Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton returns to Double-A Portland’s lineup

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton has been activated from the 7-day injured list and is back in Double-A Portland’s up for their game against the Hartford Yard Goats on Friday night.

Dalton was originally placed on the injured list on April 25, one day after suffering an apparent injury while making a diving catch in the seventh inning of a 13-5 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at Hadlock Field.

Prior to being sidelined for nearly three weeks, Dalton had gotten his 2022 season off to a hot start. In his first eight games of the year with the Sea Dogs, the right-handed hitting 24-year-old batted .348/.385/.696 with two doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, six runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and 10 strikeouts over 26 plate appearances.

Defensively, Dalton had already seen playing time at all three outfield positions. The 6-foot, 182 pounder has logged 19 innings in left field, 18 innings in center, and 24 innings in right.

The Red Sox selected Dalton, who turns 25 in August, in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of The University of Florida. He is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system, though he does possess plus raw power from the right side of the plate.

As he makes his return to Portland’s lineup at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Friday, Dalton will be batting ninth while getting the start in right field alongside Devlin Granberg and Tyler Dearden.

(Picture of Wil Dalton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Latest Baseball America mock draft has Red Sox selecting University of Florida ace Hunter Barco with top pick

In the first installment of their 2022 MLB Staff Draft, Baseball America has the Red Sox selecting University of Florida ace left-hander Hunter Barco with its first-round pick at No. 24 overall.

Baseball America writer Tom Lipari was the one who made the selection, and he noted that Barco is a “solid, pitchability lefty with a history of success in the SEC” who would be a “safe pick and quick mover through any system.”

Barco, 21, was originally selected by the Mets in the 24th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of The Bolles School — the same high school New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones attended.

The Jacksonville native did not sign with New York, however, and instead opted to honor his commitment to Florida. After his freshman season was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Barco earned All-SEC Newcomer honors in 2021.

Through nine starts with the Gators this season, Barco has posted a 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and .187 batting average against to go along with 69 strikeouts to 11 walks over 50 1/3 innings of work. He was forced to leave his last outing against Vanderbilt on April 15 after just two innings due to illness and is now questionable for his next start against Tennessee on Friday.

Barco, who does not turn 22 until December, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 draft-eligible prospect in this year’s class, ranking 14th among collegiate players and seventh among pitchers. MLB Pipeline, meanwhile, has Barco coming in at No. 53, which ranks 20th among hurlers who could be drafted in July.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Barco operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph, a sweeping slider in the low-80s that can give off the appearance of a curveball, and a changeup that typically clocks in at the low-80s.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, “Barco throws from a low slot that adds deception and helps his stuff play up.” MLB Pipeline, on the other hand, notes that Barco “has done an excellent job of consistently finding the strike zone in college, though there’s improvement that can be made in terms of command within the zone with that funky delivery tough to repeat at times.”

While you have to go back to 2017 to find the last time the Red Sox used a first-round pick on a pitcher (Tanner Houck), the club certainly has not shied away from taking players out of Gainesville in recent years. Jud Fabian (who did not sign), Nathan Hickey, and Wil Dalton stick out there.

Barco could become the latest former Gator to join Boston’s organizational ranks, though plenty could — and likely will — change between now and Day 1 of the 2022 draft in Los Angeles on July 17.

(Picture of Hunter Barco: AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton homers in Grapefruit League debut

Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton homered in his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon.

Hours after being added to the Sox’ roster for their contest against the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park, Dalton took over for Rob Refsnyder as a defensive replacement in left field in the middle of the sixth inning. He registered his first and only plate appearance of the day an inning and a half later.

Matched up against Rays reliever Jack Lobosky to lead off the top of the eighth, Dalton worked a 1-1 count before swinging away at the third pitch he saw. The right-handed hitter wound up drilling a solo shot over the left field wall to provide Boston with some much-needed insurance in an eventual 4-2 win over Tampa Bay.

Dalton, 24, was originally selected by the Sox in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Florida and signed with the club for $135,000 that summer.

A former junior college product from Tennessee, Dalton made his professional debut for the Lowell Spinners but had his first full season in pro ball wiped away because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last spring, Dalton broke minor-league camp with Low-A Salem and embarked upon what would turn out to be an eventful 2021 season in which he played at three different levels.

From May 4 through June 16, Dalton posted for Salem regularly and batted a solid .265/.354/.449 (118 wRC+) with four home runs, 17 RBIs, 14 runs scored, and four stolen bases over 31 games spanning 113 plate appearances.

On June 17, Dalton was promoted to High-A Greenville. He proceeded to struggle to the tune of a .631 OPS in 33 games with the Drive but was added to Double-A Portland’s roster (presumably for depth-related reasons) in late July.

Dalton made his Double-A debut on July 30 and remained with the Sea Dogs for the next two weeks. He slashed .240/.296/.400 (90 wRC+) to go along with four doubles, three RBIs, and three runs scored over eight games (27 plate appearances) for Portland before getting sent back down to Greenville on August 11.

