Red Sox have room for both Bobby Dalbec and Triston Casas

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 23, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Red Sox 6-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 23: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 23, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Red Sox 6-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have a bright future at the first base position

First base was a huge question mark for the Boston Red Sox midway through the 2021 season but it appears to be a position of strength heading into this year.

The Red Sox were so desperate to upgrade at first base as the trade deadline approached last season that they acquired Kyle Schwarber with the intention of converting him to a position he had almost no experience playing. Schwarber ended up spending limited time at first base while splitting the rest of his playing time between the outfield and designated hitter.

Some growing pains as Schwarber attempted to learn the position on the fly prevented him from cementing himself as the everyday first baseman but the emergence of Bobby Dalbec made it unnecessary for Boston to continue trying to cram a square peg into a round hole.

The strikeout prone Dalbec struggled through an extended slump early in his rookie season but he caught fire in August, hitting .339 with a 1.205 OPS and seven home runs in 24 games. That scorching stretch served as a reminder of what his powerful bat is capable of and restored confidence that Dalbec could stick at the major league level.

While Dalbec enters the 2022 season as the presumed primary first baseman, the perception is that he’s merely a placeholder for top prospect Triston Casas. The 22-year-old hit .284 with an .879 OPS and 13 home runs in 77 games with Double-A Portland last year and put on an impressive performance for Team USA in the Olympics.

Casas got only a brief taste of Triple-A to end the season and he’s expected to begin this year in Worcester. His stay in the minors might not last long if he gets off to a fast start and we can’t rule out the possibility of Casas forcing his way onto the Red Sox Opening Day roster with a strong training camp. MLB Pipeline rates Casas as the second-best prospect in the Red Sox farm system and No. 19 overall. He has superstar potential and it won’t be long before he’s unleashed at Fenway Park.

A promotion for Casas doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Dalbec in Boston. There’s room for both first basemen.

When Casas inevitably arrives in the majors, he can platoon at first base with Dalbec since they hit from opposite sides of the plate. The upside of Casas’ bat is tremendous but the one area the left-handed hitter struggled in last year was against southpaws. Casas hit only .219 with a .591 OPS in 73 at-bats against left-handed pitchers last season. It’s probably not a long-term concern and Casas still projects to be an everyday player with star potential but it makes sense for the Red Sox to ease him into the lineup when he’s called up later this year by limiting his exposure to lefties.

Dalbec provides the perfect compliment to pair with Casas. The right-handed hitter crushed lefties to the tune of a .278 average and .877 OPS last season.

The Red Sox can get by with allowing their pair of first basemen to share the position for a portion of next season but it’s not a viable long-term strategy. That doesn’t necessarily mean Dalbec’s future is on the bench or as trade bait.

J.D. Martinez is entering the final season of his contract and his expected departure will open up the DH role in 2023. The Red Sox remain interested in a reunion with Schwarber, who could patrol right field this year with the intention of making him the heir apparent at DH when Martinez leaves. Boston might be better off filling the void in right field with better defensive option, such as Japanese star Seiya Suzuki, rather than finding a temporary solution who will eventually move to DH. If Schwarber doesn’t return, the Red Sox could move Dalbec to DH in 2023 while Casas takes over as the everyday first baseman.

Dalbec also has some experience at third base. It’s possible that the Red Sox could move him across the diamond while making the error-prone Devers their full-time DH. While he might not be a great defender at the hot corner, it’s hard to imagine Dalbec being any worse than Devers.

Dalbec has a strong throwing arm, which makes a transition to a corner outfield spot an option to potentially consider down the line. This could be a way to keep his bat in the lineup if the Red Sox do bring back Schwarber or allow Martinez to ride out the remainder of his career in Boston on a new deal.

The Red Sox have plenty of flexibility in how they can address their roster moving forward. Having a surplus of talent at first base is a good problem to have. Regardless of which direction the Red Sox choose to fill out their roster, they can find playing time for both Dalbec and Casas.

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