KoK Prospect #16: Kila Ka’aihue


Kila Ka’aihue checks in at #16 on the 2010 Kings of Kauffman prospect list.

Who: Micah Kila Ka’aihue
DOB: 3/29/1984  Kailua, Hawaii
Position: 1B
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 220
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2002 Draft (15th round)

~ Baseball America #15
~ Diamond Futures #16
~ Royals Review #13
~ The Royal Tower #17
~ John Sickels C+
~ Scouting Book #8


2002GCL Royals (Rk)16883026350.2590.3810.381
2003Burlington (A)4822111167870.2380.3550.380
2004Burlington (A)4712315164980.2460.3610.431
2005High Desert (A+)6053120297970.3040.4280.497
2006Wichita (AA)395156049730.1990.3030.300
2007Wilmington (A+)25389135380.2510.3600.420
Wichita (AA)2881312041400.2460.3590.447
2008NW Arkansas (AA)3761126380410.3140.4630.624
Omaha (AAA)139411024260.3160.4390.640
Kansas City24010320.2860.3750.429
2009Omaha (AAA)55527170102850.2520.3920.433

Kila Ka’aihue was dominant in 2008 and was named the Texas League MVP.  When a promotion to Triple-A Omaha didn’t slow him down, the Royals called him up in September to Kansas City.  He made his major league debut, as a pinch runner, against Oakland on September 4th.  The following night he got the start at 1B against the Cleveland Indians and went 1 for 4 with a run scored.  During the rest of the month he was given only 20 more plate appearances.  Despite a solid showing in limited playing time, the Royals weren’t convinced.  His lack of playing time in that final month was a curious decision.  If there was ever a time to give a guy a shot at earning a major league job for the following season it was right in front of them.  Kila finished the season with 38 HR to go along with 107 BB and only 69 SO in 539 plate appearances.  Nope.  The Royals weren’t convinced and proceeded to sentence him to Omaha for the 2009 season the moment they traded for Mike Jacobs.  In 2009 Jacobs hit 0.228/.297/.401 in 478 PA, while Kila had a “disappointing” year in Triple-A where his OBP of 0.392 was almost better than the SLG of Mike Jacobs, who was brought in solely because of his power.  Whoops!

Despite a drop in all his slash stats, Kila still drew 102 walks while striking out only 85 times.  The big knock on Ka’aihue was that he was too focused on hitting home runs during the 2009 season which, coupled with the natural disappointment of watching Jacobs flail around in Kansas City, explains the decline in his numbers.  Instead of letting a 25-year old promising prospect earn the major league minimum while playing 1B/DH, the Royals saw fit to trade one of their effective relievers to acquire a 28-year old one-dimensional player in Mike Jacobs and pay him $3.275 million in the process.  Most of us knew it was a mistake at the time, and in hindsight it is clear to everyone it was a mistake, but what gets overlooked is the psychological impact the move had on Kila.  It was rumored that he was frustrated and any logical thinking person in his position would have been as well.  There is no doubt in my mind that being stuck in Omaha adversely impacted his 2009 season and things were compounded when the Royals chose not to call Kila up when the rosters expanded in September, even though it was clear to everyone that Jacobs was done in Kansas City at the end of the season.

So we head into 2010 and again there isn’t a spot for Kila Ka’aihue on the major league roster thanks to the presence of stellar contributors such as Jose Guillen and Josh Fields.  I wrote back when the Royals traded Mark Teahen for Chris Getz and Fields, that I would have been happier if the trade was Teahen for Getz straight up.  Kila Ka’aihue is one of the reasons why I felt that way, and I still do feel that way.  On a team that desperately needs patience, plate discipline, and an overall understanding of the strike zone, Kila Ka’aihue continues to be overlooked.

Kila is major league ready and could very easily provide the Royals with a slash line of 0.250/.365/.420 with 15-25 home runs if given regular at bats at DH and spot starts at 1B when Butler needs a day off.  He’s not fleet of foot and he’s not a good defensive 1B according to most scouting reports.  Although, in fairness to Kila, he has had a positive TZ rating every season in the minors except for 2008.  With Omaha in 2009 he had a +3 TZ.  I’m not saying the scouting reports are wrong, but he certainly could have fared better than Jacobs in the field last season.  As things stand today, despite a career OBP of 0.383* Kila isn’t going to get his shot in 2010, at least not with the Royals and that’s a shame.

*For what it is worth, Billy Butler led the 2009 Royals with an OBP 0.362.

I agree with John Sickels who wrote the following to close out Kila’s profile in The Baseball Prospect Book 2010:

"I’d still like to see what he could do with 500 at-bats, but it’s unclear if that chance will come in Kansas City, if it comes at all."

He’s not the beast that showed up in 2008, but he’s far better than the player we saw in Omaha during the 2009 season.  Even if the 2009 player is exactly who Kila Ka’aihue is going to be going forward, I still think he deserves a chance in the major leagues.

(Wally Fish is the lead blogger for Kings of Kauffman and FanSided’s MLB Director.  Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)