Rockies rookie outfielder David Dahl has gotten off to a tremendous start to his MLB career by hitting .370 through his first 13 games. While the former first-round pick still has holes in his game to shore up, he is a good bet to be a force in the Rockies lineup for years to come. He is the subject of this week’s MLB Rookie Watch.
While all eyes in the Mile High City have deservedly been on future-Hall-of-Famer Ichiro Suzuki collecting his 3,000th big league hit, another hot story has been simmering in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado – the story of rookie Rockies outfielder David Dahl and the torrid way he’s started his major league career.
Since being called up by the Rockies on July 25th, the 22-year-old outfielder has gotten a hit in 13 straight games, including five multi-hit games, and his streak has put him in some pretty rare company.
During the stretch, Dahl has also hit three home runs, scored 12 runs and been one of the catalysts to a resurgent Rockies club which has clawed it’s way back into the National League Wild Card race.
While Dahl’s incredible run has been fueled by an unsustainable and ridiculous .486 BABIP, he has the pedigree, work ethic and the luxury of hitting in the majors most-offense-friendly ballpark as indicators that he will continue to hit well in the majors.
Dahl was the first-round selection of the Rockies in 2012 (10th overall) out of Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, AL and has been aggressively pushed through their minor league system.
The scouting book on him is pretty unanimous: he has a lot of tools.
Five to be exact.
Swinging from the left side, he uses quick hands and plus bat speed to hit line drives to all fields and should hit for a high average at the major league level.
An aggressive hitter, he has had issues with contact at times in the minors and has a 28.6 K% so far in the majors, but has worked hard to improve his approach at the plate and has shown more of a willingness to take a walk this year.
As he continues to grow and strengthen, scouts think that he could hit 25 home runs a year – and maybe more – given the Coors Field effect.
In addition, he has plus speed and good instincts on the base paths and is an above average defender in center field with a strong, accurate arm.
In short – he is the total package offensively and defensively and has the ceiling of an elite player with the potential to go 20/20 with regularity and even 30/30 in his best years.
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In addition to his five-tool package on the field, Dahl has tremendous makeup and is a hard worker committed to improving his game.
"“He loves the game. I mean absolutely loves it. And he works so hard.I wanted to be with somebody who drives me, who takes nothing for granted. David was the perfect fit.”"
Despite his hot start, Dahl is far from a finished product and does have a few areas of concern and some short-term obstacles in his path to future stardom.
One of them is that some scouts are concerned that he is an injury-prone player and question his durability.
Last season’s outfield collision with teammate Juan Ciriaco at Double-A New Britain that ruptured his spleen can be forgiven as an unfortunate accident. But in 2013 he missed most of the year with a torn hamstring and last season was suffering from knee tendinitis that forced him to miss playing in the Arizona Fall League.
The injuries coupled with the Rockies swift movement of Dahl through the system means that he still needs quite a bit of polishing and he’ll likely go through some growing pains in the big leagues.
His development has not quite caught up to his tools, which makes his great start even more impressive and may in fact signal that he is further along than many analysts previously thought.
There may be playing time issues on the horizon as well.
The activation of Gerardo Parra on Sunday leaves the Rockies with four starting outfielders: Parra, Dahl, Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. A platoon-situation isn’t in the cards either, as all four are lefties, with reserve southpaw-killer, Ryan Raburn, as the lone right-handed outfield bat.
Fellow prospect, Raimel Tapia, who took Dahl’s spot in the AFL last autumn, is knocking on the door to the big leagues himself and will add a fifth outfielder to the mix in the near future.
Tapia, who like Dahl, is a 22-year-old who swings from the left side, was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday and is slashing .323/.363./.450 on the season.
Long-term, the outfield situation should clear up some, as Rockies manager Walt Weiss has intimated that Gonzalez might make the move to first base next year, a move that Gonzalez seems fine with.
And of course, the Rockies may choose to once again, like they did last off-season when they dealt Corey Dickerson to the Tampa Bay Rays, shop one of their talented outfielders for help elsewhere.
At some point soon though, Dahl will have an outfield spot all his own to man, (he’s been playing left, but is a true center fielder) and when that happens he should flourish in his full-time role.
He is certainly no slam dunk to reach his ceiling – the vast majority of prospects aren’t – but I see a player who will be a force in the middle of the Rockies lineup and who will play in his fair share of All-Star games.
So don’t be surprised if David Dahl continues to keep hitting, this year, and for many years to come.