FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As a top power-hitting prospect, Bobby Dalbec spent his first two Spring Trainings with the Red Sox absorbing everything he could so he would be ready once he got the chance to hold down a position in the Major Leagues.
That opportunity is now right in front of him, and the 25-year-old Dalbec doesn’t plan on letting it pass him by.
Dalbec, a towering presence at 6-foot-4, is ready to trade in his prospect hat to be a productive starting first baseman for the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 Draft out of the University of Arizona.
When the Red Sox fell quickly out of contention in the abbreviated 2020 season, Mitch Moreland was dealt to the Padres, which paved the way for Dalbec to get his first callup.
The ink was barely dry on the Moreland trade when Dalbec homered in his second Major League at-bat, lacing one down the line in right at Fenway Park.
Though there was one slump mixed in, Dalbec smashed eight homers in 80 at-bats in 2020. That cameo has him ready to do more in '21.
“I think it gave me kind of a template of what I needed to work on. And then, you know, things I need to execute better,” Dalbec said. “Obviously I got exposed a little bit, but I felt like I made good adjustments on the fly. Now, I feel like I'm in a better position to make those adjustments quicker where it won't take four games to get back going.
“It will take one or a couple of at-bats, something along the lines of that. And then you know the biggest thing was just timing -- timing and vision, and, you know, breathing. That’s a huge part of my thing at the plate. Those three things allowed me to and see the ball better.”
Another area of emphasis for Dalbec is to cut down on strikeouts. In his first 92 MLB plate appearances, Dalbec struck out 39 times.
“It's really focusing on the mental side and staying within myself, just fine-tuning those things and being able to make adjustments on the fly, just uptick my consistency," Dalbec said. "I feel really good about that, and I’m going to continue to work on that.”
The on-the-job training from late last season should give Dalbec a big jump-start as he enters 2021. It also gave him a clear idea of what to work on this spring.
“I would say swing decisions early in the count was a big thing I wanted to focus on,” Dalbec said. “And then just being ready, allowing myself to see the ball as best as I can, so I just really focused on starting so early that it almost felt uncomfortable and just work from there instead of being late and trying to play catch-up all the time. It’s been translating to here and everything feels really good. I’m excited to keep improving.”
Instead of taking a break once the season ended, Dalbec went right to work.
“I didn't really take any time off,” Dalbec said. “As soon as I got back, I got right back in the gym, and you know, start grinding that stuff out faster. I feel like I got faster and more explosive. More of a dynamic, complete player.”
Now that Dalbec has seen what Major League game speed looks like, he’s ready to unleash his big right-handed swing to more consistent results. Playing half of his games at Fenway, it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise if Dalbec clubs 30 homers or more in his rookie season.
“I think slowing the game down at every level [is big]. Every level I went up, it was a big thing for me, I have to find ways to slow the game down and stay calm and everything,” Dalbec said. “This offseason I kind of just worked on my timing and feeling my moves and being really consistent with those and not trying to nitpick my swing and mechanics as much, so I didn’t really watch very much video.”
In Dalbec’s first at-bat of Spring Training on Sunday, he bashed a homer to right-center against the Twins.
While power is his calling card, the Red Sox hardly look at him as one-dimensional.
“What he did last year was impressive, and when he connects, it goes far,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “But what I like about Bobby, actually it’s the other part of it. He’s a good baserunner, he gets good leads, good secondary leads, he goes first to third, he’s a good defender. So he’s a complete baseball player. It’s enjoyable to talk the game with him and I’m looking forward to him going out there and keep getting better and help us out to win games.”