Carlos Gonzalez is one of the most popular players to ever wear a Rockies uniform – with teammates and with fans. And Gerardo Parra wasn’t far behind.
They both, however, left as free agents in the off-season, Gonzalez signing with the Indians and Parra with the Giants.
It was time, the Rockies felt, for a changing of the guard, and they had the perfect guy to slot into left field, easily the most challenging outfield spot at Coors Field – a healthy David Dahl.
And Dahl wasted no time making his presence felt in the Rockies 6-3 season-opening win at Miami on Thursday. He went 3-for-4, driving in the first run of the game, and scoring two runs.
No surprise to the Rockies. Dahl was the Rockies first-round selection, the 10th player taken overall in the 2012 first-year player draft. He was given a $2.6 million signing bonus.
He showed glimpses.
He was the Pioneer League Player of the Year in 2012, hitting .379 with a .625 slugging percentage and 1.048 OPS.
He was a mid-season and post-season All-Star in the Low-A South Atlantic League in 2014.
He made his big-league debut on July 25, 2016 and equaled a Major League record by hitting safely in his first 17 big-league games. He hit .315 that rookie season with seven home runs and 42 RBI.
“I see a lot of confidence,” then-Rockies manager Walt Weiss said during the 2016 season. “Typically, when young players show up, they’re not sure. They don’t have a track record in the major leagues to fall back on, to draw confidence from. David showed up here a very confident player, very composed. He always looks like he’s in control of his game, control of his at-bats.”
Injuries, however, sidetracked him, and they were anything but run-of-the-mill ailments.
In 2013, a hamstring injury sidelined him after just 10 games at Asheville.
In 2015, he collided with a teammate and suffered a lacerated spleen on May 28 and played in a total of only 79 games.
In 2017, he was limited to 19 minor-league games because of a stress reaction his rib cage.
And a year ago, he was limited to 77 games with the Rockies and 18 at Triple-A Albuquerque because of a broken right foot, suffered when he fouled a ball of it against San Francisco on May 30.
He did, however, play a key role in September. He was the NL Player of the Week for Sept. 24-30, during which he joined Dante Bichette, Larry Walker and Nolan Arenado as Rockies players to hit home runs in five consecutive games.
And the Rockies are looking for him to bounce back strong this year, although he was ordered to take things easy during the off-season.
“I wasn’t allowed to hit until a week or two before spring training,” Dahl said. “So, swing-wise, I did not feel great, and it took me a while to get it back. This year, I feel a lot better. I’m able to not have any restrictions.”
Dahl is ahope for the Rockies future. He has the strongest arm and is arguably the fastest of starting outfielders, which has Ian Desmond in center field and Charlie Blackmon in right field.
It’s a compliment to Dahl that he is being put in left field. In most parks it’s considered a spot for a defensively deficient outfielder, but not at Coors Field, where left field is larger than any other in baseball.
"It's pretty tough in left -- the ball comes off the bat a little different, especially at Coors, where the ball carries," admitted Dahl. "You have to take good angles. … You just have to get some work in out there and get some work in during BP and drills and everything."
It’s a challenge Dahl welcomes.