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Royals Release Jacobs

According to MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel, the Royals have released arbitration-eligible DH/1B Mike Jacobs.

Ignoring Jacobs’ allergy to reaching base (career OBP: 313), inability to handle fellow lefties (.221/.269/.374 career vs. LHP) and iron glove (-9.0 UZR at first base), GM Dayton Moore acquired the 29 year-old from the Marlins last offseason for RHP Leo Nunez. Jacobs posted a .305 wOBA in 2009, which comes to -10.3 runs below average with the bat.

With Jacobs out of town, the Royals could look to Josh Fields or Kila Kaaihue to DH.

Fields, soon to be 27, was picked up along with Chris Getz earlier this offseason for Mark Teahen.

The 18th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Fields is a career .229/.302/.416 hitter in 746 major league PA. He posted a .336 wOBA and popped 23 HR with the White Sox back in 2007, but his career prospects have dimmed considerably since then.

Fields hit a mild .256/.341/.431 at AAA Charlotte in 2008 and .265/.357/.469 in 2009.

The former college QB has done a decent job of working the count in the majors, with a 9.3 percent walk rate and a 23.8 outside-swing percentage. Contact, however, has been hard to come by. Fields has whiffed 34 percent of the time, with a 71.1% contact rate (80-81% MLB average).

In the minors, the 6-2 righty batter showed a platoon split. Fields whapped lefty pitching for a .279/.386/.494 line, while hitting righties at a .266/.348/.443 rate.

In the big leagues, Fields has smacked southpaws for a .285/.356/.580 triple-slash, while laying an egg against same-handed hurlers (.206/.280/.348). It’s a good idea not to get too worked up about platoon splits based on a fairly small sample. But as a guy in his late twenties with limited defensive value, Fields is going to have to show more offensive force to remain relevant.

CHONE projects Fields to bat .247/.330/.407 in 2010 (.325 wOBA). ZiPS is even more pessimistic, throwing out a .237/.311/.394 line (.310 wOBA).

Ka’aihue, 25, always displayed a keen eye in the minors, but his performance was nondescript until 2008.

The Kila Monster batted a combined .314/.456/.628 between the AA Texas League and the AAA Pacific Coast League in ’08. The big lefty hitter walked an astounding 20.2 percent of the time, with a .314 ISO. Per Minor League Splits, Ka’aihue’s major league equivalent line was .243/.354/.442.

With Jacobs competing with the Guillens, Betancourts and Olivos of the world to see who could trot back to the dugout quickest, Kila spent 2009 back at AAA Omaha. While he was still exceptionally patient (18.8 BB%), Ka’aihue’s power output was disappointing (.181 ISO). Kila’s .252/.392/.433 showing with the O-Royals equated to just a .205/.316/.325 major league line.

It’s hard not to admire Ka’aihue’s zen-like patience at the plate. But first base/DH prospects, in their mid-twenties, with limited power, don’t translate especially well to the next level. CHONE tabs Kila for a .243/.355/.393 line in 2010 (.335 wOBA), while ZiPS envisions a .255/.350/.403 performance (.335 wOBA). Ka’aihue is pretty much the new Dan Johnson.

Of course, the Royals could go outside the organization to fill the DH spot. Or, they could shift Billy Butler back to the spot and pursue a first baseman. It’s also possible that the charred remains of Jose Guillen‘s career could shift to DH full-time (sigh).

There’s no time like the present for both Fields and Ka’aihue. Each needs to produce in the here and now to avoid becoming intimately familiar with the AAA circuit.