It's easy to be impatient with Ryan Kalish. He missed nearly all of the 2011 season due to neck and shoulder injuries, a situation that in turn meant he missed a year of development time that he desperately needed after a .252/.305/.405 debut in the majors in 2010. Recovering from those injuries caused him to miss most of the first half of the 2012 campaign as well; to this point, he has 85 plate appearances a piece at the majors and Triple-A.
The impatience with Kalish likely wouldn't be so strong in Boston fans if not for the success of the man dealt west this winter, a move that implicitly said that it was Kalish who was Boston's favorite son of the two. Josh Reddick, who was in a continual tug of war with Kalish on the Boston prospect depth charts and rankings during their years together in the system, hit .280/.327/.457 in his first real stint in the majors before he was sent to the Athletics as the key piece in the Andrew Bailey deal. The intent of the Red Sox might not have been to say that it was Kalish who they preferred, especially since you need to give something up to get something in most trades. But, given that it's always seemed like it were going to be one or the other in Boston's future -- especially after the Carl Crawford contract and Jacoby Ellsbury's massive 2011 -- it's hard not to read it that way regardless.
Now, Reddick is hitting .260/.333/.516 for the Athletics, as he's improved his underrated selectivity at the plate, and used that to show off the power potential he always had -- and sometimes flashed -- in the minors. The 25-year-old all of a sudden looks like a significant building block for the A's, one who can be a contributor with the glove and his bat, and Boston is left looking at Kalish's .203/.247/.241 campaign, and responding to that ugliness by signing Scott Podsednik to a major-league deal for the stretch run. The same Scott Podsednik who they traded away less than two weeks ago in the Craig Breslow deal, who refused a minor-league assignment with the Diamondbacks, making him a free agent once more.
It's easy to ask what the Red Sox think they are doing with Kalish by signing Podsednik and putting the 24-year-old back in Triple-A, but, lest you forget, he's hitting .203/.247/.241 in the majors this year, and is now a career .236/.286/.351 hitter there in 78 games and 264 plate appearances. He's still just 24 years old, and, while he's hit well in a stint as short as his Boston one this year at Pawtucket, he still has all of 76 games at the level thanks to missing nearly all of 2011. Kalish is in need of more seasoning if the tools that made him a top 100 prospect are ever going to flourish, and he's not going to get that by being overmatched four times a night in a Red Sox uniform.
He's hitting .307/.388/.533 for the PawSox, with 20 strikeouts (24 percent of the time) and 10 walks (12 percent) in 85 plate appearances and 17 games. He's six-for-six in stolen base attempts, has four homers, and five doubles in that stretch. Kalish was just getting used to crushing the level, for a little over two weeks worth of games, and due to injury in the majors was ripped out of that twice to help out the Sox. The idea behind that was fine, but it didn't work out, and now it's time to retreat a little and let Kalish go back to where he can learn while being successful, at a place where he's never been overly thus.
It might seem like jerking Kalish around, but the Red Sox have to balance the development of Kalish with their attempt to make something of the 2012 season. Even if they were to throw their hands up and give up on 2012, leaving Kalish in the majors to struggle when he clearly isn't ready for it yet isn't the best use of their time. Sending him back down for the rest of August to get more at-bats, figure some things out, and settle in to playing daily will be good for him. Following that, he'll be back in Boston when rosters expand, or, at the latest, once the PawSox are finished with their possible post-season play.
To bring it back to Reddick a bit, let's not forget that patience is the thing needed most when it comes to prospects. It always took Reddick time to adjust to a new level, be it Double-A, Triple-A, or the majors. He wasn't especially different from most prospects in that regard, and Kalish is no different, either. We might forget because he lacks rookie and prospect status thanks to his time in the majors in 2010, but that's just what Kalish still is, and because of that, we could all stand to curb the impatience a bit when it comes to his present and his future.