When Bobby Dalbec has a bat in his hand, there’s a good chance he’s about to hit a baseball very far.
The Boston Red Sox prospect is having an encouraging offseason thus far, opening eyes while playing for Team USA at the WBSC Premier12 tournament in Mexico.
Dalbec on Saturday hit a gargantuan grand slam in Team USA’s 9-0 win over the Netherlands, and he followed it up Sunday with another deep blast against Mexico.
(Good luck finding a decent angle of the dinger, though.)
That was one of the only highlights for Team USA, as Mexico cruised to an 8-2 win.
Dalbec’s standing as one of the Red Sox organization’s top prospects is becoming clearer and clearer. The 2016 fourth-round pick has produced at every stop over the course of his three-plus professional seasons. Dalbec’s .870 career OPS speaks for itself, and it also reinforces the notion he’s been able to catch on no matter where he’s playing. Dalbec hit 27 home runs 2019, spending most of the season at Double-A Portland before launching six home runs in just 30 games with Triple-A Pawtucket.
There is a decent amount of swing and miss in Dalbec’s game, but that’s the nature of the beast in today’s day and age. The 24-year-old actually fits right into Boston’s offensive philosophies as it pertains to trying to lift the ball.
When it comes to these relatively new-age hitting philosophies that rapidly are taking over baseball, Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers is among the handful of pioneers. His hiring went under the radar prior to the 2018 season. The Red Sox finished dead-last in home runs in 2017, the year before Hyers joined Boston’s bench. A year later, on the way to a World Series title, the Red Sox finished sixth in the American League with 208 home runs.
Not all of that credit goes to Hyers, though. J.D. Martinez saved his season by devoting himself to eschewing decades and decades of hitting advice centered around hitting down on the ball where the perfect outcome was a line drive up the middle. Martinez started to hit the ball in the air, and the results followed. He has imparted that wisdom on teammates like Mookie Betts — who saw his home run total jump by eight in more than 100 fewer plate appearances from 2017 to 2018 — and it’s a philosophy that has infiltrated the minor leagues, manifesting itself in players like Dalbec.
“I think it’s a waste of an at-bat for me to sell out for contact, to hit a ground ball early in the count,” Dalbec said, as quoted in the 2018 book “The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players.”
Dalbec also said: “Being on the right attack angle and trying to match the plane to the pitch is something I really want to get better at. It’s definitely nice to be able to watch guys in my organization at the major league level do that.”
Interestingly, this all somewhat ties into a huge career decision for Martinez, who must decide by Monday at 5 p.m. ET whether he wants to opt out of his Red Sox contract and become a free agent. If he does that and signs elsewhere, it will be one less person for Dalbec to lean on in his ongoing development.
“If (older teammates would) be willing to (talk hitting) or if they had time,” Dalbec said in the book, “I’d pick their brains all day about it.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images