Every player may be looking forward to the new year and new opportunities in 2014, but perhaps none more than Rockies center field prospect David Dahl.
The native of Birmingham, Ala., the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft out of high school, was the Rookie-level Pioneer League's Most Valuable Player that summer, batting .379/.423/.625 with nine homers, 10 triples and 12 stolen bases in 67 games for Grand Junction. He headed to his first Spring Training just shy of his 19th birthday as the Rockies' top prospect.
The 2013 campaign did not go nearly as smoothly for Dahl. Instead of suiting up for Class A Asheville, he spent much of April in extended spring training after missing a team flight, raising questions about his maturity. When he joined the Tourists in late April, he played just 10 games before suffering a serious hamstring injury that kept him out the rest of the season.
Despite the setbacks, Dahl remains an intriguing prospect, ranked No. 55 by MLB.com. He's an above-average center fielder with a strong arm, good speed and fine instincts at the plate, and he won't turn 20 until April 1. Though Dahl missed a lot of baseball in 2013, he still learned a lot about being a baseball player.
MiLB.com: First of all: Alabama or Auburn?
David Dahl: Auburn. I've always been an Auburn fan, plus I was set to play there before the Rockies drafted me. Addison Russell and Colin Rodgers were in my recruiting class, which would have been pretty fun.
MiLB.com: How's your leg doing?
Dahl: It's 100 percent. I've had no problems, no trouble with it since maybe October.
MiLB.com: When it happened, did you have a sense of how serious an injury it was?
Dahl: I knew it was pretty bad. I heard the hamstring pop, went down and had to be helped off the field. If it had been something minor, I'd have at least made it to first and limped off, but for a while there I could barely walk.
MiLB.com: I imagine you've never had such an extended time where you couldn't play.
Dahl: It was really discouraging, especially at first. I went out to [the Rockies' facility in] Arizona and was doing really basic rehab stuff for two or three months before I started to feel all right. Eventually I was able to start jogging and ultimately swinging a bat. My roommate was Sam Mende, who had also pulled his hamstring around the same time -- it was a big help to have someone going through the same process.
Around the time that everyone else was going to fall instructs, the Rockies and my agent set me up at this training facility in California called Sparta Performance Science. For about eight weeks, they had me doing two-a-day workouts four days a week, plus a fifth day with one workout. It was pretty intense, and I'm in the best shape I've ever been. I'm going to head back out there in a week or so and spend another month there before heading to Spring Training.
MiLB.com: You had a tremendous debut with Grand Junction in 2012. Was there anything about the pro game surprising for you? How did you handle the transition to wood bats?
Dahl: It was really smooth. I'd had experience with wooden bats in summer leagues, so I was pretty comfortable with that aspect, and playing with the USA National Team had already exposed me to some top pitching.
MiLB.com: Even before your hamstring injury, your season got off to a rough start when the Rockies unexpectedly sent you to extended spring training, reportedly for missing a flight. As a first-round pick, you're under a lot of scrutiny at a pretty young age. Have people been largely supportive of you or has it been difficult?
Dahl: My friends and family have all been really supportive, which is the main thing. I know other people have said other things, but I try not to dwell on that. Like everyone, I'm learning from my mistakes. Some people might consider 2013 a lost year for me, but I honestly think that it's made me a better person and ultimately maybe a better ballplayer too.
MiLB.com: I'm guessing from growing up in Alabama you were a Braves fan? Who were your favorite players as a kid?
Dahl: I liked the Braves and also the Yankees. As for favorite players ... probably Jacoby Ellsbury. He's a great center fielder, he can hit for power, he can run -- he's the kind of player I'd like to become.
MiLB.com: Your injury meant that you were able to avoid things like 800-mile bus trips from, say, Savannah to Lakewood this season. What do you do on the bus to pass the time?
Dahl: We had some 15-hour rides when I was in Grand Junction. Mainly I try to sleep, but I got an iPad, so hopefully I'll be able to watch movies or at least listen to music this year.