One of the big decisions the Sox face this winter is how big a bet they want to place on Ryan Kalish. The kid is close. Really close. But is he close enough that the Sox are willing to pass on some big ticket free agents, absorb some growing pains, and go all in on Kalish for 2011? In other words …. is this The Guy?
A few more nights like last night and the answer will be clear as Kalish slammed a granny, rifled one back up the middle, drew a walk and stole a couple of bags. With nights like that, it is easy to see why Theo Epstein would make a big bet on Kalish and pencil him in for 450 at bats next year in left field.
But here is the rub. Kalish has less than 100 at bats at the major league level. Throw in the fact that he skipped through the International League without so much as slowing down and you have a kid that has less than a half-season above the Eastern League. And you are ready to hand him the keys to left field? The same left field that has been manned since 1939 by Teddy Ballgame, Yaz, Jim Rice, and ManRam? It’s probably the most hallowed position in the sport and the Red Sox are going to hand it over to Ryan Kalish?
I realize it is hard to break in kids in big markets like Boston. Especially at offensive positions where growing pains are tough to stomach. But what are the alternatives? I guess the most obvious move is to go big and sign Jason Werth for the next four years. This will cost $60M. But it will buy a year for Kalish to slowly grow into Boston and come 2012, he would be primed to take over for Drew in right. At that point, you have Kalish in right, Werth in left and either Ellsbury in center, a player who was received for Ellsbury or a couple of internal candidates (Lin/Reddick). That shapes up as a good and still affordable outfield.
That is the safe bet. But I don’t think it’s the way Boston is headed. Instead, I think the Sox will put a big bet behind Kalish in 2011 and he will open as their starting left-fielder. Cameron will be around to shoulder some of the load but Cam will need to cover all of Drew’s at bats against left-handers so I think Kalish will be generally left to sink or swim.
I can’t tell you he will swim right away. After all, what outfielders, other than maybe a Jason Heyward, just explode on the scene? But I don’t think he will sink either. And that is not simply because he has had a few moments this season. In fact, he has looked pretty bad at times. But despite some struggles, I love what I have seen so far. Yeah, it would be easier to make a move on Werth. But Kalish looks to me like a guy worth betting on. And while this bet might not look great next April or next May, I think it will turn out well.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
I don’t have a ton to say about last night’s game. Lester had a rough third inning but settled down nicely, the lefties finally found a righty they could tag, the kids (not named Ryan) struggled mightily, and Robert Coello may have had the worst Fenway debut of the 21st century. Net net, the Sox had a nice night and moved a game closer to locking up their thirteenth winning season in a row but I wouldn’t expect a repeat performance tonight. After all, it’s Price on tap and that means death for Ortiz and Drew. And with Daisuke going, it seems unlikely that the Sox will be able to raise Tampa’s heartbeat even a few ticks.
* That was my first glimpse of Lars Anderson and I wasn’t exactly blown away by my first impression. No worries as it was his first night but he had some awful swings.
* Robert Coello wasn’t just bad. He was pitiful. Joe Maddon had run the white flag up the pole, pulling his starters, and Coello still couldn’t throw a strike. I saw this guy pitch back in May for Portland and my comment at the time was: “he will never make it to the bigs.” I guess I was wrong but I stand by my assessment.
* Was there any doubt that Dustin Richardson was going to enter that game and not walk in ANOTHER run? Dusty has a lot to do if he wants to become a big-league reliever and it all starts with throwing strikes. Once he learns that, it might help if he came down a bit and started going 3/4s or 5/8s.
* You think Joe Maddon was thrilled that Ryan Kalish was stealing bases with the Sox up six or seven runs?