The No. 1 prospect in the Boston Red Sox farm system returns to Hadlock Field Thursday, and we can think of two questions:

Is third baseman Michael Chavis ready to play?

How soon will his replacement arrive in Portland?

Third baseman Bobby Dalbec, it appears, is ready to join the Double-A ranks. He is dominating in advanced Class A Salem, leading minor league baseball in RBI (75) and ranking third in home runs (21).

Early this season, Dalbec was a home run-or-nothing hitter, batting .217 in April and May with 10 home runs and 62 strikeouts. The strikeouts continued in June (35), but he also batted .244 and hit another five home runs.

In July, Dalbec is batting .486 (18 for 37) with five doubles, a triple and six home runs – and only eight strikeouts.

On Tuesday, he went 4 for 4 with two homers and five RBI.

“He’s strong, has great bat speed and really uses his lower half well to create power,” said Ben Crockett, Red Sox director of player development.

“His approach has continued to get better as the season has progressed, doing a better job identifying how teams are attacking him and understanding what he does well. He can exploit (while) less frequently swinging at pitches he doesn’t handle well.”

Dalbec, who turned 23 two weeks ago, was a fourth-round draft pick out of the University of Arizona in 2016. He was a star pitcher and infielder, but the Red Sox liked his bat. In short-season Lowell that year, Dalbec batted .386 with seven home runs in 34 games.

In 2017, a broken hamate bone restricted his season in Salem to 78 games (.246, 13 home runs).

Now he’s healthy and improving. And with 161 games in Salem over two seasons, it may be time for a flight to Portland.

The only issue is the return of Chavis, who has finished an 80-game suspension after a positive test for steroids. He came back last week and played five games for Lowell (four doubles, one homer) and two for the Sea Dogs in Hartford (0 for 8).

Chavis, who turns 23 in August, began to play a little first base (nine games) in the Arizona Fall League in 2017 – designed in part because rookie Rafael Devers had taken over the starting role at third base for the Red Sox.

If Dalbec is promoted to Portland, the Sea Dogs could have a trio of Boston’s best power-hitting prospects, along with Chavis and first baseman Josh Ockimey. The trio could rotate in the lineup, with each taking a turn at DH.

That would liven things up at Hadlock.

THE OTHER POWER hitter emerging in the Red Sox system is 20-year-old Marino Campana, who has 14 home runs for low Class A Greenville. He is batting .250 with 75 strikeouts, but he was batting .191 in April, and his strikeout numbers have decreased every month.

Campana, from the Dominican Republic, was signed as a 16-year-old and handed a $100,000 signing bonus. Campana was 6-foot-4, 180 pounds. He’s now up to 195 pounds, according to

Campana has a chance to break the Greenville home run record of 21, held by three players: Ryan Lavarnway (2009), Jon Still (2007) and Andrew Pinckney (2005).

ONLY ONE Red Sox prospect will take part in the MLB Futures Game Sunday in Washington, D.C.: Salem right-hander Bryan Mata will pitch for the World team. Mata, 19, from Venezuela, is 6-2 with a 3.42 ERA. It would be a longshot to see him in Portland this year. He has yet to pitch more than 52/3 innings in a single game, and his control remains an issue (60 strikeouts, 57 walks).

SPEAKING OF prospects, the talent-laden New Hampshire Fisher Cats make their first Hadlock Field appearance of the year Thursday, starting a four-game series. But Vladimir Guerrero Jr., considered the best prospect in the minors, is unlikely to be in Portland. Guerrero, who was hitting .407 with 11 home runs, 55 RBI and a 1.124 OPS in 53 games when he strained a knee on June 6, has been rehabbing in Florida. According to the Toronto Sun, he will be promoted to Triple-A once off the disabled list.

The Fisher Cats still have other recognizable names, including second baseman Cavan Biggio (19 home runs) and shortstop Bo Bichette. Biggio is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, and Bichette is the son of former major league player Dante Bichette.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases