It seems like every offseason for the past three or four years, one of the Colorado Rockies’ biggest questions has been the role of talented young outfielder David Dahl in the coming season. This offseason is no different.
At first glance, Dahl’s spot as a starting outfielder in 2019 seems guaranteed. Not only is the Alabama native one of the most talented all-around players in the Colorado Rockies‘ system, but he was one of baseball’s hottest hitters in September, smashing nine home runs and driving in 27 RBI in 21 starts.
Dahl was at his best in the final week of the season, a week which could have ended with Colorado’s first division title if it went well or could have ended with the Rockies missing the playoffs entirely if it went poorly. Dahl carried the team to a 6-1 record over that week, hitting .333 with six home runs, 15 RBI, and a 1.375 OPS including an impressive 1.000 slugging percentage. He earned National League Player of the Week honors for this performance.
Dahl’s performance helped the Rockies to the highest finish they’ve ever had after 162 games in their division … a tie for first place. Unfortunately, they’d go on to lose the tie breaker with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the fact that they battled all season with the now-back-to-back National League Champions and forced a Game 163 to decide the division winner is impressive on its own.
After battling injuries in 2018, Dahl came up clutch when he was needed the most, hit a career high in home runs (16) and RBI (48), and brought speed to the base paths, so why wouldn’t he be an automatic starter in 2019? Well, there are a couple things to take into account.
More from Rox Pile
- A Colorado Rockies Thanksgiving
- Colorado Rockies: What if Todd Helton had played football instead?
- Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon out for the season
- Colorado Rockies: Injuries shift look of roster ahead of Dodgers series
- Colorado Rockies: Has Sean Bouchard earned a second look in 2023?
Dahl has never been able to stay healthy. Interestingly, this is not some sort of recurring injury, but instead a continual tendency to fall victim to fluke accidents that have at times sidelined him for entire seasons. That was the case after his terrific 2016 rookie campaign. Dahl was considered a candidate to compete for a starting spot in the outfield but injuries prevented him from playing a single big league game in 2017.
Health isn’t Dahl’s only question mark, though. After tearing the cover off the ball all September, Dahl didn’t get another hit for the rest of the season. He went 0-for-3 with a walk against the Dodgers in Game 163, 0-for-6 against the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card Game, and 0-for-4 against Milwaukee in Game 1 of the NLDS. Despite being the Rockies’ hottest hitter coming into the postseason, Dahl did not start the last two games of the NLDS, only appearing as a pinch hitter in Game 2, grounding out to end the game.
The Rockies’ decision to give the guy who just collected six home runs and 15 RBI over the past week only one at-bat over two of the three NLDS games might not reflect on his playing time next season, but it does show that even with his offensive outburst in September, the Rockies still don’t entirely trust Dahl.
To be fair, Dahl was in the midst of an 0-for-13 skid and it makes sense to sit a player when they are struggling that bad. However, no one in the Rockies’ lineup was hitting in those five games. In the second game of the NLDS, the Rockies as a team got only one hit. So the decision to sit the guy who had been the team’s best hitter leading up to October just because he was one of eight guys in the same boat is further indication of the Rockies’ reluctance to trust their young position players and could be a sign that Dahl won’t be trusted with an everyday job next spring.
But I think we’ll see him in the starting lineup on opening day, barring injury. Everything else aside, Dahl has shown incredible hitting ability, easy power, natural speed, and strong defense. If he gets a shot at an everyday job and stays healthy, Dahl will be one more crucial piece to the Rockies’ success and a name a lot of people around Major League Baseball are going to know by the end of next season.