Don’t sleep on Bobby Dalbec, the rising star in the Red Sox farm

Drafted in 2016, Bobby Dalbec will be part of a young group of players tasked with restocking the Boston Red Sox farm system.

A fourth round pick that hit just .260 with a .799 OPS in his last season of college might not seem like a rising star, but Dalbec is making waves for all the right reasons. In 34 games for the Lowell Spinners (Low-A), he hit .386 with a 1.101 OPS, 7 home runs, 25 runs, 33 runs batted in, 9 walks and 33 strikeouts over 143 plate appearances. At 6’4″, 225 lbs, Dalbec is loaded with raw power that he’s displayed across his playing career. In 613 at bats for the University of Arizona, he had 24 home runs and 123 runs batted in.

His pre-draft scouting report, like the one in the video below, had Dalbec pegged as a three outcome hitter: either walking, striking out, or hitting a home run.

But his performance in his pro-debut has run contrary to that description. His power numbers and ability to reach base despite his low walk-rate has vaulted Dalbec up the rankings of Red Sox prospects. Baseball America had him ninth prior to the Sale trade, Keith Law believes he’s their seventh best prospect, and SoxProspects has him highest at fifth.

Dalbec has excelled professionally, in the short-season New York-Penn League, because of a simplified approach at the plate and his focus on one position. In college, he was relied upon as a two-way player to star as a third baseman and relief pitcher. By his own admission, focusing on being a position player has helped his game immensely. In an interview with MassLive.com, he had this to say on his role with Arizona:

“I think the biggest thing is not having to pitch anymore,” Dalbec said. “It makes it a lot easier on my body. And we’re focusing just on hitting and playing defense rather than who I’m facing, or what their lineup has or how I’m going to pitch guys. I really think it’s helped me get more of a routine at the plate because when I did (pitch), I really didn’t have time in college.”

The initial impression he’s made on the organization has been huge. 34 games is a minuscule sample size, but Dalbec has re-written his scouting report since turning pro. The raw power is obvious and it’ll be interesting to see how he continues to refine the rest of his game as he moves through the minors. The only knock on his performance is a 23.1% strikeout rate and 33:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Neither of which should be overly concerning for a 21-year-old facing professional pitching for the first time.

While the Red Sox situation at third on the major league roster is complicated and could turn out to be a blackhole in 2017, their organizational depth continues to grow. As Dalbec develops, his immediate path to the majors is somewhat complicated by star prospect Rafael Devers who will start the season at AA and also plays third. Devers is the Red Sox third baseman of the future, the number one third base prospect in baseball, and the number 11 prospect overall per ESPN.

Dalbec’s ability to hit for power gives him the opportunity to move across the diamond and produce at first base as well. If you believe in what the scouts have to say (which is hard to in Dalbec’s case) his fielding ability and mobility at the corner could warrant a switch to first regardless of the Red Sox organizational depth at third. Given his size and power, he could be an ideal candidate down the line.

Fuelled by his critics, Bobby Dalbec has proven the scouts wrong – at least in his first taste of professional baseball. At just 21, he’ll have plenty more opportunity to do so in the future.

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