Kila Ka’aihue has been on fantasy radars for quite some time, despite not being given a fair shake in the Major Leagues. At least, until now… Hopefully…
In 2008 Ka’aihue spent time at Double & Triple-A, hitting .314 with 37 HR and 100 RBI as a 24-year old. Yet, the Royals gave him just 21 at bats with the big league club.
In 2009, again Ka’aihue was banished to Triple-A. Maybe it was the disappointment of not being given a true opportunity, but he struggled in the Pacific Coast League, hitting .252 with 17 HR and 57 RBI.
This season he has come storming back. At Triple-A he hit .319 with 24 HR and 78 RBI in just 323 AB, warranting a return to the Majors. Despite having Billy Butler at first base and Jose Guillen at DH, you have to think that the Royals are not bringing him up to simply sit on the bench. He’s going to get a chance to play, one way or another, so it’s up to Ka’aihue to prove that he deserves it.
He has a tremendous eye at the plate, something he has displayed even during his struggles in 2009. This season he has posted a strikeout-to-walk rate of 69-to-88. Last season he was at 85-to-102. For his minor league career he is at 689-to-673.
That’s not a typo. Over 3,360 AB he was walked almost as many times as he has struck out. That’s something that very few can say, especially with the type of power he has displayed. It’s a huge upside and makes him an attractive piece to a lineup.
His average this season is based on an above average BABIP of .343, so you would expect a falloff of some sort. He doesn’t have the speed to justify that type of number, but with his eye he could be above average. While he may not hit .300, he certainly could hit at least .280 or .290 this season. As he actually gets an opportunity and settles in, he could be a long-term .300 hitter.
Ka’aihue puts enough balls in the air to justify the power and think that he could be at least a 25 HR hitter in the Majors. This season he has posted a fly ball rate of 40.3% and since 2005 he’s at 45.3%.
You can argue that he’s old for the level, or that he’s playing in the Pacific Coast League. In 2008, 26 of his home runs came prior to his recall, however, so that argument is not fully justified. He’s proven before that he has power outside of the PCL and I would expect it to translate.
Granted, he has no speed but he’s a first baseman. Just how many of them are running all over the field?
The Royals need to finally find out exactly what they have in Ka’aihue. At 26-years old he’s entering his prime, yet hasn’t been given an opportunity to actually help the team. It makes no sense, but it would appear that finally, they have come to their senses.
In shallower formats he’s not likely to be worth grabbing, but in deeper formats and keeper leagues, he’s certainly worth stashing. While his position eligibility does limit his value (he’s only eligible at DH right now), his bat could potentially be a difference maker.
What are your thoughts on Ka’aihue? Will he produce? How good could he be?
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