It probably came a year or two too late, but the Royals have finally called up Kila Ka’aihue, as he takes the place of the injured Rick Ankiel. Better late than never, I guess. The 26-year-old first baseman turned into a bit of a cult hero in recent years, thanks to his ability to completely annihilate minor league pitching while not getting anything more than a cup of coffee in the show.
After posting an ungodly .463 wOBA with 37 homers in 515 plate appearances split between Double and Triple-A in 2008, the Kila Monster dropped down to “just” a .368 wOBA and 17 homers in Triple-A last year. He lost 144 points off his ISO, but his BB% and K% went largely unchanged, as did his batted ball rates according to minorleaguesplits.com. For whatever reason, the power just took a bit of a vacation.
Thankfully, it’s returned this year. Ka’aihue is hitting .304/.466/.620 (.455 wOBA) with seven dingers in 23 Triple-A games (yes, it’s obviously a small sample), and he continues to walk more than he strikes out (230 BB, 169 K dating back to ’08). I’m a sucker for guys that take ball four more often than strike three, but that bias isn’t why I’m recommending Ka’aihue for your fantasy team.
He doesn’t have the big name recognition of say, Ike Davis, but the lefty swinging Royal doesn’t have the massive platoon split either (.821 OPS vs. LHP in the minors, .881 vs. RHP). He might not have the defensive value and long-term outlook of Justin Smoak, but he’s a bit older and his power is more present than projected. Ka’aihue is strictly a 1B, so something’s going to have to give with Billy Butler and Jose Guillen if he’s to get regular playing time. My guess is that Butler stays at first, Guillen goes to the outfield while Ankiel’s injured, and Kila DH’s.
He’s available in basically all Yahoo! leagues (except mine! bwahaha), and if you’re looking for a little boost from the 1B or UTIL spots, here’s your guy. That goes double if you’re in a deep mixed or AL-only league. If you hurry, you should be able to grab him in time for Wednesday’s game.