Boston Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec and the wild wacky world of Three True Outcomes

Legend Titans shortstop Bobby Dalbec (3) stretches before his team's game against the Highlands Ranch Falcons on Sunday, May 20, 2012. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Legend Titans shortstop Bobby Dalbec (3) stretches before his team's game against the Highlands Ranch Falcons on Sunday, May 20, 2012. AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post (Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

Small sample sizes, while rarely predictive, can sometimes be fun. Such is the case with Boston Red Sox power-hitting prospects Bobby Dalbec. He is off to one of the more bizarre starts we’ve ever seen.

Bobby Dalbec has been one of the more interesting and frustrating prospects to follow since he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2016. We talked about him being the most likely prospect to see a jump like Michael Chavis did in 2017. But that was predicated on his ability to cut down his strikeouts.

So far in 2018 within the Boston Red Sox minor league system, he has posted a fairly ridiculous line of .211/.361/.561 with 5 HR. With the caveat that it’s early enough that he will almost assuredly not maintain it for the season, let’s have some fun and dig into it a little.

The Three True outcomes king?

If Bobby Dalbec were to continue this all season long, he would end the year with an impressive 48 HR. That plus his triple slash would put him in Joey Gallo territory for production.

In fact, Joey Gallo’s .209/.333/.537 with 41 HR along with a 14.1% walk rate and a 36.8% strikeout rate looks remarkably similar to what Bobby Dalbec is doing so far. That’s known as a Three True Outcomes (TTO) hitter. The Three True Outcomes being home runs, walks, and strikeouts because they don’t involve fielders.

Bobby Dalbec’s Three True Outcomes percentage in 2018 is 58.3%. Joe Gallo’s in 2017 was 58.6%. The first question that comes to mind is whether this is sustainable or whether Joey Gallo is an extreme outlier in the history of the game. To check this, we’ll need to dig into historical stats.

The all-time leaderboard for Three True Outcomes.

Filtering out batting averages of .250 or higher, the all-time leader in Three True Outcomes is Adam Dunn with 4027. Second on that list? Mark Reynolds with 2748. Adam Dunn’s Three True Outcomes percentage is just 50.1% while Reynolds clocked in at 47%.

Neither seems like a great comp for Bobby Dalbec or Joey Gallo. When we filter by percentage and remove hitters with fewer than 400 PAs the list gets a bit more interesting. Our top 20 looks like this:

1Joey Gallo685489527213.87%39.71%0.2010.3210.49841560.58%
2Jon Singleton420146015114.29%35.95%0.1710.2900.33122553.57%
3Jack Cust257810544381917.18%31.77%0.2420.3740.439136753.03%
4Ryan Schimpf527346917513.09%33.21%0.1950.3170.49227852.75%
5Keon Broxton709297626410.72%37.24%0.2260.3170.42236952.05%
6Chris Carter285315832795111.46%33.33%0.2170.3120.456143650.33%
7Adam Dunn80424431279230515.90%28.66%0.2360.3640.487402750.07%
8Russell Branyan277115734088912.27%32.08%0.2330.3310.483138650.02%
9Kyle Schwarber764469622912.57%29.97%0.2220.3290.47137148.56%
10Jared Sandberg55724551919.87%34.29%0.2250.3050.44127048.47%
11Jeremy Giambi5542510513618.95%24.55%0.2410.3940.46126648.01%
12Chris Davis4701267472150410.04%31.99%0.2460.3280.490224347.71%
13Mark Reynolds5846281661180611.31%30.89%0.2370.3290.455274847.01%
14Steven Souza Jr.15376516448910.67%31.82%0.2360.3250.42671846.71%
15Matt Davidson53229291905.45%35.71%0.2240.2730.44924846.62%
16Kirk Nieuwenhuis11163112336611.02%32.80%0.2210.3110.38452046.59%
17Juan Francisco109148813757.42%34.37%0.2360.2970.43950446.20%
18Mark Bellhorn21176230260614.27%28.63%0.2350.3490.40897045.82%
19Kelly Shoppach1855701556248.36%33.64%0.2230.3120.41384945.77%
20Carlos Pena5821283807156013.86%26.80%0.2310.3460.462265045.52%

That’s quite a list, but what does it tell us? For one, what Joey Gallo is doing may not be sustainable over the long haul. Jack Cust is the only person on this list with more than 1000 PA and a greater than 51 percent Three True Outcomes percentage.

And he’s more than 7 percent lower than Joey Gallo. Only Adam Dunn has more than 3000 and crests 50%. In fact, six of the top ten on this list have fewer than 1000 PAs on their careers. All of them are active players.

How about a visual aid?

Looking at this through a scatter chart we can see the two significant outliers are Adam Dunn and Joey Gallo — when your hope is that you end up being one of two extreme outliers, things aren’t looking too good.

Bobby Dalbec’s early season numbers look much more like Joey Gallo, of course, but the hope is he can eventually transform into something more like Dunn by the time he joins the Boston Red Sox. 

That would require cutting down on the strikeouts. During his prime years, Adam Dunn had strikeout percentages in the range of 25-29% or so.

More from Call to the Pen

Of course, it’s more likely that Bobby Dalbec ends up like one of the other 18 players on the list if he does make the majors. And even if he does, he’ll likely end up in the lower left-hand corner of the chart. That would mean a shorter but potentially productive peak.

What will Bobby Dalbec end up being?

Perhaps something like Chris Davis who struggled to stick as a major league regular in his first three seasons. After being traded to the Baltimore Orioles, he busted out for four highly productive years.

He dropped below league average in 2017 and has been struggling so far this season.

It’s a tricky profile and one that has almost no margin for error. Yeah, it’s possible he ends up an outlier like Dunn and is productive for a long time, but I surely wouldn’t bet on it. He’s probably just as likely to be Jeremy Giambi or Jon Singleton.

Or a career minor leaguer. But maybe Joey Gallo is forging a new sustainable path for the modern game. After all, Bobby Dalbec would slot in at number 2 all time on this list by percentage of TTOs if he was doing this at the major league level with the Boston Red Sox.

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Whatever the future holds, Boston Red Sox fans are rooting for Bobby Dalbec to be the exception. His power is incredibly tantalizing, and even a brief window of it playing at Fenway would be a treat for fans.