Our observations come through a combination of spending parts of each of the past four (going on five) seasons on the ground on the backfields at spring training and through our regular reporting from Rookie-Level Grand Junction, talking to coaches, scouts, and journalists both on and off the record. Of course, countless hours are spent on MiLB.tv and combing over public reports from other credible sources.
Dahl was labeled a potential five-tool player before being selected by the Rockies with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft. He has shown all five tools throughout a minor league career that had it's ups and downs, the latter mostly due to freak injuries. The most famous of these cost Dahl his spleen, but, as he told us last year when he came on the BSN Rockies Podcast, there was no hesitation on his part when he was told that surgery would get him back on the field faster. We also chatted about how the fifth tool to come around -- his power -- manifest shortly thereafter in a big way and how it felt to take a Kenley Jansen cutter at his eyes out of the park.
2016 was a huge year for Dahl, who worked so hard to get himself healthy and ready for the call, took a couple of weeks to destroy Triple-A and then made his MLB debut, beginning his big league career with a record-tying 17-game hit streak. It was a nice bit of symmetry for Dahl who set a hit-streak record in Grand Junction four seasons prior. Though, that one was broken the next season by Raimel Tapia.
Naturally, it was a bit of a letdown when Dahl learned that he would miss most of spring training 2017, with a back issue. Though Bud Black says he expects Dahl to "increase activity" very soon, and Thomas Harding followed up with a report saying Dahl has been pain-free for a while and the most recent MRI came back positive.
But what can we really expect from Dahl in 2017? The sky is really the limit.
There are those who believe his inflated BABIP numbers will come back down, which will almost certainly happen to some degree. But his BABIP in MLB was only about 50 points higher than it was in his minor league career, so we aren't expecting some huge fall off, though it would be surprising to see him bat .315 for the whole year. Something in the .280-.290 range seems more likely and is entirely acceptable if the power continues to develop and the speed plays.
It has also been argued that his seven home runs from a year ago were a bit of an aberration from his previous rates, but this misses that the power was consistent throughout all of last season, merely emerging late in the MiLB career of a tall, thin player who is still 22-years-old. This is still the part of his game to keep an eye on, though his speed and the big outfield at Coors should amount to a hefty slugging percentage even if he never develops the 20-home run power that many -- us included -- believe he will.
Something we really didn't see from Dahl last year in the Majors was the speed that oftentimes caused nightmares for opponents in the minors. With Tony Diaz in place as the new Rockies first base coach, we expect Dahl could challenge for a 20 stolen base season.
He is also built perfectly to play outfield at Coors Field, with near-elite level speed and a strong, accurate throwing arm that would play just fine in right field, if the Rockies didn't already have Carlos Gonzalez over there.
David Dahl can comfortably hit in any spot in the lineup, play any position in the outfield, hit the ball to all fields, hit for power, and can cause all kinds of havoc on the base paths. His work ethic and natural talent are off the charts. As astounding as Trevor Story was a year ago, to us, Dahl is the more polished player with the higher ceiling. That really feels like splitting hairs at this point, but that's just how good the Rockies young talent is.