(Portland ME) Sometimes batters get your attention in batting practice.
Bobby Dalbec of the Portland Sea Dogs is one of those players.
Thirteen games into the 23-year-olds promotion to Double A, he bears watching even before the game.
I took in the pregame yesterday at Hadlock Stadium and saw him drill BP pitches all over the place.
During BP the Altoona Curve was warming up in the left-field corner awaiting their turn to take over the field. I’d hear the whack of bat meeting ball and watch players at least 300 feet away take a quick look to see if the ball was coming their way. And several times it did.
I watched one of the Sea Dogs coaches, standing near second base, hear a ball go whizzing by his head and not have time to react.
The young man has power. Between Salem (VA) in the Carolina League and his brief time in Portland, Bobby is tied for the top spot in the minors with 31 home runs.
“I know about where I am with home runs but I’m not going to chase them,” Bobby told me in a post-BP interview. “I want to hit the ball hard.”
Sea Dogs announcer Mike Antonellis added that, “Bobby isn’t trying to hit the ball out like some players do. He’s not upper cutting but he generates so much power that they do go out.”
Mike, who reached 3000 games broadcasted recently, has seen all thirteen of Bobby’s Portland games and recalled two memorable homers already. “The most impressive one I’ve seen here (Hadlock Stadium) was one that cleared the Thomas College sign in center. That sign is 24’ high. Our trackman service estimated that the ball traveled 451 feet! On the road he had one in Erie to left center that landed on the roof of their arena. Some of the Erie people told me that they thought it was one of the longest ones they had ever seen there.”
Bobbly was one of the Portland players without a number on his practice jersey. “That gives you away as the new guy,” I kidded him.
“I may be new here, but I know most of these guys from the lower minors,” he said, “it has been an easy transition for me to be in Portland.”
Bobby told him that his parents were in Portland for the weekend to see him play here for the first time. They had taken two trips to Salem to catch him in the Carolina League.
Bobby is a third baseman but so is Boston’s #1 prospect Michael Chavis. In tonight’s game Michael was at 3B and Bobby was DH.
“Bobby is 6’4” so he’s easy to see at 3B,” said Mike. “He’s a former pitcher (Arizona) and has a terrific arm.”
There is so much data available on players that with his reputation he faced shifts even in A ball. “I was aware of the shifts, but I just refused to change my approach at the plate to try and defeat it,” said Bobby.
Mike explained that Double A can be tough for newcomers. “The good one’s face shifts and they see more secondary pitches thrown by better guys.”
Mike told me that he was surprised that the righthanded-hitting Bobby was seeing a lot more fastballs early in counts since teams were shifting a bit toward the left side.
There are some comparisons between Bobby and JD Martinez. “Both players seem to have a similar plan at the plate,” said Mike, “and that is to hit the ball hard. Both insist that they’re not intentionally going for homers”
Regarding his future Bobby said: “I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and see where it takes me.” So far it has taken him this season from Boston’s #12 prospect to #6.
Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers may be younger (21) and entrenched a bit in Boston but Bobby’s power numbers and ability to play the position could move him up to Fenway sooner or later.
“I think he’s special,” added Mike. “There may be some adjustment periods, so we’ll have to see.”
One is left to wonder how the last-place Portland Sea Dogs (52-69) would have done in 2018 with Josh Ockimey, Michael Chavis, and Bobby Dalbec in action from the beginning of the season.
Mike Antonellis has been involved in broadcasting for twenty-two years. “I started out doing sports updates at Dean Junior College,” he told me. “I felt comfortable at it right away. I have been with Portland since 2005 and have done 2000 games with them.”
My thanks to Mike for arranging my interview with Bobby Dalbec and adding to the information I had on the talented young man.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)