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Ryan Kalish Can Make Impact In Red Sox’ Right Field

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports

CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.

Ryan Kalish, Outfielder, Boston Red Sox

2010 season: 53 G, 163 AB, .252 BA, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 10 SB, .710 OPS

With the retirement of the underappreciated J.D. Drew, the Red Sox came into the offseason with a void to fill in right field. With the financial commitments of last year’s spending spree still looming over the franchise, however, newly appointed GM Ben Cherington declined to spend any money on the position in free agency. Instead, the Red Sox acquired Ryan Sweeney and dealt away Josh Reddick, leaving Sweeney, Darnell McDonald and Ryan Kalish as the contenders for the right field spot.

Sweeney is the safe option of the three, but Kalish is the one with the most upside. A ninth-round selection in the 2006 draft, Kalish dominated to the tune of a .368 batting average and 1.011 OPS as a 19-year-old at Low Class A, earning a spot in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects before the 2008 season. He ended up struggling the next year but put up back-to-back solid seasons in ’09 and ’10, the latter of which included a 53-game stint in Boston.

Kalish was expected to play a role on the Red Sox’s 2011 team, but ended up missing the entire Major League season due to a variety of injuries. In the offseason, the news got worse – in addition to neck surgery in September, Kalish underwent a shoulder procedure in November, which will prevent him from being ready for Spring Training. Still, he could be ready to play come May, giving him five months to make an impact on the big league squad.

Kalish is probably not going to become a prodigious power hitter, but he can generate double-digit homers to complement his speed (99 steals, 20 caught stealings as a pro). He also defends very well in corner spots, meaning the Red Sox could put together one of the best defensive outfields in the Majors if Carl Crawford straightens out his play. The past year has been a rough one for Kalish, but he still won’t turn 24 until March 28. There is still plenty of time left for him to get healthy and live up to the potential that he has displayed in the past.

Next up on March 3: Toronto Blue Jays