Ryan Kalish

Drafted in the ninth round of the 2006 MLB Draft, the Boston Red Sox have held high expectations for talented outfielder Ryan Kalish. As the Trot Nixon and JD Drew years are now behind them, the team has been searching for a right fielder to succeed the previous champions who patrolled the position. Unfortunately, Kalish's bright career has been consistently sidetracked due to wrist, neck, and most recently, shoulder injuries.

To begin his professional baseball career in 2006, Kalish was sent to the Sox' Gulf Coast League and was soon promoted to the Short Season Single A affiliate Lowell Spinners after just six games. In 17 total games between both teams, the New Jersey baseball and football high school standout hit .236 as he was just getting his feet wet as an up and coming prospect. During the 2007 Lowell season, Kalish's play began to open the eyes of scouts. He hit .368 with 18 stolen bases to go along with a .471 on base percentage in 23 games. During this stellar season, Kalish was hit by a pitch in July on his non-throwing right wrist. Unfortunately, the wrist was broken and surgery required the Spinners' star outfielder to miss the rest of the season. Even still, Kalish earned top accolades as a New York Penn League (Single A denomination Lowell is in) all star and the 6th best prospect in the Penn League despite missing 52 games (Jim Callis, Will Lingo, John Manuel, Baseball America Prospect Handbook).

In his 2008 campaign after successful wrist surgery, Kalish was promoted to the Single A Greenville Drive where he hit .281, stole 18 bases, and had a .376 OBP in 96 games. Kalish continued his rise through the organization by being promoted yet again to the Advanced Single A Lancaster Jethawks that same year and hit .233 in the remaining 18 games. His struggles in Lancaster were a small sample size during his transition, especially getting back to regular form post wrist surgery. During this 2008 season, Baseball America already ranked the 21 year old Kalish as the 96th best prospect in the entire minor league.

As the Red Sox contract with the Lancaster Jethawks ran its course, Kalish continued his uprising with the Advanced Single A Salem Red Sox in 2009 where he hit .304 and had a .434 OBP in 32 games. He was quickly promoted to the Double A Portland Sea Dogs and in being named the Red Sox 2009 Offensive Player of the Year, hit .294 with a .341 OBP, 14 stolen bases and drilled 14 homeruns. Through 2009, Kalish stole bases at an incredible 82% success rate.

By 2010, Kalish, still with Double A Portland, was ranked by Soxprospects.com as Boston's second best prospect in their farm system. In 41 games with the Sea Dogs, Kalish hit .294 with eight homeruns and 13 stolen bases. The speedy, slick fielding Kalish was promoted to the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox halfway through 2010 and without skipping a beat, hit .293 with five homeruns and 12 more stolen bases in 37 games. Being caught just three times in his 25 total attempts between both minor league clubs, Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo raved about Kalish, saying the right fielder was,

as close as any player [he's] ever managed to being a superstar (Brian Macpherson, Providence Journal).
Kalish made his MLB debut with the Sox that season in July against the Detroit Tigers and went 2-4 with a run batted in as Boston won 5-4. The then 22 year old began playing everyday for the parent club and finished his rookie season batting .252 with four homeruns and 24 RBIs in 53 games. Despite the .252 batting average, Kalish hit .313 with two outs and runners in scoring position, and .360 in games that were late and close, which is the seventh inning or later with the batting team ahead by one, tied, or has the tying run on base, at bat or on deck (Baseballreference.com). He hit his first homerun against the Yankees and his first grand slam against Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's ace pitcher Jered Weaver. In addition, Kalish nabbed Sportscenter's Top Play in late August making a spectacular diving catch, further showing his elite fielding prowess which not only includes top flight tracking speed, but a strong arm from the outfield throwing out baserunners. The 2010 injury plagued Sox placed third in the American League East and thus failed to make the playoffs. However, Ryan Kalish was cementing himself as a future cornerstone superstar with Boston which excited fans across the nation.

2011 was the season that Kalish's luck took a turn for the worse. Starting the season in Pawtucket to hone his skills before hopefully returning permanently to Boston as the Red Sox starting right fielder, Kalish suffered a left shoulder injury in mid-April while diving for a catch in the outfield. Playing just 22 games with the PawSox, the unfortunate injury sidelined Kalish until August and he was sent to Lowell to rehab his shoulder. Sadly, a bulging disk in his neck was also causing him discomfort and his dismal season was ended by having surgery in September to repair it. This disk removal surgery was followed by left shoulder surgery to repair the torn labrum in December to top off a disappointing 2011 for the promising prospect. Throughout 2012, Kalish was forced to rehab his left shoulder and neck and barely played for the Sox amassing just 96 at bats while hitting .229.

After Boston's second pathetic season in a row, 2013 looked to be the year that Kalish could finally make a come back and a legitimate case to compete for the Red Sox starting right field job, headlining the clean slate the team is hoping to have this season. As if New England Patriots' archangel Bernard Pollard struck poor Kalish with an injury arrow, the 24 year old is reportedly having surgery on his right shoulder now (reported by Matthew Stucko, MILB.com, January 25th) and will miss Spring Training, at least. The right shoulder injury is undisclosed, but it should be noted that Kalish was experiencing right shoulder soreness in addition to his other ailments throughout 2012. He hasn't spoken publicly about his third surgery in 16 months, but posted some tweets which voiced his appreciation to fans during his tough time as well as his relentless dedication to get back on the field. Renowned veteran baseball writer Peter Gammons once spoke highly of Kalish and compared him to Sox legend and original Dirt Dog, Trot Nixon, saying,

I have great respect for Trot Nixon, but Ryan Kalish is a totally different athlete. He is a great athlete. I see him being a guy, he doesn’t swing and miss a lot, who's going to hit somewhere between .280 and .300, hit 25 home runs. He can run. I think he's going to be a really exciting player (Alex Speier, WEEI, "Peter Gammons on Red Sox Prospects").
It's another tough break for the Sox prospect who was once considered to be a sure fire superstar. Now, there remain questions with Kalish's durability, and his future in the outfield laying out to make diving plays. His arm strength has likely taken a hit as well. We can only hope Kalish undergoes a rigorous rehabilition process but doesn't rush healing his shoulder. Expectantly, his left shoulder and neck have healed to 100% by now, it's just a matter of being patient and working hard to come back on the field after his surgery on the right shoulder is successful. Ryan Kalish possesses all the talent in the world, and Red Sox nation will keep him in our thoughts as we pray he can become the stud right fielder he was once touted to be.

KJ Ramsey