Over the past few seasons, first base has been a rotating hole for the Red Sox. Not to say, it’s been weak, but there’s been no one, solid option that has held the job down. Mitch Moreland has actually had a pretty good season, but has failed to stay healthy and is a free agent at the end of the season. Steve Pearce was huge in 2018, but it appears he’s run out of steam as he’s been a non-factor this year. Michael Chavis projects better as a second baseman, or a possible trade chip. So that gets us to the young phenom, Bobby Dalbec.
Dalbec, a 4th rounder in 2016, was never projected to have this high a ceiling until recently. He finished up his career at Arizona university OPS-ing just .799 in his Junior season. The Sox still obviously liked his power upside and high walk rate, and that has helped propel him to a potential major league starter.
As soon as he hit the minor leagues, he looked right at home. His first season in low-A Lowell, he appeared in 34 games and slashed .386/.427/.674. Once they realized he was too good for that level, he quickly progressed through the minor leagues, finally reaching AAA Pawtucket this summer. Dalbec has had some struggles at that level, trying to adjust to the pitching.
His walk rate has almost disappeared, going from 15.5% in AA all the way down to 4.1% in Pawtucket. I’m not too worried about that yet though, as his entire career he’s relied on his discipline at the plate. That discipline is still there, he just needs to continue to adjust to higher quality pitching.
The good news? The power is still there. His slugging percentage has actually increased from double A to triple A, despite the large drop in his OBP. Every night, it feels like Bobby is cranking one out of the park in the minors.
He looks as ready for the majors as any prospect. Yet, he won’t be among the team’s September call-ups. There is a sliver lining in there. He does have plans to play in Winter ball, specifically to better himself defensively at first base. Bobby realizes, as much as I do, that first base seems to be an open position for the Sox moving forward. He has the offensive skills and discipline to stick as an MLB player, and if his defense could reach that level, he could really be special.
Another silver lining? He’s still been getting the call-up experience over the last couple days.
Dalbec was in Boston the last couple days, touring Fenway, meeting some of his future teammates and most importantly, taking batting practice. Like always, his BP was impressive. Even in a major league ballpark with a very deep center field, he looks ready to roll. Maybe it won’t be this season, but he is going to fit nicely in the Fenway Park atmosphere. His swing is perfect for the ballpark, and I can’t wait to watch it on a daily basis.
He was recently named the Portland Sea Dogs team MVP, and finished third in MVP voting in the AA Eastern League. An .867 career minor league OPS, with a .100 point jump from his batting average to his OBP, is certainly borderline top prospect level. Dalbec is finally starting to get talked about in the mainstream media, and among Red Sox twitter, simply because of his consistent power.
It goes beyond that though. Dalbec isn’t just going to be a star in this league because of his power. He has the potential to be a top 15-20 player in walk percentage and OBP in the entire league. He also has the benefit of an open position on a really good ball club.
The Red Sox are highly unlikely to sign anyone to play first base this offseason. There’s a possibility that Moreland returns on a one year deal. But that would more so be an insurance policy should Dalbec and/or Chavis not be able to handle the starting duties.
So with that being said, heading into Spring Training of 2020, Bobby Dalbec will have the ball in his court when it comes to being the starting first baseman. Everything will be in his control as far as winning that job goes. If he performs exceptionally well in the Spring, I firmly believe he’ll be the starting first baseman on Opening Day 2020, and hopefully, for many years to follow.