If you don't know who Kila Ka'aihue is, I wouldn't be surprised. Ka'aihue is the projected 2011 starting first baseman for the Kansas City Royals.
But listen to me: Kila Ka'aihue is poised to have a great season in 2011. He is his team's only hitter with any real power (sorry Billy Butler).
Before going in-depth about Ka'aihue, let's first establish a basic foundation about the Royals and Ka'aihue.
Contrary to popular belief, the Royals are actually a team that a power hitter can thrive on. Their offense is loaded with potential runs; they ranked second in the league in batting average (.274) and eighth in stolen bases (115) in 2010. That is impressive by any standards.
So why did they rank 20th in runs last year? Well, to be frank, they had nobody to drive in runs. Many people thought Billy Butler would be that guy, but he is really more of a hitter who hits for average as opposed to home runs or RBI. This leaves a gaping hole in the Royals lineup, a need for a run producer.
So there it is; the scene is set for Ka'aihue, a 26-year-old left-handed hitter who has been in the Royals organization since 2005. In that time, Ka'aihue has shown tremendous potential, winning many player of the week/month awards and making all-star teams in all different leagues, most recently making the 2010 Pacific Coast League midseason All-Star team.
Okay, now that you know the guy, let's get down to some stats. Why do I think this will be the guy who drives in 100 runs for the first time for the franchise since '03?
If you do not know the statistic ISO, what it is is a measure of a player's pure power; it incorporates doubles, triples and home runs. In 2008 (AA), in 376 plate appearances, Ka'aihue posted a .310 ISO. That same year, in AAA, his ISO was .325 in 139 plate appearances. Moving on to 2009, in AAA, Ka'aihue's ISO was .181. Finally, in AAA in 2010, Ka'aihue's ISO was .279.
If you haven't heard of ISO, these numbers probably mean nothing to you. So let me put them in some context: In 2010, Albert Pujols' ISO was .284 (his career ISO is .293).
As you can see, Ka'aihue has the potential to hit for power. This potential translated into results for Ka'aihue in 2010 (AAA), as he hit 24 home runs in only 323 at-bats. That is off the charts. In a 600 at-bat season, that would translate to 44.6 home runs. Not to mention his batting average during that span was .322.
Ka'aihue has had two brief stints in the majors; he has compiled 64 games and 201 at-bats between the two. During that span, he has hit .224 with nine home runs (26.7 HR pace over 600 ABs). His BABIP during these at-bats was only .237, showing that he was extremely unlucky. Ka'aihue's power has translated well to the majors to this point; while still adjusting, his first 201 at-bats were very strong.
Last Royal to hit 27 home runs? Carlos Beltran with 29 in 2002. 2002! Ka'aihue is the guy the Royals have been waiting for since Beltran left, and even Beltran wasn't a big power hitter.
Kila Ka'aihue 2011 Projection: .262 average, 27 home runs, 98 RBI, two stolen bases, 71 runs
I'm going all in on Ka'aihue this year. He's my No. 1 sleeper, and he should be yours too.