Only a few things arouse true baseball fans more than a deserving blocked prospect finally getting a chance in the Major Leagues. That’s why the Kansas City Royals decision to hand Kila Ka’aihue the starting first-base job during Spring Training this season was such a dream come true. As bittersweet as it may seem, fans everywhere yearned for the countless Chris Berman outbursts of “And Kila kilas that ball!” But while Ka’aihue got his much-deserved opportunity, it slipped through his fingers almost as soon as he got it.
Ka’aihue posted a meager .195/.295/.317 line with 2 homeruns, 6 RBI, and 6 runs in 96 plate appearances for the Royals this season. Considering the Hawaiian owned a lethal .284/.419/.503 career line in 1,378 plate appearances at Triple-A, his offering in the show was very disappointing to say at least. As a reminder, this was the same guy who swatted 37 homeruns and owned a .314/.456/.628 line in 515 plate appearances between Double/Triple-A in 2008. Surely 96 plate appearances in the bigs is too small of a sample size to completely give-up on a hitter who has exhibited such an electric bat.
Yet as Mike Moustakas continues to struggle day-in-and-day-out as the Royals starting third baseman (.195/.250/.250 line with 1 homerun, 8 RBI, and 10 runs in 141 plate appearances), one has to wonder why Kila isn’t getting a second chance. Given that Kila is now re-blocked by Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler–and that he can’t play third base for the slumpng Moustakas–Kila doesn’t appear to have a spot on the Royals anytime in the near future. For this reason, it’s a bit perplexing as to why the Royals haven’t shopped the Minor League slugger.
Kila has posted a very respectable .282/.396/.432 line with 6 homeruns, 46 RBI, and 30 runs in 268 plate appearances in Triple-A this season. But at age twenty-seven, the big bopper is running out of time as a Major League option. In fact, Kila is just a year younger than when Jack Cust was finally given the full-chance to start in the majors. Cust, at age 28, posted a “surprising” .256/.408/.504 line with 26 homeruns, 82 RBI, and 61 runs in 507 plate appearances for the Oakland Athletics in 2007. From 2007 to 2009, Cust averaged a .241/.378/.462 line with 28 homeruns, 76 RBI, and 75 runs per year. Jack Cust might not be the sexiest comparison player in the world, but it could be worse–especially for Ka’aihue.
Like the A’s did with Cust, surely a prospective team–I’m sure even the Athletics–would be willing to give Kila another crack at the Majors. More specifically, given the Royals recent interest in B.J. Upton, maybe Ka’aihue could be one of the pieces in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Ka’aihue would provide the Rays an extremely cheap and potentially powerful option at first base in 2012 (and hopefully beyond). And if he didn’t pan out, he’d at least get his second chance.