The transition from Double-A back to Low-A was not a smooth one for Dalton, who limped to the finish line and managed just a .573 OPS in his final 27 games to close out the year.

All told, Dalton appeared in a total of 99 games between Salem, Greenville, and Portland last year. Over that 99-game sample, he hit a collective .211/.293/.377 (82 wRC+) with 21 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 49 RBIs, 47 runs scored, five stolen bases, 36 walks, and 101 strikeouts across 380 trips to the plate.

Defensively, the 6-foot, 182 pound saw playing time at all three outfield positions in his travels last season. The former Gator logged 261 innings in left, 273 1/3 innings in center and 280 1/3 in right while recording eight outfield assists.

According to FanGraphs, 137 different Red Sox minor-leaguers registered at least one plate appearance over the course of the 2021 season. Among that group, Dalton was one of just three who played with three or more affiliates. The other two who did so were Danny Santana and Ricardo Cubillan.

Dalton, who turns 25 in August, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. He will need to improve against more advanced pitching, but the power he possesses from the right side of the plate is certainly intriguing.

On that note, Dalton is projected to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 season, which — for the Sea Dogs — begins on April 8.

Potential Red Sox draft target, University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian a name to watch as college baseball season kicks off Friday

The 2021 college baseball season begins on Friday, and with the Red Sox making their top selection in this July’s amateur draft with the fourth overall pick, this season could stand out significantly.

Several draft-eligible prospects have been linked to the Sox already, but sticking with the college baseball theme here, one name to watch in particular this spring is University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian.

Back in December, MLB.com’s Jim Callis had Boston selecting the 20-year-old with their top pick in the upcoming draft, writing that “Fabian might be the most polarizing prospect among the eight players who seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the Draft class at this point. He could have the most usable power in the Draft and may stay in center field, but he also has hit just .250 with a 22-percent strikeout rate in two seasons at Florida.”

Fabian, who turns 21 in September, is rather young for a junior on account of the fact he enrolled early at Florida and skipped his senior year of high school.

In his first two seasons as Gator, the right-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder has slashed .250/.368/.466 with 12 home runs and 39 RBI over 73 total games played while primarily patrolling center field.

He did carry with him an OPS of 1.010 through his first 17 games of the 2020 campaign before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the SEC to cancel its college baseball season last March.

According to his FanGraphs scouting report, Fabian “has a rare, unfavorable ‘backwards’ profile — he hits right and throws left, limiting him to 1B/OF — but looks like he’ll hit enough for that not to matter. While his lower half has gotten a little heavier and softer since high school, Fabian still has a fairly athletic swing, and his hitting hands work in an explosive loop that give him low-ball power. His hands load deep and high, and Fabian’s bat path doesn’t always look like it’s going to work, but he still covers the zone from (nearly) top to bottom and can pull his hands in to get the barrel on inside pitches.”

Listed at 6-foot and 190 lbs., the Ocala, Fla. native already has at least one connection to the Red Sox since he was teammates with outfield prospect Wil Dalton for a year in Gainesville.

In a recent appearance on Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, Dalton, Boston’s eighth-round draft selection in 2019, raved about Fabian and what he can bring to the table at the next level.

“Jud came in my junior year. He was an early grad out of high school, so he enrolled early and skipped his senior year of high school,” Dalton said in January. “Coming in, we were like, ‘Okay, the kid’s obviously going to be good, coming to the University of Florida, but you’re also coming early.’ So, we knew the kid could play.

“But I’ll say this, not only is he doing what I figured he would do now, he worked for every ounce of it,” added Dalton. “And that’s why I have so much respect for him. The dude truly is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. He believes in himself, he’s very confident in his abilities, and it shows when he plays. Everything that he does is a straight reward for all the hard work he puts in, and he deserves every bit of it and it’s been great to see that. Anybody that gets to draft him this year is getting one hell of a player. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Red Sox pick him up, at all. In all honesty, it would be a great pick. Kid comes from a great family, a great work ethic. Most of all, he’s a great overall person to represent an organization.”

When asked if Fabian could surpass Vanderbilt University right-hander Kumar Rocker — the consensus top prospect in this year’s draft class — this spring and become the No. 1 pick in July, Dalton did not mince his words.

“I have no doubt in that,” he said. “I mean, he’s got the ability to do it. I’ve seen the kid hit baseballs farther than somebody his size ever should hit a baseball.”

Fabian’s Florida Gators, the top team in the country, open their season against Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s 21st-ranked Miami Hurricanes in Gainesville on Friday evening.

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. eastern time and you can watch the game on the SEC Network.

(Picture of Jud Fabian: Gary McCullough/AP)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: outfield prospect Wil Dalton joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton.

Dalton, 23, was drafted by Boston in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Florida.

Among the topics we discussed in this episode, which is available on iTunes and Spotify, were Dalton’s path from junior college to Florida, takeaways from his first professional season in Lowell in 2019, his performance at the fall instructional league in 2020, and his personal expectations for the 2021 minor-league season.

Thanks to Wil for taking time out of his Monday evening to answer some questions.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Wil Dalton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)