Leadership is going to have to come from all ages on Arizona’s baseball team. Freshmen Bobby Dalbec and Michael Hoard are two strong candidates to land starting roles in the infield this year on the club.
Hoard has been starting at first base during fall intrasquad scrimmages and practices, while Dalbec has been getting time at third base. Both have powerful swings and the potential to be real offensive threats.
Dalbec was ranked as the 43rd-best prospect in this year’s freshman class by Baseball America.
“Bobby Dalbec, ever since he’s stepped on campus, he’s come in with a desire to be an impact freshman,” assistant coach Matt Siegel said. “He’s going to have an opportunity to do that both as a corner infielder and as a pitcher.”
Siegel said that he sees similarities between a few of this year’s freshmen and last season’s freshmen, specifically Dalbec and Kevin Newman.
Newman, Arizona’s starting shortstop, was the only freshman to start every game last season and finished the season with a .336 batting average, six doubles, three triples and 42 RBIs.
Siegel said that he believes that there is a possibility that Dalbec will be on a similar path. However, the challenging part is that there are still a lot of unknown factors with a freshman talent. The difference between the high school and collegiate level of play is dramatic, and only time will tell.
“I haven’t secured anything yet,” Dalbec said, “but it would definitely feel rewarding after working hard all fall. It’s really exciting to be able to fight for this opportunity to start.”
Dalbec’s versatility extends to the mound, as he can also pitch. With a fastball reaching the low 90s, coaches have been impressed with Dalbec’s bullpen sessions.
As a batter, Dalbec possesses solid bat speed. Arizona coaches have been impressed with his approach at the plate and his ability to lift the ball.
Defensively, Dalbec has everything a coach would look for in a infielder: a strong arm and quick hands with a smooth transfer and release.
“So far, Dalbec has done a great job defensively, has shown he can be a valuable offensive asset and has put himself in a real position to be a really impactful, two-way player,” Siegel said. “He’s a legitimate candidate to be our starting third baseman as a true freshman.”
Hoard, a Tucson native who, committed to the Arizona before the 2012 National Championship, will bring a smooth, powerful bat to the lineup. In his high school career, Hoard hit .448 with 38 doubles, nine triples, 25 homeruns and 118 RBI over 92 games played.
“Comparing this season to last season, we’re missing some power threat in the lineup,” Siegel said. “I think [Hoard] brings that to the table as a left-handed batter. He’s a confident hitter and has a very good offensive skill set.”
This past week in practice, Hoard made shock waves by hitting a homerun over 400 feet to straight away center field at Hi Corbett field.
“I feel like we are a strong [freshman] class,” Hoard said. “I think we are going to contribute to this team in a really special way.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17