Harvesting Opinion: Boston Red Sox and Right Field Options

Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars. Each week, a handful of FanSided’s MLB sites send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as we cover the teams in a regular, recurring cycle.

In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Boston Red Sox site BoSox Injection:

There is a lot of speculation that the Red Sox will trade Josh Reddick this offseason leaving a hole in right field. With Ryan Kalish coming off shoulder surgery, what kind of a push can we expect from Kalish and Nate Spears for the full-time right field job and is either of them ready to make the step to the big leagues?

Nathaniel says:

Kalish could be of some use, but he has 59 games of Triple-A experience, and he’s hit just 0.262/.324/.402 there. Part of that is dragged down by his terrible 2011 performance, which he wasn’t at 100% for, and he did hit well in both Double-A and Triple-A in 2010. Therefore, he enters 2012 much like Reddick entered 2011 – coming off a bad year with some serious questions about his future. His skillset is similar to Reddick’s – solid across the board with no huge standout ability – so he could make it work in 2012, but we shouldn’t count on it.

I’ve always liked Spears, but my interest in him wanes if you take him out of the middle infield. He’ll enter the 2012 season at 27 years old with no meaningful MLB experience, and he’s hit double-digit homers exactly once in a nine-year minor league career. He’s also never hit 0.300 at any level, and his career Triple-A line, in two seasons, is 0.251/.337/.368. He’d make for a nice utility guy in the big leagues, but he’s just not cut out to start in a corner.

The outfielder to keep an eye out for is Alex Hassan, who hit 0.291/.404/.456 in Double-A this year. It would be risky for the Sox – a team with championship aspirations, of course – to hand a starting gig to a player with questionable tools and no Triple-A experience, but Hassan brings a great approach and some pop without being a big drag in the speed-and-defense areas of the game. It might not be convenient to skip him over Triple-A, but if Reddick is traded and they don’t bring anyone else in, Hassan may be the best option, particularly if Kalish doesn’t look right in spring training.

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Wally says:

What a difference a year makes! At the end of the 2010 season who would have expected that the potential departure of Josh Reddick would leave a hole in Boston’s outfield? After all this is the same guy that hit 0.194/.206/.323 with a 15-to-1 SO-to-BB rate in 63 PA at the major league level in 2010. He was also several years removed from 2007-2008 when he was getting his professional career underway and putting up impressive numbers in low-A and high-A in the process.

Still, Reddick’s 0.243/.300/.449 line in 184 games in Triple-A has to temper anyone’s expectations when thinking about his future impact. Let’s not forget that there was a reason Kalish pushed past him to reach the majors in 2010 despite having less experience in the upper levels of the minors and being more than a full year younger than his counterpart. In the past, both have been rated as Top-100 prospects (Kalish #96 in 2008 and Reddick #75 in 2010) and Top-5 in Boston’s system as recently as last season so both obviously have the talent and potential to contribute at the major league level.

Nathaniel mentions Kalish’s lack of Triple-A experience and that is a fair point to make, but in that limited time he has performed better than Reddick at the level and also outperformed him at Double-A. Let’s also not forget that Kalish has a significant advantage when it comes to his SO/BB rates (Reddick = 2.08 SO for every 1 BB, Kalish = 1.54 SO/BB) which figures to serve him better going forward given their similar skillsets.

If healthy, I think it is more than reasonable to believe that Ryan Kalish, and not Josh Reddick, will be the better player. Given that logic, it is further reasonable to believe that he will be more than capable of filling the void that Reddick’s potential departure would create.

The key to it all is course the statement “if healthy.” Not only did Kalish have to deal with a sprained shoulder and partially torn labrum that he suffered in April, he also underwent surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck just last month. The good news on the medical front is that he is reportedly not feeling any pain in his neck and should completely ready to go by the time pitchers and catchers report in February.

Nate Spears as a potential short-term option seems completely unrealistic so you can guess what his long-term value would be. If the organization perceives that he is the best option for the job then it is hard to fathom they would deal Reddick in the first place. Given that he played everywhere on the field except for CF and C, it would appear that Spears is being groomed to become a fringy super-utility guy. He may log some more major league service time along the way but he’s almost always going to be the 25th guy on a roster and always be very replaceable. Spears is basically a slightly lesser version of Tug Hulett.

Bryce Brentz had a fine 1st full season and held his own once he reached high-A but is at least another full year away from Boston and still has work to do when it comes to his approach at the plate. If he improves in that area however he has all the tools to be the team’s long term solution in RF with sick bat speed and power potential to spare. Brentz also can be an asset on defense with decent speed and a strong arm.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world if Boston went into 2012 with Kalish slated to be the everyday right fielder and Hassan waiting in the wings at Pawtucket in case he’s needed due to injury or performance issues. In doing so they could bide their time until Kalish establishes himself as a legitimate everyday player or Brentz is ready to take over the job in 2013 or 2014.

Then again, this is Boston we’re talking about. It is hard to believe the organization will stand pat and not make an additional move if Reddick is dealt to another team – especially given the way the 2011 season ended.

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For more on the Red Sox, check out BoSox Injection

Follow us on Twitter: Nathaniel (@stoltz_baseball), Wally (@thebaseballfish) and James (@JAYRC_MCB). You can also keep up to date with all things S2S by liking our Facebook page.

Topics: Alex Hassan, Boston Red Sox, Bryce Brentz, Josh Reddick, Nate Spears, Ryan Kalish, Tug Hulett

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