With Rick Ankiel finally being placed on the DL, the Royals have recalled Kila Ka’aihue (unfortunately, we had not yet gotten to cover him in our Prospect Trackers, which you can check out by clicking here and here ). 

Fantasy owners have been awaiting his arrival since a cup of coffee in 2008 (6-21 with 1 HR).  While 2009 was more or less a lost season for Ka’aihue, he responded in both Spring Training (.347, 4 HR in 49 AB) and the early part of 2010, posting the following line at Triple-A:

79 At Bats
.304 Batting Average (24 Hits)
7 Home Runs
20 RBI
19 Runs
0 Stolen Bases
.466 On Base Percentage
.620 Slugging Percentage
.309 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The power is impressive, but considering he’s playing in the Pacific Coast League it should be taken with a grain of salt.  Home runs are always there and we all know it (plus, in the same league, he hit just 17 HR).  Before we write off his power, however, it’s important to look at his fly ball rates:

  • 2007 – 49.3%
  • 2008 – 40.9%
  • 2009 – 41.5%
  • 2010 – 48.4%

His 2010 mark is based on a small sample size, but you still have to like the overall results.  He’s shown power before (37 HR in 2008) and could have been affected from not getting an opportunity in 2009 at the major league level.  Plus, at 26-years old, he is just entering his prime and seeing him continue to add power would not be very surprising.

Early on this season he has also shown a terrific eye at the plate, posting a 23.3% walk rate vs. a 21.5% strikeout rate.  Heading into the season, his minor league career walk rate was 16.2%, so while this season may be a bit high, he certainly knows the strike zone (his strikeout rate was 20.4%).  Couple this with a realistic BABIP and you have to like the total package at the plate.

There’s just no questioning his ability, especially now that he has rediscovered his power stroke.  The real question is where is he going to play?  The truth of the matter is if he is hitting, the Royals have no reason not to find a place for him.  I mean, why bother calling him up if you aren’t going to play him? 

With Billy Butler entrenched at 1B, the likelihood is that Jose Guillen shifts out to the OF, with Ka’aihue assuming DH duties.  Then again Guillen, who was red hot early on, has gone just 2-25 prior to Tuesday’s games so there is no guarantee that he remains in the lineup.  There had been rumors prior to the season that if Guillen struggled that he could be cut all together.  I’m not going to go that far, at least not yet, but it is believable that Ka’aihue claims the DH job as his own.

Now, with regular playing time, how would I expect him to produce?  With his ability at the plate, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him hit .275 or better to go with 15-20 HR and 60+ RBI, at the least.  Are those blow away numbers?  Nope, but in deeper leagues that require a corner infielder they are more than usable.

If you play in a league like this (or an AL-only or long-term keeper league), I definitely would make the move and pick him up.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on Ka’aihue?  How good could he be?

For a look other at prospects, you can check out the following articles:


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