After a dominant, but short season performance with the Arizona League Reds in 2015 after being drafted, Ian Kahaloa returned to Arizona for the start of the 2016 campaign. The then 18-year-old made his first appearances of the season on June 24th and threw 3.0 hitless innings with a walk and three strikeouts. He returned six days later and tossed 5.0 shutout innings with seven strikeouts. That would be his final start with the AZL Reds.
On July 6th Ian Kahaloa would make his debut with the Billings Mustangs and he picked up right where he had left off in Goodyear. At home against Helena the right hander tossed 4.0 shutout innings, working on a 60-pitch limit (he only needed 58) with one walk and five strikeouts. The Hawaiian teenager faced Helena again the next time out and needed just 68 pitches to get through 5.0 shutout innings as he kept his ERA perfect on the season. The return to Billings for the next start against Orem saw Kahaloa allow his first two earned runs of the year in 4.0 innings as he added six strikeouts without a walk. On the 23rd he took on Grand Junction and allowed two more earned runs (along with being charged for two unearned runs) in 4.1 innings before wrapping up the month with 5.1 innings of 2-run baseball against Great Falls. The 18-year-old posted a 2.38 ERA on the month in 22.2 innings with just five walks and 21 strikeouts.
August didn’t start out well for Ian Kahaloa. He lasted just 3.2 innings against Ogden, needing 72 pitches to get that far while allowing three runs, including a home run. On the 10th he returned to the mound and didn’t allow an earned run in 5.0 innings against Idaho Galls, throwing the most pitches of the year in a start (82). He didn’t pitch again for nearly two weeks before returning on the 23rd where he allwoed one earned in 4.1 innings against Missoula with six strikeouts. The final start of the month was his longest of his career. On the road in Great Falls he tossed 6.0 innings, allowing three earned with a walk and four strikeouts. His final regular season start came on September 3rd and he threw just 51 pitches in 3.0 innings before being shut down to prepare for the playoffs. The playoffs began on the 9th and Ian Kahaloa stepped up with the best start of his career as he spun a gem, throwing 7.0 shutout innings with just one walk and 10 strikeouts. He would start the first game of the Pioneer League Championship Series and made it through 3.0 innings, allowing just one run and striking out three batters. He didn’t come back out for the next inning, citing a forearm issue. It turned out to be a non-issue. Including the playoffs, he posted a 2.53 ERA over 32.0 innings with nine walks and 35 strikeouts in the last six weeks of the season.
To say that it was a strong season for Ian Kahaloa would be an understatement. As an 18-year-old he thrived in the Pioneer League after a quick warm-up in the Arizona Rookie League. Between his two stops he posted a 2.39 ERA in 52.2 innings pitched (and then another 10.0 innings with just one earned run in the playoffs) to go along with just 14 walks (plus one in the playoffs) and 52 strikeouts (plus 13 in the playoffs). He was able to pound the strikezone all season long, with the only lone thing that stood out was his workload – which is perfectly understandable given that he was just 18 during the season and so his pitch counts were a bit lower than guys that have more experience.
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Ian Kahaloa Scouting Report
Fastball | The right hander picked up some velocity from the year before, at least as a professional. He generally worked in the low 90’s, but on some days he sat 93-94 with the pitch. It can be a bit straight at times.
Change Up | A third offering for him, one he doesn’t go to as often as the other two pitches. It works in the low 80’s and is a below-average offering today, but it’s improved since he was in high school and could be an average offering in the future.
Slider | It’s his main secondary offering. He can alter the speed of the pitch, sometimes working in the mid-to-upper 70’s with the pitch and sometimes it’s more in the upper 70s to low 80’s. It’s still inconsistent at times in terms of the breaking action, always showing 12-6 action, but it will lack that hard biting action at times. When it’s at it’s best it’s an above-average offering with good, late biting action.
Control really sticks out for Ian Kahaloa, both when you look at his numbers and generally when you watch him in person. He hides the ball well, which does let his stuff play up some. He’s going to have to continue to build up his workload, which isn’t something that’s specific to him as much as it is just about any 18-year-old. He only threw over 80 pitches twice during the season, so there’s certainly some questions still to be answered about just how much of a workload he can handle as he moves forward. He’s very advanced for his age. He can already sets up hitters and can pitch to multiple parts of the zone. He’s a long way from the big leagues and there’s a lot to overcome along the way in development, but he’s also a guy who could move quickly after next season when he’s more prepared to handle a full season workload due to just how advanced he is.