Has Bobby Dalbec Earned Another Year As A Starter?

Red Sox fans first saw Bobby Dalbec in the big leagues after Mitch Moreland was traded away at the trade deadline in the shortened 2020 MLB season. Dalbec made his major league debut on August 30th of 2020, and in the final month of the season, he put up impressive numbers for a rookie. 

In 23 games in 2020, Dalbec posted a .263 batting average, a .359 on-base percentage, and 48 total bases. Dalbec also hit eight home runs, and knocked in 16 RBIs in his 92 plate appearances in 2020. 

Concerns in 2020

What was worrisome for Dalbec were the same things we are seeing this year. Too many strikeouts, and faulty defense. In his 23 games in 2020, Dalbec had a 42.4% strikeout rate, meaning he struck out 42.4% of his at bats. Much like this year, Dalbec particularly struggled with breaking balls (55.7% whiff rate), and off-speed pitches (54.5% whiff rate). Dalbec also chased 33.5% of pitches out of the zone, which contributed to his high strikeout rate. 

Dalbec also committed three errors at first base in just 20 games started.  

High Expectations in 2021

Coming off the impressive numbers at the end of 2020, and an incredible spring training campaign, Red Sox fans had high expectations for Dalbec in 2021. Dalbec earned the start at first base in the 2021 season opener, thus beginning the roller coaster ride it has been with Dalbec this season.

Slow Start

Unfortunately for Dalbec, he got off to a very slow start to the 2021 season, and really didn’t find himself until after the All Star break. Dalbec hovered around the Mendoza Line for most of the first four months of the season. 

MonthAVGOBPSLGOPSHRSO
April.214.276.343.619129
May.200.243.429.672425
June.237.280.500.780532
July.210.234.30.541125
Pre- All Star .219.264.409.6731095

Dalbec’s struggles had Red Sox fans (Including myself) begging Chaim Bloom to get a first baseman at the trade deadline. Understandably so, the 26-year-old was not putting up good power numbers, and was leading the team in strikeouts. But Dalbec seems to have heard the noise surrounding the first base position because he has elevated his game. 

Post All Star Break

Since the All-Star break, Dalbec has been red hot. He has posted a .297 batting average, .376 OBP, and has hit 10 homeruns, which matches what he had pre All Star break. Since the trade deadline, Dalbec is hitting .350 with 28 RBIs. 

Though Dalbec has significantly improved his game, we are still seeing the same problems. Trouble in the field, and an alarmingly high strikeout rate. Dalbec has 40 strikeouts since the All Star break which puts him in the bottom 2% in strikeout rate in the league this season, with an unnerving 34.5% strikeout rate. 

In terms of Dalbec’s defense, he was a third baseman turned first baseman so there is reason to be patient with his defensive struggles. 

Has Bobby Earned Another Year?

I think he has. The Red Sox are only paying Dalbec $575,000 and he has started over 110 games for the team this season. Dalbec is also under team control until 2023, and then has three years of abirtation until 2027 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. 

Dalbec has shown us over the past month that he is capable of being a solid bat in the lineup. With star prospect Triston Casas ready to take over the reins at first base within the next few seasons, it wouldn’t make sense to break the bank for a first baseman. 

When Casas does take over at first base, which is only a matter of time, that wouldn’t necessarily mean Dalbec wouldn’t have a spot in the lineup. With J.D. Martinez set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023 at the age of 35, the Sox could potentially move on from Martinez and move Rafael Devers to the designated hitter spot. 

Devers’ defense has been atrocious this season and for much of his career. This season alone Devers has 19 errors. Eventually the Red Sox are going to have to take him out of the field if he can’t figure out his defensive issues. Which could leave the door open for Dalbec, who really plays third base.

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