The Rockies’ offense is like a stubborn twenty-year-old car on a frigid winter morning. It needs a jump.
But it doesn’t look like significant help is coming through a free agency, as the team says it has no plans to contract a free agent for a lot of money. A boost could come through a trade, but that would likely mean trading with Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story. That scenario is one step forward, two steps back.
However, there is already one player on the roster who could potentially provide the spark and extra power the Rockies so badly need: outfielder David Dahl.
The important word here is ‘potential’. Because Dahl’s sweet swing and considerable outfield skills were obscured by his well-documented injury problems.
“I know I can be a good player,” said Dahl, 26, towards the end of a 2020 season marred by an oblique load and a right shoulder injury that required surgery. He played in only 24 games with only 99 at bats, hitting .183 (17-for-93) with no home runs, two doubles and two triples.
‘I know I’ve been successful while I’m here. It’s a matter of availability and being on the field. But I really need to sit down this off-season and figure out a little bit of what to do to figure out my body. “
Manager Bud Black believes Dahl is on the right track and said the messages he has received are encouraging.
“David’s rehab is going smoothly and his strength is great,” said Black. “I expect a big bounceback from David. He is a major reason why our transgression will turn it around. He is too talented a player not to. “
Colorado’s offense, despite playing at Coors Field, was not only one of the worst in the majors in 2020, but it was also one of the worst in the history of the franchise. The Rockies’ .311 on-base percentage ranked 25th in the majors and was the worst in club history. Their team OPS of .716 was ranked 18th and was also the worst in franchise history. Plus, Colorado hit only 63 home runs, finishing 22nd in baseball.
A healthy Dahl will not solve all those shortcomings, but it can help.
The 2019 season was a shining example of what Dahl can do. As a first-ever all-star, he appeared in a career-high 100 games, hit .302 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI’s, and posted an .877 OPS and a 100 OPS +. A high ankle sprain while chasing a line drive into midfield ended his season on August 3.
Dahl had shown his skills before. He made his big league-debut on July 25, 2016, at the age of 22, and promptly batted safely in the first 17 games of his career to tie the Major League-record. Dahl finished the season with .315 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 63 games. His .315 average tied Todd Helton in 1998 for the highest batting average of a Rockies rookie (minimum 200 at bats).
But Dahl’s injury history is extensive. He suffers from simple bad luck, but also from injuries that cast doubt on whether his body can withstand the grind of a full league season. He missed the entire 2017 season with a stress response in a rib that also caused a back injury. In 2018 – before his nine-homer, September 27-RBI helped lift the Rockies to the playoffs – he broke his right foot when he made an error on a pitch against San Francisco on May 30 and didn’t return until August 5.
In 2019, Dahl missed eight games in April with what the club described as a ‘core injury’.
Dahl’s injury problems started with the minors. In 2013, he played in just 10 games for low-A Ashville before missing the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. In 2015, his spleen was removed after colliding with a teammate while chasing a fly ball during a Double-A match.
Dahl’s current shoulder injury presents another challenge – arguably his biggest to date. In January, he developed a shoulder ache when he started his throwing program. But, Dahl said, having been injured for much of his career, he decided not to report the injury.
“I thought I had been to (IL) a lot, and I had to figure this out myself and get this through,” Dahl said.
The plan didn’t work. Even worse, Dahl missed 22 games in August and September with an oblique injury. While he was rehabilitating, he underwent an MRI on his painful right shoulder, but the test did not reveal the full extent of the damage. Dahl took a cortisone shot, but it didn’t solve the shoulder problem, and he was limited to five games after returning.
After the season, Dahl underwent surgery. It was performed by Dr. Jeffrey Dugas of the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., Dahl’s hometown. Dugas fixed the fraying in the labrum, repaired a small portion of the rotator cuff, and removed a bone spur and bursa bag that caused pain in Dahl’s shoulder.
“I am very happy and relieved,” said Dahl at the time. “It’s nice knowing what was going on in there, getting to the bottom of it, cleaning it up and getting ready to attack out of season. I will convalesce and be ready to go for spring training. I have a lot to prove. “