Anyone remember the old Wendy’s commercial from the 1980s asking, “Where’s the Beef?” While that slogan dealt with quarter pound hamburgers, my question is in reference to the lack of a slugger in the middle of the Royals’ lineup.
Sure, Billy Butler has some pop and has the potential to crank out 30 HR’s (that is rather optimistic, really), but outside of ol’ Porkchop, who on the Royals current roster poses as a real threat to the opposing pitching staff?
If you and I are thinking along the same lines, no one in particular comes to mind. Jose Guillen? Not so much. How about Rick Ankiel? Doubt it. However, if you dig around in our minor league system, you might find a name that looks familiar and could foot the bill — Kila Ka’aihue.
If you happened to catch our Royals Preview for this season, I mentioned that I would prefer to have Ka’aihue over Guillen as our primary DH. There are a few very important reasons why. First, Ka’aihue knows how to get on base. Although he didn’t have the greatest batting average last season — .252 with AAA Omaha, his OBP was outstanding — .392 last season. Any guesses on his lowest career OBP? The year was 2006 with the AA team where he had a .303 OBP. Let’s put this into perspective. There were three starters on the 2009 Royals who had a lower OBP: Miguel Olivo, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Mike Jacobs. Fortunately, two of those three are no longer with the team; although the one with the worst OBP, a salty .269, still manages to find himself in the starting lineup. But I digress.
Secondly, Ka’aihue DOES have some juice in his bat that could provide a much needed spark to an already abysmal offense. (The offense really kicked it into gear last night against Boston, tying our season-high with four runs!!!). I do realize that we have only played four games and it is April, but I don’t hold much hope for this team generating many more runs than last year’s offensively-challenged club*. Yes, we lost the OBP drains in Jacobs, Buck, and Olivo, but are still stuck with Betancourt and Guillen.
*I will gladly eat crow if we end up being a good offensive ball club.
Opponents of moving Ka’aihue to the DH position will cite that Guillen is being paid $12 million this season, therefore the Royals should get the most out of their money. But that is exactly my point. What are the Royals getting out of Guillen this year? As evidenced last night against Boston, Guillen doesn’t have much left in the tank. He looked absolutely gassed running from 1st to home on Kendall’s double to deep center, where he was gunned down by a relay throw from shallow center-field. As he rounded third, you could see his legs looked like bricks and on a play where just about anyone else in the game of baseball would have scored, Guillen was out.
So, here is what I have garnered on Jose Guillen. His offensive skills are in decline (and have been), he can’t get on base to save his life, can no longer play an outfield position because his legs are shot, therefore has been relegated to DH, and is being paid $12 million this year to do so. Great.
Remember the last time the Royals actually gave one of their over-looked prospects a chance?? You know, the one that was too small, didn’t have enough range, and had a AAA ceiling at best?? Yes, that’s right — Mike Aviles replaced the horrid TPJ at shortstop and became the Royals Player of the Year. Much like it was clear that TPJ wasn’t going to cut it, I think the same should be said for Jose Guillen. Sure, Ka’aihue might not be the perfect replacement, but he can’t be worse than our current option at DH. DM, give the guy a chance to see what he can do at the Major League level.
You’ve got nothing to lose.