Problem: Kansas City needed to clear a spot on the 40 man roster to add Herrera. On Wednesday, they made the decision to designate Kila Ka’aihue for assignment, giving them 10 days to trade or release him.
Thus ends a long and winding quest full of high expectations, internet campaigns, pre-season buzz and, ultimately, disappointment.
Entering 2011, I was very much on the Kila Ka’aihue bandwagon. I thought his ability to judge the strike zone and his strength would combine to make him a solid power hitter. His resume in the minor leagues supported the theory and coming into the year, he was installed in the cleanup spot on opening day.
In the second game of the year, Kila came up in the bottom of the ninth and hit the first of what I thought would be many home runs. The walkoff gave the Royals their first win of the year.
Kila hit one more the rest of the year. When Kila was hitting .195 in Kansas City and striking out about every fourth time at the plate while Eric Hosmer was destroying Triple A, the writing was on the wall.
Ka’aihue leaves a legacy of big minor league numbers that never translated. Many scouts questioned his “slider bat speed” and he hit plenty of balls to the warning track, but things never came together. Lefties found out early that offspeed and breaking pitches were his kryptonite and now, months later, he’ll be moving on from Kansas City.
At 27 years old – 28 by next year’s opening day – Kila is young enough to get a chance, but perhaps too old to really be an impact hitter in the big leagues. He’s gone from a 15th round draft pick in 2002 to a non-prospect to a breakout star and Minor League Player of the Year and September callup in 2008 to internet darling in 2009. That was the year that the Royals traded for Mike Jacobs, thus stranding Kila in Omaha where he struggled and didn’t make it back to the majors until May of 2010.
In the end, the Royals couldn’t be patient any more.
And, despite my earlier protests, I agree.