At the end of the 2010 season, the Boston Red Sox called up a 22 year old outfield prospect named Ryan Kalish. Along with fellow outfield prospect Josh Reddick, Kalish was one of a very small group of major league ready players that could contribute to the Red Sox in 2011. Kalish didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his brief call up, hitting just .251/.305/.405 in 179 plate appearances but he did manage to impress fans and then manager Terry Francona with his advanced approach at the plate and with the way he handled life in the big leagues. At that time, Francona was impressed enough to compare the young player with former Red Sox star Trot Nixon, who was known for his hard nosed play and his grinding hitting style. With right fielder J.D Drew in decline, Ryan Kalish seemed poised to become the everyday starting right fielder.
Instead, Kalish got injured early in the 2011 season and Josh Reddick got the opportunity instead. Reddick played well and looked like the Red Sox starting right fielder in 2012 until he was trade for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. By that point, you could easily be excused for forgetting all about Ryan Kalish. When he began the 2012 season on the DL, it appeared that his chance to establish himself as nearly gone.
However, yesterday, Ryan Kalish returned to the big leagues and in just one short game, he managed to impress his new manager with his precociousness and his play. After a disastrous sixth inning in which an error-prone Red Sox team gave back a two run lead to the Chicago Cubs , Kalish came to the plate with runners on first and third in the top of the seventh against tough lefty specialist Shawn Camp. To that point, he had struck out and grounded out, but manager Bobby Valentine stuck with him. Kalish drove in the go-ahead run with a single up the middle, then scored on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze.
With Ryan Sweeney headed to the DL, the timing of Ryan Kalish’s return could not be better. The Red Sox need both a left handed bat and a plus defensive outfielder in right and sometimes center in Sweeney’s steed and Kalish fits the bill perfectly. With Cody Ross set to return soon, Kalish can at least take Sweeney’s place as the left-handed hitter in a platoon in right. Should Scott Podsednik cool off, Kalish can also play center in his place or allow Pods to shift to left if Daniel Nava continues to be limited by his sore left hand.
At the time of the Reddick trade, I wondered if it was actually a vote of confidence for Kalish. Reddick has been excellent in Oakland, thus far, with 15 home runs and a RC+ of 135, but there are still a reasons to believe that Kalish will be the better player long term. Reddick has the advantage in power and in his throwing arm, but Kalish is a more polished hitter. As a minor leaguer, Kalish had better on base skills than Reddick by a good margin. His overall .372 OBP in seven minor league seasons is well above Reddick’s .332 mark in five seasons. While his power is not at Reddick’s level at all, he does have double digit home run potential, having hit 18 home runs across two levels in 2009 and 13 home runs between AA and AAA in 2010. He is also a plus base runner; he stole 10 bases in the majors in 2010 and was caught just once. Opinions about his abilities as a centerfielder differ, but he has good range and can be a certainly plus outfielder in Fenway’s spacious right field.
Though it is coming a year later than expected, it’s great to see Ryan Kalish finally back in the majors with a chance to stake his claim on a spot in the outfield. Given the time he has lost to injuries and his lack of major league experience, it is unlikely that he will take over full time this year. However, on team that is increasingly disappointing to fans, Kalish, like rookie Will Middlebrooks, is a young player worth watching.