Ryan Kalish, once a rising star, is now only another name in a grab bag of Red Sox lottery tickets. He could pay off big, but the Sox are hardly able to depend on him.
In 2010, Ryan Kalish seemed to establish himself as the future of the Red Sox in right field. A strong performance (for a rookie) late in the year, with the Sox all but eliminated from contention, seemed to convince fans that they had the real deal in Kalish. If he didn't start Opening Day in 2011, he wasn't going to miss out for long. Bill James even projected him to have a 20 homer, 43 stolen base season. Things were looking up.
Then came injury. 2011 was a complete loss, with Kalish bouncing back and forth between Pawtucket and the disabled list, managing only 86 awful at bats in Triple-A. Once the heir apparent, Ryan Kalish almost vanished from the collective consciousness as Sox fans resigned themselves to years of Carl Crawford, with Josh Reddick providing the new young talent.
Well, we all know how that ends, and there's really no need to rehash old sob stories like that. Unfortunately, though, Kalish provides one of his own, since he really did not do what he needed to in 2012 to regain his old stature in the organization. Again missing significant time due to injury, Kalish did manage to pull his Pawtucket numbers out of the cellar, if he failed to put on a show, but his time with Boston showed how little of the old Kalish was there. Free-swinging with no real bat speed or power to speak of, Kalish put up a line of .229/.272/.260, looking a broken man before finally hitting the DL again. Not even the speed was there, with Kalish succeeding in only three stolen bases on five attempts.
The result is that, as we now look ahead to 2013, there are few who really see Kalish as any sort of answer in the outfield. Some--particularly those who are resigned to having a bad year anyways--are willing to give him a shot in right field given how high the upside is. Most, however, are focused on free agency.
Like Jose Iglesias, this is Kalish' last shot. He has 2013 and 2013 alone to prove he's got what it takes to cut it on the Red Sox before he's out of options and, presumably, out the door. If he does manage to stay healthy and put together a good season for the Sox--be they of the Red or Paw variety--then it could be a nice boost to a franchise which has to make a decision on a certain big-name outfielder at the end of the season. If not, then at least there's nothing lost from the standpoint of 2012. Kalish just isn't part of the long-term plan right now, because the Sox can't afford to take that risk.