Ryan Kalish Should Develop in Minors in 2011, Avoid Being Rushed to Majors Unless Red Sox Are Desperate


Ryan Kalish Should Develop in Minors in 2011, Avoid Being Rushed to Majors Unless Red Sox Are Desperate Baseball is often about resisting temptation. The best decisions are often the ones that err on the side of caution.

Don’t offer at a pitch outside the zone.

As easy as it looks, it's best not to try to take that extra base right now.

On defense, make sure to get one, never force a throw looking for a tough out.

Those are all scenarios within the game. Then there are the long-term issues of temptation, such as the one the Red Sox could wrestle with regarding Ryan Kalish.

Kalish, still just 23, is already one of the best athletes in the entire organization, a prime candidate to post several 20/20 seasons and someone who already has a successful trial run at the major league level. But one of the great aspects of the Carl Crawford signing, beyond what Crawford brings to the table, is the fact that it makes it that much easier for the Red Sox to resist temptation and give Kalish all the time he needs to fully develop.

General manager Theo Epstein has insisted that he likes to see his top position prospects get a full season at the Triple-A level. Kalish played just 37 games for Pawtucket last year.

Yet, even if Crawford was not around and the outfield was a bit leaner, the Sox would be wise to give Kalish that full year. Although his two months with the big club provided plenty of highlights, including one of the finest catches of the season, a home run in his first game in Yankee Stadium and a team-high 10 stolen bases, the organization was never looking to rush the young outfielder. His promotion was largely out of necessity for an injury-ravaged roster. That he handled himself so well simply speaks to the kind of person and player he is.

That personality, that behavior, is going nowhere. Neither is a package of power, speed and hustle as prolific as any in the game. But it won’t hurt anybody to give Kalish another 110 games or so on the farm before making him a major leaguer for life.

Kalish, whose one "issue" in the majors may have been a tendency to be too aggressive in the field and the base paths, is more than aware of the need to take things slow.

"I keep talking about that even keel that we all need to have as players," Kalish said this week at the Red Sox rookie program when asked if he expects to see major league action in 2011. "It’s something that I learned a lot about in here. Taking that attitude is obviously a great thing. Hopefully, there will be more to come but you can’t really look ahead and expect because in that case you put yourself in trouble when you’re not doing too well. You’ve got to bounce back. You got to keep that even keel."

Realistically, the temptation is minimal. After Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew, the Red Sox have Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald, both of whom can play all three outfield positions and play them well. It’s as deep and talented an outfield rotation as the game will offer up in 2011. Also, Drew and Cameron are likely gone in a year so it’s not as if the logjam is going to exist forever.

We know that injuries and ineffectiveness can change that level of temptation, but that’s where the Sox should hold steady. If they need an outfielder in a short-term pinch, perhaps when someone goes on the disabled list for two weeks, they will be better served keep Kalish where he is. That’s not a knock on him, but players who have to ride that shuttle up and down and up and down can often struggle with their consistency.

A case in point is Josh Reddick, like Kalish a left-handed outfielder with plenty of skill. Reddick, considered one of the best hitting prospects in the system for a few years now, went up and down from the minors to the majors three times in 2009 and four more in 2010. Last year, while riding the shuttle and often sitting on the bench as a fourth or fifth outfielder with the big club, he would return to Pawtucket and struggle. It wasn’t until he was given a prolonged stretch with the PawSox midway through the season that he began to take off, batting .378 with 10 homers from July 15 through September 3.

As much as the time in a major league clubhouse and facing elite pitchers will benefit Reddick and Kalish down the road, so too will stretches like the one Reddick had late in the year. Although Kalish has hit well throughout his minor league career, he has played more than 100 games in a season at one stop just once, in 2009, when he appeared in 103 games at Double-A Portland. That was a year that saw Kalish bat .235 (16-for-68) with 26 strikeouts in his last 19 games, perhaps a product of scouting on the part of opponents who had seen him plenty that year.

Making that counter-adjustment is a skill that all young hitters need to learn and it often comes through protracted periods at each level, of which Kalish was deprived in 2010.

"There’s gonna be constant adjustments at the big leagues with scouting and things and [Kalish] is going to continue to have to make adjustments on his side," said Arnie Beyeler, Kalish’s manager at Portland in 2009 and 2010 and his probably skipper in Pawtucket this year. 

With incredible depth and ability in the Red Sox outfield, the desire to keep top prospects off the shuttle and a need for Kalish to learn how to have sustained success at one level are three reasons why he should not see any action in Boston before September. As it stands, he’s a shoo-in for a late-season call-up and will provide an instant upgrade to the roster.

Should the Sox take their time with Kalish and give him more playing time to develop in the minors, or is he big-league ready? Leave your thoughts below.

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