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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Dalbec faces early season struggles

Arizona+pitcher+Bobby+Dalbec+%283%29+hits+a+ball+at+Hi+Corbett+Field+on+Sunday%2C+March+6.+Dalbec%2C+who+was+on+a+number+of+preseason+award+watch+lists%2C+has+struggled+at+the+plate+so+far.+
Jen Pimentel
Arizona pitcher Bobby Dalbec (3) hits a ball at Hi Corbett Field on Sunday, March 6. Dalbec, who was on a number of preseason award watch lists, has struggled at the plate so far.

Name any major preseason accolade watch list and there’s a good chance that Arizona baseball’s Bobby Dalbec was on it.

The do-it-all junior, who plays third base and pitches, was included in the Golden Spikes Award Watch List, an award given to the best college baseball player in the country. He was also given five different preseason All-American lists.

All for good reason, of course. Last season, as a sophomore, Dalbec had a noteworthy year.

He hit .319 with a team-high 15 home runs — an impressive feat at spacious Hi Corbett Field — while driving in 58 runs and being a top defender at his position.

Dalbec’s successes caused him to be named to the Pac-12 All-Conference first team, three different All-American second teams and the Pac-12 All-Defensive team. He then followed it up with an outstanding performance in the Cape Cod League this past summer, hitting a league-best 12 homers with 30 RBI.

Dalbec’s talent level is evident. When Arizona head coach Jay Johnson, who took over the program this summer, got his first look at Dalbec, he compared him to Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, an up-and-coming MLB star.

“He’s a very talented player,” Johnson said. “The tools are really special. I’ve probably only seen one player — and that being Kris Bryant — [have] as much or as more power as he does.”

And there’s more — Dalbec is one of the team’s best pitchers. The hard-throwing right-hander compiled a 3.21 ERA in 61.2 innings last season.

For these reasons, it was assumed that Dalbec would be a star for the Wildcats this season and provide much needed stability in all aspects of the game for a program that’s going through a transition period.

So far, that has not been the case. Dalbec has pitched well, compiling a 0.73 ERA, and recording three saves in six appearances. His glove has been as good as advertised, but he has struggled at the plate.

“I think his keys will be to be patient and to make sure he swings at the right pitches in every at-bat,” Johnson said.

Dalbec has always been strikeout-prone since arriving at Arizona and that has continued into his junior year (and then some). Throughout 12 games, he has struck out in over one-third of his at-bats, while hitting just .171 with just one homer.

“The key in his development, and what we’re working on, is getting [his hitting ability] to show up consistently and to hit high-level pitching,” Johnson said. “He gets pitched so tough.”

Dalbec’s early season struggles were disappointing, but Johnson thought he showed some signs of breaking out of his slump in the Wildcat Invitational this past weekend. Johnson said he was encouraged by Dalbec’s performance.

“He was on-base [four] times tonight … and I think he’s doing a better job of recognizing pitches, but more importantly, [he’s] not swinging at pitches that get him out.”

In four Wildcat Invitational games, Dalbec went just 1-9 from the plate, but managed to draw five walks and knock in a run, while only striking out twice.

Progress is progress — he cut back on his strikeouts and was able to get on base, but eventually, Arizona is going to need Dalbec to do more than just that.

So far, the Wildcats have fared well despite Dalbec’s struggles, starting the season 8-4 including a win over a ranked Fullerton team. One could argue that Arizona has even exceeded expectations, but it will be a whole new ballgame once Pac-12 Conference play arrives in mid-March.

Pac-12 opponents will bring tougher pitching match-ups and runs will be harder to come by. While the Wildcats have gotten out to a promising start, they’ll need Dalbec to start hitting the way he has shown he’s capable of if it’s going to continue.

Given the physical tools Dalbec possesses and the success he had in previous seasons, it seems like a matter of when, not if, his offensive production will pick up. It’s safe to say that his season has not gone as expected so far.

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