Bobby Dalbec was just named to the MLB Pipeline’s team of the week after blasting 4 HR and 14 RBI. Is he the top prospect in the system right now?
A couple weeks back we took a look at Bobby Dalbec, who had put himself on the prospect map with an impressive 25 game run. He had gone .262/.379/.524 with 5 HR an a 26.2% strikeout rate. It was an indication that he had made some intriguing changes in his approach and might be a viable major league bat eventually. What has he done since then? Mash. The answer is mash.
To recap, his first 44 games were okay, but still troubling. A .204/.335/.454 slash with a 33.5% strikeout rate is passable at the major league level. Doing it in high-A? Not so much. He did have 9 HR in 185 PA, but he was looking like an extreme three true outcomes hitter. That approach, while workable, is a house of cards. It’s very difficult to have sustained success with it at the major league level. Since then, he’s looked like a significantly better hitter, however.
A brand new man.
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The 25 game sample that followed those first 44 games was encouraging. But the key was maintaining that success. Given the announcement of the team of the week honor, it seems like a good time to see if he’s still on track. Since that 44th game, he has played in 38 more. In that span he’s posted a .303/.396/.652 slash with 10 HR, 41 RBI, 25 extra-base hits, and a 27% strikeout rate. It’s kind of hard to not get excited about this kid. Of course, we’re still looking at a small sample and it’s never a good idea to base your projections on a portion of someone’s season. When they make a change, it’s absolutely worth pointing out how they looked before and after. But it’s a long season and the sum total is likely a better overall gauge.
On the year he’s up to .250/.363/.546 with 19 HR, 70 RBI, and a 30.5% strikeout rate. That K% is still higher than you want to see at high-A, but if he can maintain the 27% in his last 38 games through the rest of the season, there would be reason to believe that he’s made a permanent adjustment there. 27% is still high, but it’s livable. Especially with the power and the patience he has displayed. A 13.7% walk rate will mitigate a lot of the damage his swing and miss does. And while he still has to make the dreaded jump to AA, it’s tough not to get excited about what he’s doing right now.
He’s climbed the ladder since last winter.
With the caveat that he needed to keep it up into August for me to do it, I was already thinking about Dalbec as the eventual new top prospect in the system a couple of weeks back. He’s kept it up to such a degree that even a small slump between now and August 1st probably wouldn’t bump him from consideration for me. The top prospect over the winter, Michael Chavis, is finally back on the field. But after serving an 80 game suspension for PEDs, his grasp on that ranking was tenuous. He’ll still be near the top, assuming he keeps hitting, but even his second half in 2017 was leaving the door open for another prospect to burst through.
Other contenders for the top spot are Jay Groome, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, but still has an enormous ceiling. There’s also Jalen Beeks who has pitched very well for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. Bryan Mata is also getting results in Salem. And some might want to slot recent first round pick Triston Casas in at the top, but I’m loathe to do that with any recently drafted high school bat.
Where does he rank?
With a system this thin where most of the best talent is still very far away, there will be plenty of disagreement about who gets the top spot. For me, it’s going to come down to a few names. And given that Chavis has brought his monster power back with him from baseball’s PED penalty box, I’m not quite ready to unseat him yet.
Beeks is close to MLB ready, so I’ll keep him ahead at number 2. But that’s it at the moment. Bobby Dalbec takes third on my current, unofficial top 10 list. Tanner Houck is also in the mix here, as are Casas and Groome. Casas is out for the rest of the season with a thumb injury, which makes it hard to slot him definitively, and Groome’s ceiling is still that of an ace if he can get healthy. Basically, there’s a mess of players in the top 5 or 6 that could go number one overall depending on who you are asking about it. If Dalbec still has a 150 wRC+ in August, it’ll be really hard for me to not leapfrog him over the pack, however.
Who do you think the top prospect in the system is? Is Dalbec showing enough for you to get excited yet? Let us know in the comments!