When major league rosters expanded this past Sunday to kick off the month of September, the Red Sox did not call up their second-ranked prospect in first baseman Bobby Dalbec.
Instead, the 24-year-old finished off the minor league season with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, where he slashed .257/.301/.478 with seven home runs and 16 RBI over 30 games after being promoted from Double-A Portland on August 3rd.
The Sox very well could have made the decision to call up Dalbec, but with Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis already on the roster, playing time for the Washington native would most likely be hard to come by.
So, instead of starting his service time clock now, Dalbec will get familiar with the big leagues in a different fashion, according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe.
The same sort of thing happened in Los Angeles last season, when the Dodgers brought up then-top catching prospect Will Smith in September without actually adding him to their active roster.
Per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, Smith, “traveled with the team. He was given a locker. He watched film and attended pregame meetings as the Dodgers charged their way to a sixth straight division title. But when the games started, Smith wasn’t allowed in the dugout. He watched them in the club’s video room — at home and on the road — alongside the team’s video coordinator.”
Through 38 games with the Dodgers in 2019 the 24-year-old Smith is slashing .282/.356/.684 with 13 home runs and 34 RBI and has been worth 1.8 fWAR in that time, second-most among rookie catchers across baseball behind Carson Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It made this transition way easier for me,” Smith said back in June. “I was kind of bombarded with everything but I didn’t have to stress about playing. This year, I wasn’t bombarded. I’m used to it.”
Obviously, coming up as a catcher comes with more challenges than coming up as an infielder, but if Smith’s 2018 experience is any indication, the next few weeks could shape how Dalbec comes into big league camp next February. Definitely something worth keeping an eye on.