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April 1, 2011 at 7:10 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Jose Iglesias and Ryan Kalish

The final edition of the Prospect Preview series features the top two prospects within the Red Sox organization. Both players look slated to head to Triple-A and will work to continue establishing themselves as potential major league regulars for seasons to come in Boston.

Jose Iglesias
Position: Shortstop
2010 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: Making his professional debut in the United States last season, Iglesias’ defensive skills proved to be as advanced as advertised. Possessing outstanding instincts, technique, and natural reactions, he’s extremely fluid and smooth at the shortstop position. With well above-average range and a quick first step, Iglesias effortlessly gets to balls deep in the hole and also ranges well to his left towards second base, often making tough plays look easy. Highlighting his defensive package are very soft hands, which allow him to adjust quickly to tough bounces and make crisp transfers from his glove to throwing hand. Rounding out Iglesias’ defensive game is a plus, accurate arm that plays up well when he is throwing on the run. He projects to be a perennial elite level defensive shortstop at the major league level. Capable of handling himself at the plate, he generates solid batspeed via a short and compact stroke. With very quick hands, Iglesias brings the head of the bat well through the strike zone and has the knack for creating contact with the sweet spot of the barrel. A line drive hitter, he can drive balls with backspin, especially when pulling his hands in and cleaning out inside pitches to leftfield. Iglesias shows the makings of a potential high contact hitter at either the top or bottom of a big league lineup.

Development Needs: Raw with his approach and discipline, Iglesias has some work going forward to become more selective at the plate. Presently having a big zone in terms of what he likes to offer at, he can chase a lot of elevated fastballs and breaking balls diving down into the dirt. He’s capable of producing some solid contact on offerings off the plate, but tends to get himself out, often creating weaker contact in these instances. Tightening up what he chooses to attack will allow him to drive more balls and become more of an offensive threat at the major league level. Iglesias could also stand to improve how he hits the ball to the opposite field. An excellent pull hitter, he tends to punch or slap at offerings on the outer third of the plate. Leading more with his hands to drive the head of the bat out against these offerings will help him produce more line drives into rightfield and prevent opposing pitchers from constantly pounding him away with fastballs. Not projecting as a player that is going to walk a ton down the line, it will be important for him to elevate his levels of solid contact and use all fields to pick up hits. On the lean side, Iglesias has minimal present power and at most is likely to develop below-average power as he matures further as a hitter. Home runs will not be much of a part of his offensive game, but he can evolve into a doubles hitter as he becomes more polished at the plate.

2011 Outlook: After beginning last season with Portland, Iglesias suffered a broken knuckle and missed a good chunk of development time at the plate in 2010. Making strides during the first couple months of the season and showing that he could handle himself in Double-A, he spent the end of the season after returning from his injury trying to make up for lost time. Seeing action in major league camp to start Spring Training, Iglesias has been preparing in minor league camp over the last couple of weeks for his assignment this coming season. With recent news that he is slated to start the season in Triple-A, he will look to continue to refine his selectiveness and prove that he can handle the International League. Signs of this coming to fruition include higher contact rates and a bit of an increase in his walk totals, which would both be good tells that Iglesias is shrinking down his hitting zone. In beginning the year with Pawtucket, he’ll look to put the finishing touches on his overall game and test himself against more experienced pitchers. Due to his advanced defensive game, Iglesias could possibly fill in with the big club if a need at shortstop arises, but with more experienced candidates and the desire to develop his offensive game in 2011, it seems more likely to see him in a September cameo role. With his first professional season now under his belt, 2011 is a year for Iglesias to polish off his rough edges and prove that he’s ready for the opportunity to contend for the starting job with the big club in 2012, with the ultimate goal being to hold onto it for seasons to come.

Ryan Kalish
Position: Outfield
2010 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox/Boston Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: A true five-tool talent, Kalish has quickly been pushing towards the big leagues since entering the upper levels of the Red Sox organization two seasons ago. Making his major league debut last season, his outstanding control of the strike zone and selectiveness serve him well to get ahead in counts, while also grinding pitchers down through high-pitch at-bats. Possessing solid bat control, Kalish is capable of spoiling tough pitches before unleashing his quick swing against something he can drive with authority. Improving with keeping his hands back during his stride, he’s become a much better secondary offering hitter and has the ability to wait longer on them as he sees the spin early out of opposing pitchers’ hands. Strong and well filled out, Kalish produces solid-average present power and has the strength to create more down the line as he continues to mature as a hitter. Covering a lot of the plate with his swing and hitting well to all fields, he has the potential to be a plus hitter at the major league level. Able to play all three outfield positions, Kalish has solid-average range in centerfield and can cover a lot of ground in either of the corner outfield positions. He’s made strides with his judgment reading balls off the bat and getting better jumps on them. Rounding out his defensive game is a slightly above-average throwing arm with good accuracy and a quick release. Kalish projects as an everyday outfielder in the future and potentially an above-average one with further refinement.

Development Needs: Kalish’s swing can fall into periods of getting out of a whack and needs some maintenance to keep it in line over the course of a season. During these times, he can chop down on the ball or slash at balls on the outer third of the plate. When he chops at the offerings, his hands tend to drop too much during his swing, which causes the head of the bat to make contact moving downward and square the ball up into the ground. Improving the loft he creates with his swing in recent seasons, further work to keep his hands consistent should allow Kalish to tap into all of his power and potentially produce plus levels in his peak seasons. At times, he extends his hands earlier in his swing on inside pitches and jams himself. Continued work hitting consistently inside the baseball will push his contact rates up against major league pitching and boost his rates of solid contact further. It will take him some time to learn the big league strike zone and get a feel for the increased level of secondary offerings. A strong on-base player thus far in the minors, Kalish may experience a dip in this trait during the early stages of his major league career. Still maturing physically as he starts to reach his mid-20s, it can be expected that Kalish will tighten up some and lose a bit of his speed. Able to handle centerfield in shorter stints, he projects as a corner outfielder in a starting role, which will put more of an emphasis on his offensive game rounding into above-average in a big league lineup.

2011 Outlook: Spending some good time with Boston last season due to injuries in the outfield, Kalish got his first taste of the major leagues and a chance to experience what it takes to consistently be successful at the highest level. With the big league outfield healthy as Spring Training comes to a close and no room for him to start the season, he’s set to open the season in Triple-A with the PawSox. While Kalish is close to a final product and could most likely start in other major league outfields, his time in Triple-A is a good chance to continue to work on his finer development points and stay sharp in case an opportunity presents itself early in the season. Positive signs of him putting the finishing touches on his game would be an uptick in his on-base percentage and a strong level of consistency during the season. Improvement with these aspects in Triple-A would be a good indication that he is becoming ready to make a smooth transition to the major leagues in a regular role and limit the adjustment period in his early career. With veteran outfielders ahead of him on the Red Sox roster, much of when Kalish could potentially get a chance to contribute is going to be tied into the health of those players and if the Red Sox are going to have to reach down for depth as the season heats up. First in line for the potential call, followers are likely to see him at the latest this season in a September call-up role. 2011 is a season for Kalish to show he’s ahead of the curve in Triple-A and also prove that he’s ready to assume an everyday role in the Red Sox outfield in 2012 should J.D. Drew depart and the organization choose to fill from within.