Collette Calls: Dalbec Deep Dive

Collette Calls: Dalbec Deep Dive

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

Given that we are little more than two scoring periods from the end of the fantasy season, it is time for this column to shift into offseason mode to prepare you for the 2022 draft season. Sometimes, that season begins as early as the first week of October as I am regularly invited to industry mock drafts for October and NFBC starts early draft once the regular season wraps up.

Every year during early draft season, multiple players catch helium and rise quickly up the ADP charts based on how they closed the season. I expect Bobby Dalbec to be one such player this draft season as he has been one the hottest hitters in baseball since the 2021 trade deadline. Only Bryce Harper has a higher wRC+ since the trade deadline (min. 100 PA) than the rookie slugger in Boston:

Dalbec's .311/.388/.728 batting line since the deadline has certainly moved the needle in a positive direction for him given it was .215/.260/.391 at the trade deadline, living up to the concerns I raised for him when I predicted before the season he would finish outside the top 350 this season.

Heading into the season, Dalbec's profile was full of risk given his big power but even bigger holes in his swing. His strikeout rate was historically bad in 2020 and has been a problem throughout his minor league career.

Given that we are little more than two scoring periods from the end of the fantasy season, it is time for this column to shift into offseason mode to prepare you for the 2022 draft season. Sometimes, that season begins as early as the first week of October as I am regularly invited to industry mock drafts for October and NFBC starts early draft once the regular season wraps up.

Every year during early draft season, multiple players catch helium and rise quickly up the ADP charts based on how they closed the season. I expect Bobby Dalbec to be one such player this draft season as he has been one the hottest hitters in baseball since the 2021 trade deadline. Only Bryce Harper has a higher wRC+ since the trade deadline (min. 100 PA) than the rookie slugger in Boston:

Dalbec's .311/.388/.728 batting line since the deadline has certainly moved the needle in a positive direction for him given it was .215/.260/.391 at the trade deadline, living up to the concerns I raised for him when I predicted before the season he would finish outside the top 350 this season.

Heading into the season, Dalbec's profile was full of risk given his big power but even bigger holes in his swing. His strikeout rate was historically bad in 2020 and has been a problem throughout his minor league career. It has only been recently that we have seen a shift in a positive direction for him:

Dalbec's discipline at the plate has been noticeably better, both from the eye test of watching his at-bats frequently this summer and the data in his player profile. As he recently told the Boston Herald:

"Just trying to treat every pitch like it's the best one I'm going to get in this at-bat," Dalbec said. "If it's not in the zone, just let it go. … "I'm just treating every pitch like it's the best one I'm going to get and whatever happens happens. I'm not trying to pull the ball. I'm just trying to swing at a good pitch."

Dalbec has indeed let pitches out of the zone go by with greater frequency than earlier in his young career, allowing him to be more competitive in his at-bats and utilize his best talents at the plate:

The improvements are what we hope to see from a young hitter, particularly a slugger with the upside of Dalbec, yet we are by no means out of the woods with him based on recent performance. Dalbec still has a 35 percent strikeout rate this season, and while that is 18 percent better than what it was in the short 2020 season (42.4), he still has the highest strikeout rate in the league for all batters with at least 400 plate appearances this season.  What has to be decided is which is the more real Dalbec — the one from the first 90 games or the one over the more recent 50? 

Using the Batter Similarity tool at BaseballSavant, Dalbec's profile is most similar to the likes of Franmil Reyes, Tyler O'Neill, Miguel Sano, Eric Haase and Kyle Schwarber. That is some nice company for Dalbec to be in, even if it includes Sano's .214 average because that was a known risk of taking the flyer on his immense power in the late game heading into drafts. Sano, Reyes and O'Neill share similar high strikeout rates to Dalbec, but O'Neill's speed allows him to convert more batted balls into hits to help his average (.364 BABIP) while Sano (.274 BABIP) and Reyes (.310 BABIP) do not enjoy the same luxury despite their hard-contact abilities. 

At the end of the day, Dalbec has made progress this season, most of which has come the last six weeks as he got more experience against big-league pitching. Perhaps he took the acquisition of Schwarber as motivation to make a change as his improvements began at the end of July and he has shown little signs of cooling off since. This is how Dalbec's rankings look late into the season:

It is not exactly all or nothing, but the risk profile with him is rather apparent. This 2021 statistical profile and growth is reminiscent of what Teoscar Hernandez did in 2019. Dalbec does not have Hernandez's overall athleticism, but their other skills and in-season growth align rather nicely. You'll recall Hernandez broke out in a big way statistically in 2020 and continued to have a terrific season in 2021. Perhaps Dalbec can follow the same trajectory in 2022. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
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