Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Red Sox Have High Hopes For Ryan Kalish In 2012, And Beyond
As an emergency call-up to a depleted Red Sox team last season, 22-year-old Ryan Kalish impressed just about everyone.
In 53 games, the highly-touted Kalish hit .252 with four home runs and 24 RBI.
Given more at-bats, that average will surely rise. And scouts believe Kalish has 20 home run power. The New Jersey native also exhibited great run-producing capability last September; at mid-month he had 14 RBIs in 12 games.
Kalish has a strong arm, which makes him an obvious candidate to replace JD Drew in right field next season. However, the talented young outfielder has the versatility to play all three outfield positions.
Though he doesn't possess blazing speed, Kalish is quick and possesses excellent instincts. This combination allows him to cover plenty of ground in center field, as he displayed last year playing in place of the injured Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.
And guess who led the Red Sox in stolen bases last season? If you answered Ryan Kalish, you're right. Flashing quickness and an aggressive approach on the base paths, Kalish swiped 10 bases in just 53 games last year.
These varied skill-sets have many Red Sox observers looking forward to seeing Kalish in the outfield every day next season, after Drew's contract expires.
There's the hope that Kalish will develop into a star player, the likes of which haven't been seen in right field since Dwight Evans left town.
Here's the history of Red Sox right fielders in the post-Evans era:
1990-1992: Tom Brunansky
1993: Carlos Quintanna
1994: Billy Hatcher
1995-1997: Troy O'Leary (played outfield with Sox from '95-'01)
1998: Darren Bragg
1999-2006: Trot Nixon
2007-2011: JD Drew
None of these players was truly great.
Brunansky came to the Sox past his prime and is best remembered for his diving catch of an Ozzie Guillen liner in the ninth inning of the final game of the 1990 season, which sent the Sox to the ALCS.
Red Sox fans loved Nixon for his 'Dirt Dog' style of play. However, despite having three solid years in a row (2001-2003), Nixon never hit 30 homers or drove in 100 runs. And he scored 100 runs just once. Despite that, he was actually better — statistically, at least — than Drew.
Unfortunately, Drew has always been hamstrung by the five-year, $70 million contract he signed prior to the 2007 season.
However, you simply can't blame a guy for accepting the best offer available to him. Theo Epstein had a man-crush on Drew and doggedly pursued him. Ultimately. Epstein was bidding against only himself when he gave Drew the aforementioned contract. Yet, it's now abundantly clear that it was too much, and too long.
Drew has always been heralded for his OPS, a combination of on-base percentage (OBP) and slugging percentage. However, OBP only matter matters if you score and slugging only matters if you drive in runs.
Drew does neither particularly well. During his four years with the Sox, Drew has never driven in, or scored, 100 runs. His best efforts were 68 and 84, respectively. That should explain why so many fans have always felt disenchanted by Drew.
Considering the past 20 years of history in right field at Fenway, it's easy to see why people are so excited about Kalish.
The homegrown talent offers the unique mix of multiple tools, youth, tenacity, and a full-tilt playing style that should endear him to Red Sox fans for years to come.
The notion of such a young player taking over right field next year, at just the age of 23 — and possibly holding down the position for a decade or more — is very exciting indeed.