David Dahl’s time has come for the Colorado Rockies.
The 24-year-old Colorado Rockies outfielder homered for the third game in a row Wednesday night, his 13th on the year in only 230 at-bats. The hot streak has officially cemented Dahl’s place in the starting lineup for not only this year, but most likely for next year and the years to come as well.
Dahl has faced two major obstacles throughout his career: Health and competition. Finally, he is at a point where he is both healthy enough and proven enough that he is being allowed to start in the outfield every day. Dahl has taken the torch as Charlie Blackmon’s corner man from the once-great Carlos Gonzalez, who seems to be relegated to fourth outfielder status for the rest of the season (if not his career).
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Dahl’s injury history is well documented: He had finally reached the Majors in 2016 after dealing with a variety of injuries in the minors, only to lose all of 2017 to a spring training rib injury that refused to heal. After missing an entire season, Dahl had to start 2018 back in the minors, needing to prove himself all over again.
On April 22, Dahl was called up after Gonzales hit the disabled list and Gerardo Parra began serving his suspension for this bench-clearing incident from earlier in the month. Dahl performed well with the opportunity and was hitting a solid .275/.309/.793 with and OPS+ of 116 when, on May 30, he fouled a ball off his foot and found himself sidelined yet again.
Since his return at the beginning of August, Dahl has upped his overall line to .274/.331/.511 for an OPS+ of 128. He’s been even better in September, with five homers, a .902 OPS and an OPS+ of 146.
While this sample size may be small, it seems that, most importantly, Dahl has gained the confidence of his manager. Bud Black is willing to play Dahl against both righties and lefties and at any outfield position. Black has also had the confidence to hit Dahl third in the order in the last four games and six out of the last seven.
While his recent numbers have been excellent, the fact is that it is still a relatively small sample size and we haven’t ever seen what Dahl can do over a full season. Perhaps he hasn’t been unlucky but is instead perpetually brittle and we never will see a 600 plate appearance season from him. It’s unlikely but possible.
Still though, the idea of that is tantalizing. If Dahl were to play a full season the way that he has this last month, he would hit 40 homers and drive in 145 runs. As crazy as those numbers may be, there are reasons to be optimistic about Dahl’s future.
Next year, he will finally be coming in to a season as an incumbent starter. Both Gonzalez and Parra are likely at the end of the run with Colorado but, even if they return, Dahl is clearly ahead of them on the depth chart. Not only that, but he’ll (presumably) get a full Major League spring training for the first time in his career.
It is quite possible that 2019 is the year that David Dahl finally realizes the potential that Rockies fans have been teased with for years.