding September when nobody was looking. In 84 September at-bats, Ka’aihue hit .274 with 6 HRs. His OPS was ninth among first basemen in baseball that month.
Ka’aihue still has plenty to prove, especially when pitchers learn his tendencies and shy away from giving him fast-balls down the plate. But all evidence so far suggests he’s not a free swinger. He’ll take the walk if necessary and make pitchers put them in the strike zone.
Ka’aihue finally gets his chance to shine now, worrying those who imagine the Hawaiian-born slugger will feel some pressure to perform quickly, after being forced to bide his time so long, especially with one of the game’s best prospects, Eric Hosmer, waiting in the wings. The fact that Ka’aihue plays on the Kansas City Royals, however, might turn out to be advantageous. The team won’t contend for the division this season and have no reason to start Hosmer’s arbitration eligibility clock early. Ka’aihue knows better than anybody the organization’s commitment to “patience.” 
He could very easily fulfill the potential of his minor league career and hot spring training. Ka’aihue has waited for this opportunity; it doesn’t mean fantasy competitors should be as unhurried when seeing him available in a league.

MLB Fantasy Baseball Sleepers 2006 to 2011

The Biggest Fantasy Surprises


Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays
2009: 54 R, 13 HR, 40 RBI, .235 AVG
2010: 109 R, 54 HR, 124 RBI, .260 AVG

Can’t saw we saw this coming. Although Bautista had a big final month to the 2009 season, no one could have predicted him to the top power bat in the Majors last season.


Ben Zobrist, INF, Rays
2008: 32 R, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 3 SB, .253 AVG
2009: 91 R, 27 HR, 91 RBI, 17 SB, .297 AVG

A solid all-around talent, Zobrist may have peaked in 2009, as his numbers declined quite a bit in 2010.


Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals
2007: 42 R, 14 HR, 52 RBI, .267 AVG
2008: 104 R, 37 HR, 113 RBI, .299 AVG

It’s nice to hit next to Albert Pujols, but the good times did not last. Ludwick is now bound to long singles and pop outs at Petco Park.


Fausto Carmona, SP, Indians
2006: 1-10, 58 K, 5.42 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
2007: 19-8, 137 K, 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Quite a turnaround for the failed closer, Carmona ranks as the ace for Cleveland and one of the better pitchers in the game.


Garrett Atkins
2005: 62 R, 13 HR, 89 RBI, .287 AVG
2006: 117 R, 29 HR, 120 RBI, .329 AVG

Atkins enjoyed Rocky-High Colorado, but when placed in Baltimore he wasn’t even a starter.

Who will it be this season?

Pedro Alvarez: A big-time slugger who can lead the Pirates back to respectability.

Adam Jones: Has the talent, but so far not the results.

JP Arencibia: The Blue Jays quickly traded Mike Napoli because they don’t want anyone to get in his way.

Kila Ka’aihue: A star in the Minors, can the power translate at the Big League level.

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