Few Red Sox draftees in recent years have made a first impression like the one by third baseman Bobby Dalbec in 2016. The fourth-rounder out of Arizona obliterated the short-season New York-Penn League, hitting .386/.427/.674 with seven home runs in 27 games.
Dalbec struggled in 2017 at low Class A Greenville, however. He suffered a broken hamate in early May that sidelined him for more than seven weeks, and when he did return, it took him months to regain his timing. While he did show power, hitting 13 homers in 85 games, he hit just .248/.347/.424 while striking out 37 percent of the time.
Once again healthy in 2018, Dalbec opened the year with a heavy dose of three true outcomes at high Class A Salem. Through 20 games, he hit .227/.373/.561 with more homers (five) and doubles (seven) than singles (three). Most of his plate appearances have ended with line drives, fly balls, walks or strikeouts (35 percent).
Unquestionably, Dalbec possesses prodigious power. The Red Sox are trying to harness that tool with a more selective early-count approach and a refined plan of attack with two strikes.
“Can we improve on process, getting acclimated to a higher level?” hitting coordinator Greg Norton said. “Can we make improvements? Yes. His willingness to work, his ability, he’ll continue to build on that.
“(He is trying) to tighten up the zone, not chase as many pitches. I think the odds are, if Bobby can stay in the zone more often, with the power and ability he has with the bat, the more damage he can do.”
If Dalbec can’t increase his frequency of contact, then there’s a chance he could struggle to translate power to production, and he could stall out in the upper levels of the farm system. But if Dalbec can make adjustments to become a more complete hitter, the Red Sox see a player with the upside of an everyday third baseman.
“If he can be consistent, he’s a middle-of-the-lineup guy with plus power,” Norton said. “He’s a big guy, athletic at third with a good arm. He’s got all the tools in the tool belt. It’s just continuing to do the work, which he will.”
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