Is the Reddick Trade a Vote for Ryan Kalish?

By Matt Sullivan

Earlier today, the Boston Red Sox traded away their starting right fielder to help sure up the bullpen. With Josh Reddick gone, the questions that surround the position are now even more pronounced. Boston has a number of options in right field but each one carries a degree of uncertainty.

The obvious option would be to start the newly acquired Ryan Sweeney (obtained in the Reddick deal) against right-handers and employ veteran back up Darnell MacDonald or utility man Mike Aviles against lefties. Sweeney is a notoriously low-power hitter, but he does handle right-handers well, gets on base and plays excellent defense. Further, he may benefit from hitting in the friendly confines of Fenway, as the spray chart below shows.

Sweeney goes the other way to left field frequently and show see some extra hits with the wall turning a few of those outs into hits. While he may not have much power, he has made good contact when facing right handers, striking out just 12.8% on his career against righties and posting .332 BABIP. With nearly 75% of pitchers throwing from that side, he is a useful role player with some possible upside. Paired with MacDonald or Aviles, Sweeney should form the major component of a platoon that is very capable of providing average or better performance.

A Sweeney/MacDonald platoon might be serviceable, but it isn’t the most interesting option on the table. That would be Ryan Kalish, the player who just one year ago seemed ready to ascend to the role of everyday right fielder. Kalish was injured early in 2011 and never got his chance in the show last season. Before his injury woes, Kalish was a top prospect for the Red Sox after coasting through Portland and Pawtucket as a 22 year old in 2010. After a brief cup of coffee at the end of that season, then-Red Sox manager Terry Francona compared Kalish to former Sox right fielder Trot Nixon, a glowing review for a kid with just 179 plate appearances in the Show.

It will be extremely interesting to see if this trade shows a vote of confidence in the other young Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish. Kalish was favored by some scouts and Sox fans over Reddick because of his superior plate discipline in the minor leagues. Prior to the trade, the Red Sox front office had stated that they were comfortable sticking with Reddick and Kalish in right next year, as they passed on big ticket free agent RF Carlos Beltran. The acquisition of Sweeney could be seen as a lack of faith in Kalish, but it is more likely a simple back up plan.  Despite his strong defense, the platoon numbers and the chance that he might flourish in Fenway, Ryan Sweeney is not a solid everyday option in right. Ryan Kalish might be.

In 2010, Kalish hit .294/.382/.502 across AA andAAAdrawing walks in 12.24% of his plate appearances and hitting 13 home runs. He handled the move to the majors surprisingly well, hitting four home runs in just 179 plate appearance and coming in just below average by wRC+. Kalish may not be as polished as Reddick after missing almost an entire season with injuries, but he has a good eye and strong range in right and the 24 year old Kalish can certainly provide more power than Sweeney. Giving him a shot, in Spring Training and beyond makes sense. The Sweeney platoon plan B will be there if he falls flat.

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