Bobby Dalbec is crushing it in Triple-A. The corner infielder, who hit 20 home runs this season with the Portland Sea Dogs, is continuing to produce since his promotion to Pawtucket. Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Dalbec was batting .379 with two home runs in his first eight games with the PawSox.

Dalbec, 24, may not be quite ready for major league pitching, but he will no doubt be placed on Boston’s 40-man roster after the season.

You may think it’s early to be considering next year’s 40-man roster, but not for the Red Sox front office – especially when no prospects were dealt at the trade deadline. Some of those prospects will have to be protected by placing them on the 40-man roster.

“We’re constantly having those conversations,” Red Sox Director of Player Development Ben Crockett said. “We solicit recommendations and then we’ll sit down in Boston. … We’ll probably have multiple meetings about it.”

Some of Boston’s prospects – those who have been in the organization four to five years – will have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. The draft, in early December, allows teams to pillage from organizations that have an abundance of prospects. The caveat of the draft is that if a team takes a player, he must remain on the major league 25-man roster for a whole season, or returned to the original team (that’s the process the Baltimore Orioles used to obtain Portland native Ryan Flaherty from the Cubs).

The Red Sox have not had any players taken in the Rule 5 draft since 2016, when the Orioles grabbed outfielder Aneury Tavarez and the Angels drafted pitcher Justin Haley. Tavarez was returned to the Red Sox at the end of spring training. Haley was eventually traded to the Twins and remained in the majors until July, when he was returned to the Red Sox. (Both Haley and Tavarez are now out of the country. Haley signed with the Samsung Tigers in Korea. Tavarez, who began the year with the Sea Dogs, is now playing in the Mexican League.)


The 40-man roster can be tricky to balance. It contains the 25 players on the major league roster, plus players who are called upon during the season, or rehabbing from minor injuries, and minor leaguers who need to be protected.

“You can protect as many as you want, or as few as you want, depending on the roster spots (open), and how things project in the big leagues,” Crockett said.

“We try to weigh the risk. Obviously, we need to make major league acquisitions, but we also potentially lose really good players.”

After the 2012 season, the Red Sox had several prospects who were Rule 5 eligible. Boston added pitchers Alex Wilson, Steven Wright and Allen Webster, catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler, and outfielder Alex Hassan to the 40-man roster. Two relievers from Double-A, Josh Fields and Ryan Pressly, were left off.

Houston drafted Fields. He entered his eighth major league season this year (although he was released by the Rangers in June).

Minnesota drafted Pressly. He flourished with the Twins and was traded last year to the Astros, becoming one of the league’s top relievers.


Who could the Red Sox lose this year, if not protected?

Dalbec is an obvious candidate. He offers the potential of a power bat. He could be overmatched if rushed to the majors but a team – especially a rebuilding club – will gladly give Dalbec time to develop.

Middle infielder C.J. Chatham is not flashy and not a power-hitter. But he is a steady player who, when healthy, hits for average. The Eastern League’s batting leader by 10 points (.297), Chatham was promoted from Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. He seems likely headed to the Red Sox 40-man roster, unless he’s traded in the offseason.

Sea Dogs left-hander Daniel McGrath has pitched his way into consideration this year. He has an 0.67 ERA in 12 starts with Portland.

Another Sea Dogs lefty, Dedgar Jimenez, has been passed over in previous Rule 5 drafts, but he is finding new life as a reliever (2.95 ERA/0.98 WHIP).

Outfielder Marcus Wilson was obtained from Arizona in the Blake Swihart deal. He would be a gamble for any team to draft. Wilson has speed, but only recently began hitting Double-A pitching (.284 in his last 26 games).


Power-hitting first baseman Josh Ockimey swatted 20 home runs last year, but was left unprotected, and was not drafted. Eligible again, Ockimey has 22 homers with Pawtucket, but is batting only .213.

Utility infielder Jeremy Rivera would be a long shot. He’s a superb infielder at three positions, but is hitting only .238 in Double-A.

Among the other eligible pitchers, left-handers Kyle Hart and right-hander Eduard Bazardo are considerations.

Hart is a crafty pitcher with a sneaky fastball. He finally reached Triple-A on May 28 and has been dependable in 14 games (11 starts), with a 3.93 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

Bazardo is a late-developing prospect. He dominated in Salem (1.76 ERA/0.98 WHIP), with 53 strikeouts in 41 innings. In Portland, he overcame a slow start to be lights-out lately (four straight scoreless outings). In Double-A, he has a 3.75 ERA/1.42 WHIP, with 26 strikeouts in 24 innings.

The Red Sox minor league system has taken hits in recent years with trades to improve the major league roster, but there are still prospects worth holding onto. The Red Sox must decide which ones.

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