Givin’ Kila Ka’aihue Some Love

At 26 years of age, Kila Ka’aihue is wasting away at triple-A. It’s become painfully clear that the Kansas City Royals organization cannot see the value in a player with 20 home run power and 100-walk capability. It’s time to free Kila Ka’aihue.

Right now, there are a couple teams in the Majors that could use an upgrade at the first base position. The Baltimore Orioles club is currently paying Garrett Atkins $4.5 million for 2010 after he posted a negative WAR in ’09 with the Rockies. He currently has a .252 wOBA and has shown almost no power through the first two weeks of ’10.

The club’s top first base prospect is Brandon Snyder, who is probably about a year away from being a regular contributor in the Majors. His strength is his ability to hit for a pretty good average and he grades out as an average-at-best first baseman from an offensive perspective. He swings from the right side and would make a pretty nice platoon partner with Ka’aihue, who is a left-handed batter. Together, the two players would make less than $1 million in 2010 and ’11.

Ka’aihue could also be an immediate upgrade in New York where the Mets club is currently employing a two-man mess at the first base position. Neither Fernando Tatis nor Mike Jacobs have any business playing first base regularly for a big league team. Oh, but they’re just holding the spot warm for Daniel Murphy, who’s currently injured. Coming off of a 0.9 WAR season, though, he might actually be more valuable for the club on the DL than at first base.

The issues with flipping Ka’aihue to the Mets is that the club’s top offensive prospect is also a first baseman. Ike Davis is currently hitting rather well at triple-A and may not be that far away from being MLB ready. One option here, though, is that Davis has experience playing the outfield and he could be shifted there to make room for Ka’aihue, if the big league club were to try and trade Jeff Francoeur while his value is on the upswing. Is this the best option for the Mets? Perhaps not, but it’s something to at least think about considering the team is going no where fast.

Ka’aihue probably fits best with the O’s. The club is second last in the American League in on-base percentage (.309) and is 11th (out of 14 teams) in slugging percentage. Those just happen to be the two areas that Ka’aihue excels in. He slugged 37 homers between double-A and triple-A in ’08 and followed that up with 17 at triple-A in ’09. He’s walked 100+ times in each of the past two seasons and had a walk rate of 18.4% in ’09. His BB/K rate was an impressive 1.20.

Ka’aihue is not without his warts. He’ll likely provide a .240-.260 average in the Majors and he’s definitely not the most athletic player. At 26, he’s no spring chicken and he possesses “old player skills, ” which means he could fade out quickly if you believe in the concept. Even so, he has the potential to be a high-reward, low-risk option for the O’s (or Mets) and it shouldn’t cost too much to pry him away from the Royals organization.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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Brad Johnson
Member
Member
6 years 3 months ago

The Mariners aren’t exactly swimming in quality first basemen and they are ostensibly playoff contenders. I imagine they are a good fit.

Professional Editor
Guest
Professional Editor
6 years 3 months ago

I’d take Kotchman over Ka’aihue. Plus, nearly every player down in Tacoma is a 1B (Carp, Everidge, Nelson). No room at the inn.

highrent
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highrent
6 years 3 months ago

Good article I’ve seen and met kila, He’s an awesome guy and I agree he deserves at least a shot and proving he’s not quad A material but at the very least he could be a useful bench bat. He deserves a shot. If he gets and doesn’t produce but he isn’t getting a chance.

johnf
Member
johnf
6 years 3 months ago

MLB 10: The Show ruined part of my plans to revamp the Royals when I found Kila wasn’t in the game as calling him up was part of the plan. The guy definitely deserves a chance.

PL
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PL
6 years 3 months ago

Didnt you write this last year about Jake Fox? What is fangraphs obsession with AAAA guys?

3rd Period Points
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3rd Period Points
6 years 3 months ago

He has 24 PA in the Major Leagues with a .375 OBP and a .359 wOBA. Dayton Moore, is that you?

Murgatroid
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Murgatroid
6 years 3 months ago

AAAA guys are better than guys who are paid $4.5 million to put up sub-AAAA numbers.

