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.

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

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Brad Johnsonmember
14 years 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
14 years ago
Reply to  Brad Johnson

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.