On the Horizon: OF Ryan Kalish

I guess I must be getting behind on these, since Ryan Kalish has already made his Major League debut and completed his official rookie season. Here we take a closer look at this promising young outfielder, and what his role with the team could be in 2011 and beyond.


Just 22 years old, Kalish was drafted in 2006 as an over-slot 9th rounder out of Red Bank Catholic HS in New Jersey and is already a veteran of Boston’s farm system. Already committed to play baseball and football (quarterback) at University of Virginia, he hesitantly decided to sign with the Sox, his childhood favorite team. In addition to his $600k signing bonus, the Red Sox have agreed to pay his future college expenses. Highly competitive, he has drawn a lot of comparisons with Trot Nixon because of his all-out, “dirt-dog” style of play. Fans will love his aggressive play on the field. He is a charismatic player who draws the admiration of coaches and teammates, and he is said to be very mature (read this interview to verify it for yourself – part 1 and part 2). Kalish suffered a broken hamate bone in 2007 which required surgery and affected him in 2008 as well, but it appears to be fully healed now.

2010 was Kalish’s official rookie season, and he exploded upon the scene, going seven for his first 13 with a .538/.533/.615 line and hitting this memorable shot at Yankee Stadium. As with all rookies, Kalish went through his struggles and made adjustments, and he showed the tenacity and competitiveness that has made him successful.


Kalish is one of those very athletic players that Theo Epstein loves. Checking in at 6-0, 200 lbs, Kalish has a sturdy and projectable frame (compare Jacoby Ellsbury at 6-1, 185). He bats and throws left-handed, and is known to run well. Kalish makes good contact, uses all of the field, and the Sox have really developed his patient approach at the plate. He’s got at least average power now and should be capable of multiple 20-25 HR seasons. Kalish has stolen 20-30 bases each season in the minors, and almost never gets caught, attesting to his speed and ability to pick spots. Defensively, Kalish has great range and is quick on his return, but has only an average arm at best. He could improve on his instincts and decision-making, according to some scouts.

What We Know

Year Level PA Avg OBP SLG BB% K% SB
2006 Rk/A- 61 0.236 0.295 0.364 4.9 26.2 2
2007 A- 104 0.368 0.471 0.540 15.4 11.5 18
2008 A/A+ 502 0.273 0.365 0.363 12.2 19.7 19
2009 A+/AA 580 0.279 0.364 0.457 11.7 18.4 21
2010 AA/AAA 343 0.294 0.382 0.502 12.2 15.5 25
2010 MLB 179 0.252 0.305 0.405 6.7 23.3 10

As you can see, Kalish has earned a promotion every year and grown at every level, maintaining his plate discipline while controlling his strikeouts and smacking the ball harder. His aggressive baserunning attests to the fact that he is comfortable and confident out there, and willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win.

Kalish’s defense is already Major-League ready. He held his own as the Red Sox’ everyday centerfielder late this season, and impressed with his overall baseball acumen and awareness. There are a lot of highlights available on MLB.com if you’d like to see for yourself:

Kalish showcasing his athleticismrange, and throwing ability.

The other thing we know about Kalish is that unlike some rookies, he seems to have a knack for coming through with the big hit or big play. He’s not intimidated by the big name players, and he comes ready to compete against anyone. Both he and Daniel Nava were real impact rookies this season, and I hope they can stick around for a long time.

The Roadmap

Kalish looks to be primed for a productive career in the Major Leagues. John Sickels has recently compared him with top prospect Brett Jackson of the Cubs.

We know the way the Red Sox work, and I believe Kalish will begin 2011 at Pawtucket as the starting centerfielder. The only reason he saw so much time up here this season was the dual injuries to Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, coupled with the poor centerfield defense provided by their replacements. This is not to say that we won’t see him at Fenway next year; Kalish could force himself up mid-season with a good year (or injury to J.D. Drew), and he will almost definitely be here by August/September.

As a young outfielder who can hit a little and play all three positions, Kalish is a very valuable commodity. Look for him to transition into a 4th outfielder/platoon role with Mike Cameron in 2011. With Drew’s contract expiring at the end of next season, it appears to be a perfect fit to have Kalish slide into the starting right fielder spot for 2012, if not sooner. I think that is the FO’s goal, to develop him towards that end.


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