Wednesday marks one of the unimportant, but-still-kind-of-important days on the baseball calendar: Sept. 1. Also known as "Expand The Rosters To 40 Players To Give The Guys A Rest/The Rookies A Look/Put Your Year Out Of Misery." Like every other team, the Red Sox get the same opportunity to use September as they wish with room for an additional 15 roster spots.
Some players will receive more days of rest. Other will get their first shot in the bigs. And no matter how far the Red Sox sink out of the playoff race, there will be five players on which to keep a close eye:
Victor Martinez | C/1B | 31 years old
Victor Martinez needs a really great September.
Martinez is a free agent after this season, and this is his final chance to show what he has. Martinez hasn't been his normal self over the course of the year, as injuries have put a damper on his performance, but the Red Sox still really need to see something great out of him (maybe consistency?) to offer him new contract in the winter.
It's been a head-scratcher of a season for the man better known as "V-Mart." The biggest aspect of Martinez's offensive game that has taken a hit is his ability to get on base. His lifetime OBP clocks in at .368, but this season he's sitting at .339. In less games last season with the Red Sox after being acquired, Martinez's OBP finished at .405 -- a number closer to what the Red Sox were hoping for.
His power is also seemingly down, but that's not exactly true. His thumb injury took a month out of his season and, in 32 games since returning, has just four home runs. However, on the season, he is averaging a home run in every 29 at-bats, the same as his career average. Fortunately for him, it seems like things are getting better: three of those home runs came in two games against the Rays over the weekend.
If Martinez can have a great September and show Boston what he's capable of, he might be back. But even if he can do that, he may still be finding employment elsewhere come 2011.
Ryan Kalish | OF | 22 years old
There have been many names in Fenway Park's outfield this season, with "RED SOX" stitched across on their chests, but the most interesting one may be youngster Ryan Kalish.
Kalish made his Major League Baseball debut on July 31 in a game against the Tigers. Kalish did well in his grand hello to the MLB, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. He continued to hit well until about mid-August. In his last 28 at-bats, Kalish is hitting .107 with just two walks. This isn't exactly the guy the Sox saw come up through the system.
However, everything else the Red Sox have seen and enjoyed seems to be intact. The defense is there, the versatility has been put on full display and, of course, the tools are undeniable. Obviously the Red Sox didn't expect Kalish to be an everyday player as a rookie, either. So Kalish's high stock is still in place and September can take him even further.
Kalish needs to perform well in September because there is pressure for him to do so. Unless things change drastically, the Red Sox outfield will be stacked in 2011, with Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and J.D. Drew manning things (you know, what this year should have been) on a day-to-day basis. Plus there are guys like Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava who have made a name for themselves and want their own spot on the team.
But more than the last three guys named, there's one more ready to take over the spotlight and he is ...
Josh Reddick | OF | 23 years old
For the last few seasons, Josh Reddick has been the outfield prospect to watch in the Red Sox' system. His name has been featured prominently on prospect lists, with everyone waiting to see when he would get his chance to shine. That chance came, and there was no shine.
In 84 career MLB at-bats between 2009 and 2010, Reddick is the proud owner of a .167 batting average and a .526 OPS. It's a small sample size of course, but Reddick hasn't given management any reason to trust him on a day-to-day basis in the big leagues.
Ryan Kalish could change all that.
Since Reddick started slipping and Kalish leapfrogged his elder into the big leagues, Reddick has a lot to prove. No longer is he the No. 1 outfield prospect on the cusp of being a Major Leaguer. Instead, he's playing second fiddle and that doesn't work for him.
Reddick has taken his anger out on Triple-A opponents in the meantime. In 90 at-bats in August, Reddick is hitting .356 with six home runs and a 1.005 OPS. The Red Sox will no doubt call him up for September and hope his hot streak continues. If it does, Reddick could propel himself to the top of the prospect lists -- and ahead of Kalish -- once again.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia | C | 25 years old
There isn't more of a mystery on the Red Sox roster right now than Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Sox acquired Saltalamacchia on the July 31 trade deadline for a couple of minor leaguers and some cash. It was one of those trades in which the Red Sox bought low for a player that has potential to do something great ... or, probably more likely, good. Saltalamacchia has had "GREAT POTENTIAL!" written on his forehead for years now, but has never displayed it at the big league level.
The Red Sox are hoping that changes.
Boston needs to give Saltalamacchia as many plate appearances as possible in September. Fresh off a trip to the disabled list, Saltamacchia has a lot to prove if he wants to be an everyday catcher for the Boston Red Sox. At this point, he's not that. But if Martinez goes via free agency, and Salty shows some life in the team's final stretch, he could go into 2011 in a prime position to play a lot of games.
Lars Anderson | 1B | 22 years old
If the Red Sox do not bring David Ortiz back to play the 2011 season, they will need prospect Lars Anderson to step up in a huge way.
Anderson was a highly rated first base prospect in the Red Sox' system before his tough 2009 set him back. Going into 2010, he was still well-regarded, but his stock certainly took a hit. He entered this season with a different look and it showed off the get-go as he batted .355 with five home runs in 17 games with Portland (AA). That quickly earned him a move to Pawtucket (AAA), where he struggled.
Now, though, Anderson has figured out Triple-A pitching, and he's in line to get called up once the rosters expand.
July and August have been good to Anderson while he's been mean to opposing pitchers. In July he batted .303 with an .862 OPS. In August he hit .295 with a .371 OBP. The power isn't exactly there (three home runs in the two months combined), but everything else has looked good.
Two years ago the Red Sox looked at Anderson as the power hitter of the future that would stabilize the middle of the team's lineup. Now they're not so sure what they're going to get from the 22-year-old Californian. But with his 2010 resurgence -- and the potential of a great September -- Anderson might fit back into the middle of that lineup after all.