Monday, May 25, 2009

Spotlight on Kila Ka'aihue

Each time I go to an Omaha Royals game this season, I’m going to focus on one player and shine the spotlight on him—breaking down each at bat (or each inning pitched). Tonight, the Omaha Royals defeated the Fresno Grizzlies (the Giants Triple-A team) 4-1 behind a strong pitching effort by Heath Phillips, who picked up the complete game win. But my focus was on Kila Ka’ahue.

Kila Ka’ahue, 25, raised more than a few eyebrows in 2008 when he hit 37 home runs and drove in 100 RBI (combined) in NW Arkansas and Omaha. He got called up to Kansas City on September 2 and saw action in 12 games, going 6-for-21 (.286) with 1 HR and 1 RBI. He was named the 2008 George Brett Award winner—an award that is issued to the top hitter in the organization each season.

The 6-3, 221 left-handed hitting first baseman was selected in the 15th round of the 2002 draft by the Royals. He has a reputation for being patient at the plate. Going into 2008, Baseball America named him as having the best strike zone discipline in the organization. I got a glimpse of his patience tonight.

Here is a breakdown of his four at bats (he hit clean up):

AB #1 (1st inning, facing RHP Ryan Sadowski, one out, bases empty): Ka’aihue worked the count to 3-1 and then lined a single into right field.

AB #2 (4th inning, facing Sadowski, leading off): Ka’aihue worked the count full before striking out on a 90 mph fastball.

AB #3 (6th inning, facing Sadowski, one out, two on): Ka’aihue worked the count full before drawing a walk to load the bases.

AB #4 (8th inning, facing RHP Steve Palazzolo, no outs, bases empty): Ka’aihue worked the count full before hitting a line drive over the right centerfield wall. I just happened to be shooting a video of the at bat from the press box. Here are the final couple of pitches:

For the record, Ka’aihue also committed an error in the top of the seventh inning.

In each of Ka'aihue's at bats, he drew at least three balls. Sadowski wasn’t particularly wild (he walked three guys in six innings). Ka’aihue just flat knows how to work the count. Going into tonight, the big left-handed hitter had drawn 525 walks in 810 Minor League games. He has 120 home runs and 487 RBI in that span with a .385 OBP.

He’s the type of guy you’d love to see get a shot with the Royals at the Major League level. Unfortunately he’s stuck behind Billy Butler and Mike Jacobs. Dayton Moore obviously knew all of these numbers when he traded for Jacobs, so he must not have been convinced that Ka’aihue was ready for Major League pitching. Or he intended to allow him to put up big numbers in the Minor Leagues so his stock would continue to rise and then he could trade him for something the Royals need. Or maybe he just wanted depth. If Butler or Jacobs were to get injured, Moore wouldn’t have to look far to find someone to replace them.


High Mileage said...

Jacobs wasn't a free agent. We traded Leo Nunez for him. Not a big deal, but that's about the 50th time I've seen someone say we went out and signed Jacobs. We did, but only after we traded for him.

Lee Warren said...

Thanks for catching that. I made the change.

gbewing said...

great stuff on Killa video

Lee Warren said...


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