Bobby Dalbec
Do the Red Sox have their version of Aaron Judge already on the roster? Bobby Dalbec could develop into a dangerous slugger. (Meyer/Getty Images)Getty Images

Do The Red Sox Have Their Version Of Aaron Judge In Bobby Dalbec?

MLB.com recently wrote a very interesting article detailing how Red Sox slugger Bobby Dalbec could profile as the next Aaron Judge. Off the bat, the numbers from each player’s initial call-ups stack up almost identically.

Baseline stats
Hitter 1: Age 24, 27 G, 95 PA, 4 HR, 44.2% K rate, 9.5% BB rate
Hitter 2: Age 25, 23 G, 92 PA, 8 HR, 42.4% K rate, 10.9% BB rate

Plate discipline
Hitter 1: 45.6% swing rate, 63% in-zone swing rate, 30.6% chase rate, 42.5% whiff rate
Hitter 2: 48.8% swing rate, 67.4% in-zone swing rate, 33.5% chase rate, 46.2% whiff rate

Contact quality
Hitter 1: 58.1% hard-hit rate, 32.6% sweet-spot contact, 11.6% barrel rate, 55.8% line drives/fly balls
Hitter 2: 43.9% hard-hit rate, 36.6% sweet-spot contact, 22% barrel rate, 51.2% line drives/fly balls

The first hitter is Aaron Judge — 2016 Aaron Judge, the Aaron Judge who would go on to erupt with a rookie-record 52 home runs the next year. The second hitter is Bobby Dalbec.

One of the biggest questions for the Red Sox heading into 2021 is Dalbec’s raw power. It didn’t take long for Dalbec to make a good first impression. In his first 80 at-bats, Dalbec hit 8 homers. None of his homers barely leave the yard either. They’re all sent into a different orbit.

Will things click for Dalbec where he can become the every day first baseman in 2021? That’s a different question. Things clicked for Judge in his second MLB season. There are signs to suggest Dalbec could become a 40 home run hitter from jump street.

The reality is, the Red Sox stole Dalbec in the 2016 MLB Draft. It might go down as Dave Dombrowski’s only smart draft pick during his tenure. The truth of the matter is, we didn’t know if Dalbec was going to be a pitcher or a hitter because he excelled at both at the University of Arizona. What we did know is he possessed rare power that doesn’t grow on trees.

Ranking among MLB’s Top 100 prospects, Dalbec is still considered very hit or miss. Dalbec can’t go up there and strikeout 40% of the time. It’s just not possible for him to be a consistent force in any lineup while failing to make contact at that high of a rate.

Then again, it appears that Dalbec is an extremely intelligent hitter and has the ability to make those splash plays. Two metrics really side in favor of the Red Sox young slugger.

Dalbec barreled 22% of his batted balls last season which essentially means he made the best possible contact. It had the optimal exit velocity and and launch angle leading to extra base hits. That number ranked second in the sport just behind Miguel Sanó and just ahead of Fernando Tatis Jr. Good list to be part of.

The former University of Arizona product made his MLB debut on August 30th. Two of his eight home runs exceeded and exit velocity of 110 MPH. Only 12 hitters in the entire sport had multiple home runs with an exit velocity that high. Again… good list to be part of. When Dalbec hits the ball, that fucker JUMPS.

Furthermore, we have evidence that Dalbec isn’t just some pull happy hitter. He sprays that puppy to all sides of the field which is uber important at a stadium like Fenway. The Green Monster is your friend, not your enemy. Even someone like Aaron Judge has struggled at Fenway because of the way his swing is designed.

Bobby Dalbec
(Baseball Savant)

The concern, which I previously mentioned, is that swing and miss. It’s not too different from when Michael Chavis first got called up. Chavis crushed anything off speed but struggled catching up with fastballs and still punches out at a high rate.

In this instance, it’s the opposite. Dalbec hammers the hard stuff but whiffs on the off speed. Dalbec hit .325 against the fast ball but just .214 against the breaking ball. Worse yet, an upwards of a 55% whiff rate against anything considered breaking or off speed.

There’s no magic elixir for fixing the issue on the surface. What Dalbec has shown is that the more at-bats he gets at any level, the more he improves. Dalbec first made his AA debut in 2018 and stayed at that level for a good chunk of time in 2019. The strikeout to walk rate improvement was drastic.

2018: 37.1% K to walk rate 4.8%.

2019: 25.1% K to walk rate 15.5%.

If he’s done it before, he can do it again. At the beginning of Spring Training, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said: “I don’t think Bobby Dalbec will be swinging and missing 40% of the time during the season. I think if you look at his career, the first part of the season, whatever league he’s at, he swings and misses a lot. But then he catches on.”

The Bill James Handbook (if it means anything) has Dalbec projected to hit 37 homers. That would be a hell of a season. Better yet, he’s still eligible to win the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2021. Boston could have their version of Aaron Judge already on the roster. Power like this doesn’t just grow on trees. The Bobby Dalbec power outage could be coming to a ball park nearest you.