The Colorado Rockies are in the throes of what could end up being the worst season in their 19-year existence, but one silver lining in an otherwise lost year could wind up being the selection of outfielder David Dahl
with the 10th overall pick in the 2012 Draft.
"We don't think we have a special player -- we know we have a special player," said Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz, the man in charge of guiding Dahl through his first professional season in the Pioneer League. "The skill set coupled with the intangibles ... this is a special player. It's a matter of him going through the process of growing and developing at the right pace."
Colorado rode a wave of momentum all the way to the World Series in 2007. That team was built largely of homegrown talent meticulously plucked out of the Draft.
The organization now hopes the 18-year-old Dahl can be a building-block player, one who will help the big league club to similar results in the future. Dahl is going about his business with the future in mind, too.
"I believe in myself and [the Rockies] believe in me. That's why they drafted me," said Dahl, who signed with the Rockies on June 12 out of Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Ala. "I just come out and try to have fun and play the game the best I can. Go 100 percent every game.
"That's all that really matters. And hopefully I can move up as quick as I can."
Troy Tulowitzki notwithstanding, Colorado hasn't seen too many first-round picks pay off in recent years. But Dahl, who was billed as one of the best hitting prospects in the Draft, could reverse that trend.
He's off to a terrific start. Heading into a four-game series with Missoula on Thursday, the left-handed hitting Dahl is batting .330 (32-for-97) with a pair of homers, 17 RBIs and 15 runs scored. He has 52 total bases and an OPS of .931.
The book on Dahl is that he has great speed -- both on the bases and in center field. Scouts also say he has a level, compact swing and possesses a strong, accurate arm. Part of the process for Dahl during his time in the Minors is to develop more of a power stroke, and Diaz said it will come around.
"There's a lot to like," Diaz said. "This guy could be a four-and-a-half tool player, maybe five, depending on how his power develops.
"We want him to be a good hitter first, which he has the capability of being. We know the power will come later. He'll be fine."
Dahl originally committed to play baseball at the Auburn University. But in the end he chose to accept a reported $2.6 million signing bonus with the Rockies and began his pro career in earnest.
"I worked out for the Rockies, and I really liked the place," said Dahl, who has been compared to Major League outfielders past and present, like Andy Van Slyke and Colby Rasmus. "That's the team I wanted to get drafted by.
"You couldn't pass up an opportunity like that. It was hard, because I really wanted to go to Auburn, too. I had a good class and a lot of good friends in that class. But I don't regret the decision. I love it."
Opposing Pioneer League managers agree the Rockies have a gem in Dahl, currently the highest 2012 draftee playing in the circuit.
"He's impressive," said Billings skipper Pat Kelly. "For an 18-year-old kid, he's not intimidated by this league at all. He goes up there and has good at-bats. With two strikes he takes the ball the other way, he works the middle of the field and he's shown some pop.
"He's definitely got all the tools."
Still swinging: Orem designated hitter Michael Snyder saw his 18-game hitting streak come to an end July 13. But Snyder picked up where he left off the next night and has hit safely in four consecutive games entering Thursday. Snyder's 18 extra-base hits lead the league, and his .379 average ranks fifth.
Gator bite: Billings outfielder Dan Pigott raised his average a whopping 110 points after going 5-for-6 in a 22-6 victory over Orem on July 13. Pigott, who was drafted in June by the Cincinnati Reds out of the University of Florida, is batting .324.
One-two punch: Through the first month of the season, Great Falls boasts both the No. 1 hitter and pitcher in the league. Outfielder Kyle Robinson is tops in hitting with a .425 average, while right-handed starter Jonathan Casey leads all hurlers with a 4-1 record and a 1.06 ERA. It shouldn't be a surprise that the Voyagers, at 19-10, have the best record in the league.