Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

For Red Sox, Like All Others, Prospects Are a Gamble, Not a Guarantee

Pawtucket outfield prospect Ryan Kalish is escorted from the field by a team trainer on April 21, 2011

According to Alex Speier of WEEI, Ryan Kalish will undergo season-ending surgery on Thursday. Kalish has a bulging disc in his cervical spine that is impinging a nerve.

Kalish played only 22 games for Class AAA Pawtucket this season because of a partial tear of the labrum in his left shoulder, which occurred while diving for a ball in the outfield in April.

That was then followed by the disc problem in his neck.

This season turned out to be an utter disaster for the highly-touted Kalish, as the back-to-back injuries disrupted his development and progress.

However, Kalish, who turns 24 in March, is expected to be ready for spring training. But who knows how he'll be playing at that time, and what may have been lost due to the combination of injuries and all that time off.

Just last year, nearly everyone was penciling in Kalish as JD Drew's right field replacement for 2012 and beyond. But this year, he got hurt and you hardly heard his name mentioned.

Soon enough, Josh Reddick emerged and suddenly he was the Sox' future right fielder. But ultimately Reddick's hitting cooled off considerably and some of the former shine was gone.

Reddick's future at this point? Who knows?

There are countless cautionary tales about prospects. Some come with a lot of hype and don't pan out as projected. Others are derailed by injury.

Ryan Westmoreland was the No. 1 prospect in the Red Sox' system two years ago, well ahead of Kalish and Reddick. Then he had brain-stem surgery to save his life, and now he's not even on the radar anymore.

It would be a miracle if Westmoreland even makes it back to Triple A, where he left off.

Prospects are a gamble. There are always guys like the much-heralded Brian Rose, a can't-miss Sox prospect who missed.

Then there are guys like Justin Masterson, traded for Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez in 2009, who will likely haunt the Red Sox for years to come.

Who knows if Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes will all become future All Stars? Maybe it will be just one of them will, or perhaps none at all? But the Red Sox undoubtedly got a perennial All Star in return, Adrian Gonzalez.

It's important to remember that prospects aren't just valuable in terms of their direct future impact on your big league ball club, but also in what they might procure in a trade.

When dealing, or dealing with, prospects, there will always be winners and losers — in many ways.

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