Saturday, April 2, 2011
MLB Player to Watch: Kila Ka'aihue
Get this: in over 3,360 minor league plate appearances, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 689-to-673.
Few players have generated as much anticipation among statistically-inclined followers as Ka'aihue. His minor league career was the stuff Moneyball dreams are made of, yet it took Moore about three years longer than many would have hoped to give him a real shot to help the big club. The Royals management group has a troubling tendency to undervalue the ability to get on base, but Kila's track record speaks for itself and has finally afforded him the chance to show his value this season, even if it took disappointment from a few others to get here. Check out his numbers over the last few seasons:
2008: .319/.456/.628, 37 HR in 124 games between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. Called up to KC for 12 games, hit .286/.375/.429.
2009: .252/.392/.433, 17 HR in 131 games in Triple-A. The fact that he didn't get an opportunity to play in the majors was puzzling, particularly as it came in favor of Mike Jacobs and his .228/.292/.401 line as the Royals' DH.
As of now, he is the Royals first baseman, the man responsible for mashing walkoff home runs on Opening Day. With Butler as the DH, it appears Kila has at least a couple months to show Moore that it might be worthwhile to try Hosmer in an outfield corner. Doing that with such a heralded prospect would require serious incentive, but if Ka'aihue can exhibit some power and maintain his prolific on-base ability, there could be some real incentive for Moore to experiment with ways to incorporate all three of them when Hosmer is deemed ready.
Most expect Moustakas to make it to Kansas City first, but the possibility of four hitters of this quality in one lineup by next season, at the latest, has to be promising for Royals fans. When you consider the potential impact of as many as six blue-chip pitching prospects to the big league club within a similar time frame, you begin to see why so many people are so high on this team's future. A prominent (and justifiable) concern exists about Moore's ability to supplement his core, but there is a possibility that most of his pieces are already in place.
Butler, 25, is coming off of a.313/.388/.469 year. It's not unreasonable to expect a similar line for Kila over a full season. In addition to Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers a year from now, Moore will hope from steady play up the middle from two key pieces from the Zack Grienke trade: SS Alcides Escobar and CF Lorenzo Cain. After that, there isn't really much else he needs to do. Catcher and possibly second base remain in question, and only time will tell if Escobar and Cain will be able to hit enough to help the team, but it looks like this will be the group. For the most part, all we can do is wait for it all to take shape. But in the meantime, it should be interesting it to see what comes of Ka'aihue's bid to establish himself, in spite of a front office that has yet to demonstrate an understanding of the value of players like him.