By JAY LeBLANC
Legend has it that Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Kalish didn’t swing and miss at a single pitch as a high school senior in Red Bank, N.J. That may or may not be true, but anyone who has seen him take his cuts for the advanced Class A Salem Red Sox so far this season can understand how a rumor like that might get started. Through 30 games, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound outfielder is hitting .292 with five homers and 21 RBI, and he ranks fourth in the Carolina League with a .433 on-base percentage.
Kalish was set to accept a baseball scholarship from the University of Virginia before the Red Sox selected him in the ninth round of the 2006 draft and offered him a $600,000 signing bonus. After accepting Boston’s offer, Kalish was assigned to the team’s Rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate. He hit .300 in his first 20 professional at bats to earn a late-season promotion to the short-season Class A Lowell Spinners, for whom he hit .200 in 35 at bats.
The Red Sox elected to send Kalish back to Lowell to begin his 2007 campaign. He got off to a fast start, hitting .368 with three home runs, 13 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 23 games, but an errant pitch broke the hamate bone in his right wrist and ended his season in mid-July. The injury was slow to heal, and Kalish remained in extended spring training for the first few weeks of the 2008 season before reporting to the Class A Greenville Drive. The lingering effects of his injury limited him all year, but he still managed to hit .281 with three homers, 32 RBI and 18 steals for the Drive and earn a late-season promotion to advanced Class A.
Kalish, who entered this season ranked by Baseball America as the 13th best prospect in the Red Sox organization, says his wrist is no longer bothering him, and the fact that he has already matched his 2008 home run total five weeks into this season supports his claim. I caught up with Kalish on Tuesday afternoon after he went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI to lead Salem to a 7-1 win over the Washington Nationals-affiliated Potomac Nationals in Woodbridge, Va.
Q: You passed on a scholarship to the University of Virginia to sign with the Red Sox. Was that a difficult decision for you?
A: Yeah, a little bit. I had some ties to the coaching staff there; I liked them a lot. But the Red Sox’ offer was a little too much to refuse, so I went with it, and I’m happy.
Q: How much did the lingering effects from your hamate surgery affect your play last season? Are those issues completely in the rear-view?
A: Yeah, they’re in the rear-view. Last year, I had some serious effects from it, I’d say, but at the same time you’ve got to just play through that kind of stuff. Now I’m totally good and moving forward. I don’t even think about it anymore.
Q: Do you step up to the plate with a plan, or do you just trust your reactions?
A: You go up with a plan, but it’s a balance of both. You need to go up there and have a plan, but there are some times - a lot of times - where baseball is natural and you have to react the way you want. I think your plan should be pretty basic, and if you go up there over-thinking, you can really get yourself in trouble.
Q: What are some of your goals for this season?
A: Man, seriously, I haven’t really set any goals. Last year I set too many goals - get moved up, hit .300 - so this year it’s just “Go out and have fun.” This game can get really depressing and you can get really, really high, and if you stay on an even keel you’ll be all right.
Q: When it’s all said and done, do you think you’ll be a table-setter or a middle-of-the-order guy?
A: I don’t know. I think I could do both - it’s up to [the manager] wherever I’m at. I’ve got to make the big leagues first, and that would be awesome; hopefully that’ll happen. But it depends. This year I’ve been hitting more home runs than I have in the past, and in the past I’ve been more of a singles hitter. I don’t know how it will pan out, and I don’t really care - I just want to get there.
Q: Is there any player, past or present, that you either look up to or try to model your approach after?
A: I like Grady Sizemore. He’s hard-nosed all the time, and he plays the game the right way. If you play like that, nothing can go wrong.
Q: How soon do you think you’ll be ready to help the Red Sox?
A: I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you. I’d like to say now, but that’s definitely not true. I have a ton that I’m trying to do as a player, so I don’t want to put [a timetable on it], because that would be more like a goal. I just want to make steady progress towards that, and hopefully within the next few years I’ll make it.
Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to check out our previous National Pastime Prospect Q&A’s:
2008 -Matt Wieters, Orioles; Ross Detwiler, Nationals; Adrian Alaniz, Nationals; Jake Arrieta, Orioles; Greg Golson, Phillies; John Shelby III, White Sox; Brandon Erbe, Orioles; Chris Marrero, Nationals; Jason Donald, Phillies; John Ely, White Sox; Nolan Reimold, Orioles; Michael Burgess, Nationals; Wes Hodges, Indians; Colton Willems, Nationals; Chris Tillman, Orioles; Dominic Brown, Phillies; Brandon Hicks, Braves; Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals; Nick Weglarz, Indians; Gorkys Hernandez, Braves; Beau Mills, Indians; Stephen King, Nationals; Brad Bergesen, Orioles; Fernando Martinez, Mets; Derrick Robinson, Royals; David Hernandez, Orioles; Jason Castro, Astros; Bobby Parnell, Mets; George Kontos, Yankees; Brian Matusz, Orioles; Matt LaPorta, Indians; Austin Jackson, Yankees; Jeff Bianchi, Royals; Cole Rohrbough, Braves; Pat Venditte, Yankees.