Despite Bobby Dalbec’s exceptional talent, raw power, and production throughout the minors, I’ve generally been quite skeptical of his ability to replicate that production in the majors. His swing-and-miss troubles have always worried me, and my bold prediction for this year was that those troubles would cost him and he would struggle immensely. However, Dalbec has definitely been proving me wrong thus far. And while it hasn’t quite shown up on the field yet, his batted balls and expected stats have been among the best in the league.
Let’s run through some of these stats, courtesy of Baseball Savant, to highlight just how well Dalbec has been hitting the ball. His expected batting average is .293, xSLG is .572, and seven of his 39 batted balls have been barrels. Those are exceptional numbers, and his barrel rate of 16.7 percent is in the top 10 percent of the league. The ball just hasn’t happened to bounce Dalbec’s way during the first few weeks of the season. Case in point: These seven barrels have resulted in just one homer and his actual slugging percentage is over .200 points lower than his expected.
Additionally, his expected wOBA (an all-encompassing offensive metric) is an outstanding .382, which ranks him 28th among all qualified major league hitters. As was the case with his slugging percentage, his wOBA is trailing behind the expected number, sitting currently at .279. Dalbec is one of just 20 unlucky hitters with a difference of more than .100 points between his xwOBA and wOBA. If he continues to barrel the ball like he has, this will theoretically even out and the production and homers will come.
As mentioned above, the one area Dalbec can most improve in is making more contact. Not only has Bobby struck out over 30 percent of the time, he’s whiffed on 40 percent of his swings. That’s a whiff rate over 15 percentage points above the MLB average. He does have a good feel for the strike zone — his swing rate both in and out of the zone are both better than league average — but that hasn’t translated to fewer swings and misses. It’s clear Dalbec is sacrificing whiffs for louder contact, which I’m not a huge fan of, but his numbers have been great nonetheless.
Even considering his poor luck to start the year, Dalbec has been fine at the back-end of the Red Sox lineup. Ignoring expected statistics, his 94 wRC+ is just below the league average of 100, which is solid for your number nine hitter. No one is expecting the last batter in the order to be dropping bombs every other day. However, once he gets hot and the hits start dropping in, Dalbec should really round out the lineup and make the Sox a threat from top to bottom. He’s been producing despite the strikeouts, and I’ll be happy to continue being wrong about him as long as he continues to barrel balls.