Up until this season, injuries had been the most consistent part of David Dahl's career. But these days, the Yard Goats outfielder is starting to show consistency at the plate.
The Rockies' No. 3 prospect, who was limited to 73 Eastern League games last season after losing his spleen following a collision with a New Britain teammate while both were trying to make a catch, has come out strong in 2016 with five homers in his first 11 games for Hartford.
Even though it was hard for Dahl to hear and read things like "injury prone" about him -- in 2013 he missed almost all of his first full season in professional baseball with a torn hamstring -- he has since learned to put that stuff behind him as easily as a bad at-bat and, now armed with a new mind-set in his second run at Double-A ball, Dahl is producing like the Rockies thought he eventually could.
"It is motivation when you see it," Dahl said of comments questioning his health. "But it is something I do try not to look at. You want to stay healthy, but it is hard. I've had some freak injuries, something you can't control. It happens, but it's made me a better player and a better person because of it."
"Like most young kids, when things didn't go right they are frustrated and they [bring] it to the next at-bat," said Hartford manager Darin Everson. "What I've noticed so far this year . . . when stuff doesn't go right, he turns the page. His mind is clear, he's into his next at-bat or his next play. That's the kind of progression that we all want to see from our players."
Dahl, 22, worked on his new approach in the offseason, when he spent time at Colorado's Spring Training facilities in Scottsdale, Arizona, alongside Yard Goats teammate Ryan McMahon and Rockies No. 11 prospect Trevor Story, who has started the season in record-setting fashion for Colorado.
Being around good friends with similar goals has helped Dahl stay true to his offseason regimen, something that he parlayed into an invite to big league camp, where he learned key lessons.
"I worked on trying to get my strength back and working on my swing, trying to come into Spring Training ready with my swing," Dahl said. "Big league camp was a great experience. All the guys were great, it was a good learning experience. Learning from guys like [Carlos Gonzalez] and seeing how they go about their business helped me."
Dahl, MLB.com's No. 44 overall prospect, set himself up to come out swinging, hitting a league-high-tying five home runs through his first eight games this year. He had just six homers in 73 games with Double-A New Britain last season.
Despite his strong start, Dahl knows he still has a lot of work to do, admitting that he must "cut down on some strikeouts. I have a little too many of those."
While Dahl did strike out 12 times over his first 23 plate appearances, he is already showing his new state of mind. He has pinpointed a problem and addressed it, striking out just three times in his last five games.
"Maturity is the key word, but it's a lot of being mentally mature, being able to turn the page into the next thing," Everson said.
Dahl hopes to avoid injuries while contributing toward Hartford having a good season.
"[I'm] just trying to play the whole year, trying to stay healthy and just trying to help the team win in whatever way I can," Dahl said. "I feel pretty good with it being so early in the season."
Still booming in Bowie: Trey Mancini is on pace to go yard every other day for Bowie. The Orioles' No. 6 prospect is tied with Dahl for the league lead with five home runs over 10 games. A midseason call-up by the Baysox a year ago, the outfielder has now hit 18 homers in 94 games with Bowie.
Old glory: Looking to reach the Majors for the first time since 2013, 33-year-old Alberto Gonzalez refuses to go down swinging, or standing around. Through his first seven games, the Erie infielder has struck out once in 33 at-bats. Despite not walking yet, he has collected 11 hits, including four doubles.
Smoothly navigating: Portland right-hander Aaron Wilkerson has impressed over his first three starts, allowing just one run on six hits and three walks over 16 2/3 innings. The Cumberland University product, who has an 11.9 K/9 ratio thus far, leads the league with 22 strikeouts as well as a 0.54 WHIP. In 10 starts with Portland dating back to last August, Wilkerson is 5-1 with a 2.04 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings.
Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com.