.271/.340/.452, 20 HR, 43 SB, 94 R and 82 RBI in 641 PA’s
That’s an all-star. That’s a fantasy beast. That’s the 2011 projection for Ryan Kalish published by Bill James.
Look, I’m a big Ryan Kalish fan (and a huge Bill James fan), but that seems like a lot to expect from a soon to be 22-year-old with 179 major league plate appearances to his name. Bill James has been known for being very aggressive with his projections for rookies and this one is certainly no exception. However, if you take the approach that players will simply continue to do what they have been doing, you can see where James is coming from. Between two minor league levels in 2010, Kalish hit a combined .294/.382/.502 with 13 home runs and 25 stolen bases. Add on top of that his five home runs and ten stolen bases while with the big club and you’re staring at 18 home runs and 35 stolen bases in 522 plate appearances. That being said, minor league numbers don’t exactly translate directly to the big leagues and Kalish, who was considered a good, but not elite-level prospect, is still extremely young.
Can Kalish ever live up to this projection? Well, I see the raw talent to hit 20-plus homers and steal 20-30 bases in his prime years. I also see some above average plate discipline, which should lead to league average or better OBP’s. My biggest concern is Kalish’s ultimate ceiling with regard to the stolen bases. His 35 steals in 2010 were the most he had stolen in a single season since entering the Sox system. Given his age and already big upper body, he may lose some speed as he ages and his upper body continues to grow. The projected runs and RBI numbers would largely depend on lineup positioning. If Kalish was inserted to the top half of the Sox lineup, these numbers might be attainable, but that won’t likely happen in 2011 given the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.
While I believe that the projection above is a bit too optimistic, I think it does say one thing loud and clear: Ryan Kalish is going to be a very solid major league ballplayer.
What about the 2011 season?
With the depth that the Sox have accumulated over this offseason, there is very little chance that Kalish breaks camp with the big club. He needs to play everyday and with Crawford in left, Ellsbury in center and Drew/Cameron in right, there is no room, at least on paper. That could change at any time, however, especially with the situation in right field.
Pitchers and catchers have yet to (officially) report to spring training, but J.D. Drew is already injured. Reports surfaced this past weekend that Drew is still bothered by a hamstring issue that hampered him throughout the 2010 season. Given Drew’s age, 35, and well documented history of nagging injuries, this could turn into a long year for the veteran right fielder. Aside from injuries in 2010, Drew saw a big regression against left-handed pitching along with a regression in walk rate, chase rate and line drive rate. Sure, Drew could bounce back, but then again, it might be just as likely that his numbers fall off sharply across the board.
Mike Cameron’s 2010 season was basically lost to an abdominal tear and even though he should be ready to go full-bore this spring, there is more than a little risk in expecting a lot from the 38-year-old.
Darnell McDonald and Drew Sutton could work as fine back-up outfielders, but should the need arise for a full-time replacement, neither is likely to be the the answer to that problem.
This means that, while Kalish will likely start the season at triple-A, there is certainly a scenario in which he takes over as the Sox everyday right fielder and doesn’t look back.
No matter what happens in 2011, Ryan Kalish is going to see time in the big leagues once again. How much time is yet to be determined, but if someone told me today that Kalish is going to get 400-plus at bats this season, I wouldn’t be disappointed. I’d be excited.