3rd Period Points
Guest
3rd Period Points
6 years 3 months ago

Awesome stuff, Marc. I’ve been on the “Free Kila” bandwagon for quite some time. As a Royals fan, I’ve all but given up on Kila getting a shot in KC. I just want him to get a shot somewhere. The poor guy’s prime is being flushed down the toilet by a GM that saw fit to trade a useful bullpen piece (sure would be nice to have Leo Nunez this year) for Mike *#&*#n’ Jacobs.

DonCoburleone
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DonCoburleone
6 years 3 months ago

I could see him maybe being traded to the Braves soon after Glaus (inevitably) goes down with an injury. And we all know how much Dayton Moore loves him some Braves minor leaguers!

Harrison
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

I would LOVE the Mariners to pick him up. Perfect fit. Left handed, power, takes pitches… Whoever ends up with him and gives him a chance is in store for a crazy ride.

scott
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scott
6 years 3 months ago

a crazy ride? is he a vibrating bed, too?

Choo
Member
6 years 3 months ago

Having Kila as part of a 1B/DH/PH rotation for the Mariners would be awesome. It would also be impossible without throwing a grenade onto the bench and essentially building a new one from scratch. To borrow a title from epic film producer Jackie Treehorn, Griffey and Sweeney are “logjammin’” the Mariners roster. Think about what it would take to make room for Kila:

The Mariners can’t carry 4 first basemen plus Griffey, so who goes?
– Kotchman? Nope. He is a plus fielder and the M’s apparently feel he brings a middle-of-the-order bat to the rodeo.
– Tui? Nope. His roster spot is reserved for the emergency SS/2B/3B. It’s off limits whether it belongs to Tui or Hannahan.
– Griffey? Double nope.
– Sweeney? Yes! They can (and should) kick Huggy Bear to the curb. However, with Kila replacing Sweeney, and Hannahan eventually replacing Tui, the M’s would only have one RH bat off the bench: Eric Byrnes. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal at first, but as the only backup OF the M’s have, it creates matchup problems that would be easy for opponents to exploit:
1) On days that Byrnes starts in LF and Bradley is the DH, Wak would have no RH on the bench.
2) On days that Byrnes doesn’t start but is called upon to PH or PR, Wak would have no OF on the bench.
3) On days that Byrnes has to replace an injured OF, Wak would have no RH on the bench.
Sure, there would be a RH backup catcher, but burning your backup catcher is suicide if the starter gets injured thereafter.

It can be done, but the Mariners would be pioneering new frontiers of roster inflexibility.

pirate
Guest
pirate
6 years 3 months ago

The pirates should try and scoop him up and give him the shot he deserves

Catsmeat
Guest
Catsmeat
6 years 3 months ago

Nah, the Mets don’t need him. They’ve already got a 27-year-old first baseman wasting away in AAA while Mike Jacobs, Fernando Tatis and Frankie Cats do what they can to suck terribly in Flushing.

Free Chris Carter.

Charlie
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Charlie
6 years 3 months ago

Exactly. Chris Carter and Davis are most likely better options right now. It would be funny to see him traded to the Mets to only once again be blocked by the immortal Mike Jacobs.

EB
Guest
EB
6 years 3 months ago

Very interesting article. Just curious though, you project 100+ walks but with a .240-.260 avg, which is very Adam Dunn-like. However, Kila does it without a similar uptick in power. Does he also have the Dunn-like strikeouts which contributes to the mediocre batting average?

Boots
Guest
Boots
6 years 3 months ago

Not really. The article states a 1.20 BB/K rate, so he actually walks more than he strikes out (at least the last two years)

He also showed a lot of power in 2008, but for some reason it went down last year. He has three homers this year so far, 8 bbs, 8ks, and a .231 average. He just don’t hit the ball very well unless its going over the fence I guess

Boots
Guest
Boots
6 years 3 months ago

Just wanted to add that his entire line this year is .231/.412/.615, which comes out to a 1.027 OPS. Surely this could be usefull for some pro team (I wish it was for the Royals)

Dan
Guest
Dan
6 years 3 months ago

The O’s have enough trouble now finding at bats for corner IF/OF guys, so I don’t really see a fit there. Kila would do well in Seattle, I think.

