The Situation: Brandon Barnes isn’t very good. The Rockies had a guy in Triple-A with an OPS above 1.400. Colorado will rectify the situation by sending Barnes out of town and calling up that prospect. His name is David Dahl.
Background: Dahl was a standout in high school, putting up big numbers at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, performing well at showcase events, and earning comparisons to Dustin Ackley. At the time, that was a compliment. The Rockies swooped him up with the tenth pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, and after hitting .379 in short-season Grand Junction, expectations were huge for his first professional season. Unfortunately, 2013 was a lost season, as he was suspended for missing a flight, and then missed all but ten games after tearing a hamstring. He came back strong in 2014 with a .827 OPS in stops at Asheville and Modesto. 2015 was another tough season for the young outfielder, as he suffered a ruptured spleen after a collision in the outfield, and posted a pedestrian .278/.304/.417 line in Double-A New Britain. Once again, Dahl bounced back beautifully, hitting .278 with 13 homers in Hartford, and then crushing Triple-A pitching to a borderline unrealistic tune of .484/.529/.887 in Albuquerque before earning his call-up.
Scouting Report: When Dahl was drafted, he was considered a hit-first prospect, and that hit tool is still impressive. He has plus bat speed, and he stays balanced through his swing to give him the ability to hit the ball hard all over the park. There is some swing-and-miss here, and although he works counts and will draw his fair share of walks, he doesn’t shorten up well when behind, and he’ll put up his share of strikeouts. Once on base, his plus speed is an asset and he’s capable of stealing 20 to 30 bases a year if he’s on base enough to try it. He should be.
Dahl has gotten stronger every year, but his power has taken a big jump forward in 2016. That added strength along with more incorporation of his lower half. Has turned his once average to a tick-above power grade into an above-average one, maybe even plus. It’s mostly to the pull-side, but he’s strong enough now to take the ball out to left-center on occasion and he’ll put plenty of balls into that gap, which should give him plenty of doubles.
It is likely Dahl is going to play left field for the Rockies, which is sort of a waste, because he’s a pretty good centerfielder. He takes good routes to the baseball, and his athleticism plays well in the middle of the outfield. His arm is above average and accurate, so if he was to move to right at some point in his career, he should be fine there. If the Rockies do decide to keep Charlie Blackmon in center and Carlos Gonzalez in right, he could be among the best left fielders in baseball.
Immediate Big-League Future: As I’m 90 percent certain the fantasy take will say just below this, Dahl is going to get to play in Coors Field, and you can’t help but factor that into his immediate big-league future. That being said, even if he was going to play in Safeco Field, I’d have some optimism towards his outlook, there’s just a lot to like here. My one concern would be that there are going to be a plethora of strikeouts here, and it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the quality left-handed pitching he’s about to see in the NL West. The upside is a first-division centerfielder who can be a 20/30 player. The floor is a quality bench bat that can provide some pop and competent defense at all three outfield positions. You could do a heck of a lot worse. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Take: Limited by injuries the previous two seasons, the 22-year-old’s meteoric rise to Coors Field has been highlighted by stellar performance across two minor-league levels, hitting .314/.394/.569 with 49 extra-base hits (18 home runs) and 17 stolen bases over 400 plate appearances, and a Futures Game appearance earlier this month. Following an absurd 16-game stint (.412 TAv) at Triple-A Albuquerque, fittingly the city where Vince Gilligan filmed Breaking Bad, the Rockies front office decided they had #BetterCallDahl
The Alabama native’s power, which he generates with a seemingly effortless line-drive approach, should easily manifest into a plethora of extra-base hits and 20-plus home runs per season in Colorado. Aggressive on the basepaths, his propensity to swipe the occasional base will naturally lend itself to a Starling Marte or A.J. Pollock-like vibe, in terms of fantasy upside, as a five-category contributor in his prime.
It remains to be seen whether his aggressiveness at the plate and propensity to strike out (96:45 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season) will be exploited by major-league pitching right out of the gate. However, Dahl’s immense raw talent juxtaposed with Coors Field is a match made in fantasy heaven both in a short and long-term context. In re-draft formats where he hasn’t been stashed, Dahl is the type of impact hitter worth sinking the remainder of a franchise’s FAAB on. —George Bissell
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