Over the next several weeks, I'll be publishing a series of article on the Red Sox farm system, profiling a dozen or so top-tier prospects that have high potentials, and will likely help the club as the next wave of home-grown talent.
When Red Sox outfielders starting dropping like flies last spring and summer, the Boston management scoured their farm system for fresh legs and young arms in hopes of bridging the gap to Ellsbury's and Cameron's returns without settling for mere placeholders. Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava gave Red Sox nation memorable debuts with walk-off wins and first-pitch grand slams.
Though the offensive numbers for Boston outfielders failed to impress in 2010, the entertainment value and excitement these two brought to the team far exceeded expectations. But beyond any other call-up the team made in 2010, Triple-A stud Ryan Kalish sparked fire in Red Sox nation and recalled our memories of a similar, gritty rightfielder.
Kalish (22 years, 6'0", 200 lbs.) started the 2010 campaign in Double-A Portland. He was quickly advanced to Pawtucket by June, and spent the better part of two months at Triple-A before his July 31 call-up. In his half of a season (293 AB) in the minors last year, Ryan compiled some impressive numbers. Between Portland and Pawtucket, Kalish produced an .884 OPS to go along with 47 RBI, and stole 25 bags in 28 attempts.
His BA/OBP/SLG line in the majors of .252/.305/.405 does not have American League pitchers quaking in their cleats at the thought of his arrival. He struck out too much, walked too little, and showed his rawness against better left-handed pitching.
But it should be noted that Kalish improved as the summer waned and September rolled around. More importantly, he dug in and came up clutch in scoring opportunities. His OPS with men on base was .893. With RISP, it was even better at .912.
Who will ultimately take over RF from JD Drew?
Defensively, the line on Kalish heading into 2010 was plus range with an erratic arm of mediocre strength. This is one case where the scouting report probably didn't do its homework, as Kalish showed slightly above-average arm strength and seldom missed cut-off men on extra base hits. As young as he is, there is probably still an opportunity to add arm strength like young pitchers often do.
With Drew's inevitable departure after 2011, the rightfield job would seem to be Kalish's to lose. If there is a challenger to the opening, it may come from Josh Reddick. Josh has shown to be a tremendous athlete with considerable pop in his bat. But Reddick is a year older, and has not risen through the ranks with the offensive consistency needed to escape 4-A status.
On balance, I think the Red Sox will give the nod to Kalish, taking into account his impressive debut, complete skill set, and flair for the big stage.