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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Bobby Dalbec looks to prove the good outweighs the bad

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The power is there, but is the hit tool?

Bobby Dalbec
Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

As we move on further down our top prospect list, so far we have had a pair of first-round high school bats along with an unheralded southpaw from Venezuela. For the fourth prospect on our community list, we move to the college ranks to a former two-way player who has settled in with the bat and is coming off a big year. It wasn’t a total blowout, but it was a handy win as our number four received 23 of 58 votes (40 percent). Bobby Dalbec takes the four spot.

Dalbec was on a national stage before the draft even rolled around back in the summer of 2016 as a star on the University of Arizona squad in the NCAA tournament. College coaches are known to ride their pitchers a little more aggressively than professional coaches — that’s putting it diplomatically — and Dalbec was a classic example of that. He was on the mound far more than he should have been, but he showed the kind of exciting upside you want to see at that level. When the draft rolled around, he fell to the fourth round before the Red Sox scooped him up with the 118th overall pick. They did not plan to use him as a pitcher, though, instead putting him at the hot corner and hoping his raw power would translate to the professional ranks.

Bobby Dalbec
Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

The then 21-year-old made the team feel very good about their selection right off the bat, as he was placed in Lowell for his first assignment and absolutely crushed New York-Penn League competition. He stuck at that level for the entire summer, ending the year with a .386/.427/.674 line in 143 plate appearances. The excitement was palpable among Red Sox fans looking for the next big thing on the farm. In 2017, he was looking to build off that success in his first full season in the pros and to show all of the hit tool concerns coming out of the draft were overblown. That didn’t really work out. Dalbec missed significant time that year with a wrist injury, and when he was on the field he was much more inconsistent than he was in his pro debut. By the end of the year he he had played in 78 games for Greenville with 329 plate appearances, hitting just .246/.345/.437 with 13 homers. It wasn’t a total disaster of a line, but it was a step back from his debut and more importantly it came with a 37 percent strikeout rate that spelled disaster.

So, Dalbec came into the 2018 season on a down note and was looking for a full bill of health and a more consistently productive season at the plate. The Red Sox got that and a whole lot more. The third baseman was put in High-A Salem to start the year, and he destroyed that league despite a tough park in which to hit home runs. In 100 games and 419 plate appearances at the level, he hit .256/.372/.573 with a whopping 26 homers. That was enough to earn him a late-season promotion to Portland, where he hit .261/.323/.514 in 29 games. The good news was obviously the power, as Dalbec posted a .301 ISO (SLG - AVG) between the two levels, but there were still cracks showing. Even with all of the success he struck out 32 percent of the time on the year with a 37 percent strikeout rate after his promotion to Double-A. It was hard not to be excited, but warning signs still exist.

Really, that’s what the scouting reports come down to for Dalbec, unsurprisingly. On the one hand, everyone agrees his raw power is unreal and it shows up in games. He’s a big guy at the plate, listed at 6’4”, 225 lbs, and he has a big aggressive swing that can punish mistakes. That swing also gets a bit long, however, and he can struggle mightily against braking balls. This is particularly true when he is slumping, as his struggles seem to build on each other. Dalbec is never going to cut strikeouts completely out of his game, but it’s more a question of whether or not he’ll be able to keep them at a manageable rate. If he can, that power will show up on a regular basis and make him an above-average hitter. If not, he’ll be something like 2018 Chris Davis, which isn’t great. Along with all of that, it’s worth noting that Dalbec is an underrated defender at third base. His pitching background gives him a big arm to work with, and his work with the glove is average-at-worst. There probably aren’t Gold Gloves in his future, but he’s above-average out there.

The 2019 season is going to be a really interesting one for Dalbec, as he has had a little bit of a warmup with Double-A pitching and now needs to show he can adjust. Entering his age-24 season, this is the time for him to make any strides with the strikeout rate. He’s going to have periods where his strikeouts are off the charts, but what to watch for is how long those periods go and whether or not they at least balance out with his hot streaks. Dalbec could be a big mover in either direction in 2019.

Here is our list so far:

  1. Michael Chavis
  2. Darwinzon Hernandez
  3. Triston Casas
  4. Bobby Dalbec

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number five. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. Until next time...