David Dahl first appeared on prospect lists back in 2013 as a top 60 entrant across the industry. Injuries limited him to just 10 games that year so he fell back to the bottom 30 on lists, but then inched back up for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, settling firmly in the top 50 before expiring his rookie status in the summer of ’16. He was again cut down by injuries for almost an entire season when he played just 19 games in 2017. He found his way back on the MLB roster this year in late-April, but again found himself bit by the injury bug as a fractured foot ate up two months in the middle of the season.
Dahl returned in early-August and become a fixture in the Colorado outfield, smacking 12 HR in 174 PA. All told with April and May included, it was a .273/.325/.534 line with 16 HR and 5 SB in 271 PA, including a bananas September with 9 HR. His .859 OPS actually matches exactly what he put up in 237 PA back in 2016, but this time we got nine more homers. He now has 23 HR and 10 SB in 508 PA over his two samples and with both Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra heading into free agency, he might finally have a full-time role in hand entering his age-25 season.
I’m really excited at the prospects of what Dahl could do in a full season of work and as such, I pushed him way up my outfielder board in hopes of landing him during my NFBC draft at the AFL. I wound up boosting him to 22 and stiiillll didn’t get him because Matt Modica popped him at pick 64. Obviously, he’s not any kind of sleeper and I didn’t expect him to be, but I’m wondering if maybe I should tap the brakes on taking the oft-injured potential stud within the top 70 picks.
Putting aside the 67 games he played in 2012 after being drafted, he’s averaging just 80 games a year over the last six seasons with a high of 119 back in 2014. While he may have the opportunity to play as much as he can handle if the Rockies don’t re-sign either or both of their free agent outfielders, should we really expect him to be able to handle more than, say, 115-120 games?
The skills profile isn’t exactly flawless, either. I’m admittedly looking at two disjointed samples that kinda equal a full season, but there’s some real swing and miss here. Among the 313 players with at least 250 PA, Dahl’s 40% chase rate (O-Swing%) was 25th highest this past season and he’s 37th of 380 with 500+ PA since 2016. Looking at the full sample again, his 15% swinging strike rate is 25th (and it was at 15% in both ’16 and ’18). Coors Field is the best place to hit and can provide cover for those kinds of contact issues, but unless he’s running a top of the scale BABIP, the AVG upside is realistically around .280. He hit .315 in the 2016 sample, but needed a .404 BABIP to do so.
Speaking of Coors, he’s run a pretty heavy home-road split so far. I don’t want to weigh that too heavily against him because he’s still going to be a Rockie (barring something unforeseen), but it’s worth noting that he has a 261-point OPS split. He has exactly 117 PA on the road in both samples and they’re wildly disparate in results with the BABIP seemingly driving all of it. In 2016, he had an .833 OPS on the road with a .384 BABIP. In 2018, he was at .597 with a .261 BABIP.
I think the game changer on whether or not Dahl can be a top 75 stud is the speed. If he can run near his minor league level of 26 SB per 600 PA (say, 18-20), then I don’t care if he hits .265 because we’re probably getting something like 28 HR and 20 SB over a full season, but his injury track record makes it hard to expect a big SB total. A lot of stealing bases is player choice. If they’re dealing with a nagging injury or three, the red light comes on quickly. He was just 5-for-8 in the majors this year and his Spd score dropped from 7.7 in 2016 to 4.9 this year.
Acuña: .293 AVG, 26 HR, 78 R, 64 RBI, 16 SB
Polanco: .254 AVG, 23 HR, 75 R, 81 RBI, 12 SB
That spans 57th to 114th on the ESPN Player Rater.
If Dahl holds his #2EarlyMock ADP of 148, we’re golden, but I just can’t see that happening. Even jumping a couple rounds to 115-120, I’m still in. He likely won’t sit at the 64 spot that Modica took him, either, but after he undoubtedly appears on 7,183 sleeper lists this winter, I think he’ll sit in the 75-100 range. On the latter end of that, I think I’ll still go for a share or two, but I’ve reconsidered going all in on Dahl.