Haze
Member
Haze
6 years 3 months ago

I can’t see why Garrett Atkins should block Kila, and Ty Wigginton certainly doesn’t need more at bats than he gets. I think it’s a great idea, but one that I’m certain won’t come to fruition. I would expect the O’s to call up Snyder or Rhyne Hughes if they give up on Atkins.

Boots
Guest
Boots
6 years 3 months ago

Most people dont see why Jose Guillen blocks Kila either, although it appears that Guillen has decided to play baseball so far this year.

hk
Guest
hk
6 years 3 months ago

However wrong they may be, I suspect the O’s feel like they have 4.5 million reasons to keep giving AB’s to Garrett Atkins and will not trade for Kila.

Dan
Guest
Dan
6 years 3 months ago

It made no sense for the O’s to sign Atkins. W/o Atkins, they could have moved Scott to 1st and had plenty of at bats for Scott, Reimold, and Pie.

JoeWho112
Guest
JoeWho112
6 years 3 months ago

Send him to the White Sox and DFA Kotsay.

Professional Editor
Guest
Professional Editor
6 years 3 months ago

Honestly? Not a bad plan at all. The Sox have no contingency plan for Konerko, and their DH “rotation” is a pit of stink with Andruw Jones peeking his head out every few weeks. Kenny W and the Royals are no strangers to trading with each other. Perhaps a Morel or Retherford would do the trick?

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
6 years 3 months ago

It looks a lot better with Andruw playing RF lately and Quentin DHing, especially since Andruw has posted a .492 wOBA to date.

Not that I think Andruw’s numbers will hold up-he got of to a hot start last year as well-but from a defensive standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to put in RF while Quentin handles the DHing.

3rd Period Points
Guest
3rd Period Points
6 years 3 months ago

This makes the most sense to me. Plus Kila would come to KC 9 times a year, and play the Royals 18 times total, with plenty of motivation to show KC what could have been.

George
Guest
George
6 years 3 months ago

With Butler and Guillen, Kila wouldn’t be getting any ABs with the Royals. If Guillen stays hots, maybe we can flip him at the deadline and bring Kila up. If not, then Kila gets his shot next year after Guillen is gone.

Absolutely no reason for the Royals to trade him right now.

Professional Editor
Guest
Professional Editor
6 years 3 months ago

There’s no reason for the Royals to sit him in AAA right now, either, which kinda was the point of this article.

George
Guest
George
6 years 3 months ago

Actually, I just pointed out that there IS a reason–Butler and Guillen.

SF 55 for life
Member
SF 55 for life
6 years 3 months ago

should have done fred lewis to the Royals for Ka’aihue

SP
Guest
SP
6 years 3 months ago

What exactly is KC’s reason for keeping him down? I don’t get it. I’d love to get him on the Jays.

bond
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bond
6 years 3 months ago

He is Matt Stairs at first base.

Boxkutter
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Boxkutter
6 years 3 months ago

“Even so, he has the potential to be a high-reward, low-risk option for the O’s (or Mets) and …”

I would argue that he is more of a low-risk, medium-reward type of player. And considering you would have to give something up to acquire KK, I am not sure how teams would come out ahead by trading for him. He likely wouldn’t add more than 1.0 WAR this season, above a Mike Jacobs or Tatis or Sweeney or Wigginton or Atkins, is it really worth giving up someone who may possibly be useful for that one win?

Axis of Honor 25
Member
Axis of Honor 25
6 years 3 months ago

I was really upset to see that he didnt make the roster, at the beginning of the seaon. I was hoping to draft him in a later round.

DW0304
Guest
DW0304
6 years 3 months ago

No way would Minaya trade for Kila.
However, if he wants to prove he can keep him in AAA longer then Dayton Moore can……………..

The contest continues.

astropolis
Guest
astropolis
5 years 8 months ago

Now that the season’s over and a lot has changed in Seattle, I would still love to see the M’s pursue a Kila Ka’aihue acquisition. Smoak may be entrenched as the first base option – although talk of trading for Upton heating up may mean Smoak’s out the door – and in this case, what’s really wrong with plugging Ka’aihue in at DH? A Milton Bradley block? I wouldn’t worry about that. I fully expect Bradley to freak out early in 2011.

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