For as barren as the farm system supposedly is with respect to position players, the Red Sox have one of the most exciting sluggers in all of minor league baseball. Third baseman Bobby Dalbec was one of the best power hitters in the minors, finishing 2018 with 32 home runs. While Dalbec still has a long way to do before being major league ready, his power is undeniable and his potential is through the roof.
Bobby Dalbec: Prospect Watch
Dalbec first arrived in the Boston system as a fourth-round pick in the 2016 Draft, and immediately showed off his power. Dalbec hit seven home runs in just 34 games of low A ball in 2016, good for an Isolated Power of .288.
Dalbec’s power continues to be the best part of his game, and he’s brought his game to a new level this year. Spending time at Salem and Portland, the young slugger finished the year with a .558 slugging percentage and an otherworldly .301 isolated power. Both of these numbers are stupid good, especially when considering he’s played at multiple levels this year.
Normally batters need time to adjust to the improved pitching from A ball to AA, but Dalbec hasn’t struggled at all. In 29 games with the Portland Sea Dogs, Dalbec hit a six home runs, putting up a .514 slugging percentage, and a 126 wRC+. The jump from A-ball to AA is supposed to be one of the hardest transitions in baseball, yet Dalbec handled it without a problem.
Need more proof of how good his power is? Just ask current Portland Sea Dogs manager Darren Fenster. Fenster said that Dalbec “has the most power of anyone [he’s] ever seen come through…it’s not even close.” Keep in mind that Fenster has also managed Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Michael Chavis.
What He Needs to Improve
The problem with players like Dalbec is that they tend to be three-outcome guys. Either they’ll hit a home run, walk, or strikeout and there isn’t much in-between. This describes Dalbec to a tee, as he struggled to make consistent contact.
Dalbec finished his season with a 32.4% strikeout rate. This is obviously not a good thing and simply cannot continue as he progresses through the minors. His power will always make him a dangerous weapon, but he drastically needs to improve his strikeout tendencies.
For what it’s worth, Dalbec has improved his strikeout rate this year, if only marginally. In 2017, Dalbec struck out 36.6% of the time in both Greenville and Salem. That percentage has dropped in 2018 by 4.2%. Granted, he’s only improved from terrible to bad, but it’s still something. The next step is decreasing his strikeout rate to under 30%. His astronomical strikeout rate is the biggest thing holding him back as a prospect. If he can fix this problem, then Dalbec should fly up the prospect rankings and should enter the top-100 in baseball.
Dalbec as a Fielder
There isn’t much to say about Dalbec as a fielder, as the 23-year old is remarkably unremarkable with the glove. He’s not so bad that he’ll need to switch positions as he develops, but he’s also doesn’t project as a future Gold Glover.
Should he continue his progression and make the majors, he’ll probably have to do it as a first baseman. The Red Sox already have a third baseman in Rafael Devers, and Devers has a stronger arm than Dalbec. Even if the Sox decide to move Devers to first, fellow third baseman Michael Chavis is closer to the majors than Dalbec. Both players are essentially equally skilled defenders, so Dalbec is really blocked by two players.
As previously mentioned, the biggest thing standing in Dalbec’s rise to stardom is his strikeout rate. Striking out over 30% of the time against minor leaguers is obviously a major problem and one that won’t improve without serious work. Over the 2018-2019 off-season, Dalbec’s primary focus should be on making better contact and eliminating strikeouts.
That said, this guy absolutely has a major league future. Even if he never fixes his strikeout issues, his remarkable power will make him a valuable major leaguer. Major league sluggers with serious strikeout issues are becoming more and more common in today’s game. While it’s obviously not ideal to strikeout three out of every ten times at the plate, teams will tolerate it if you can crush the ball when you make contact.
And boy can Dalbec crush the ball. If everything breaks right for Dalbec, he has the potential to be an Aaron Judge-type player. Will he ever be as good as Judge? Unlikely. However, he will certainly have a home on a major league roster someday, and he should always serve as a good power bat.