Prospect Dahl learned much in trying season

Rockies outfielder coped with slow start, spleen and knee injuries

Prospect Dahl learned much in trying season

DENVER -- The least spectacular, and least painful, lesson from 2015 is the one that means the most to Rockies outfield prospect David Dahl.

Lesson No. 1 -- a lacerated spleen really hurts -- is one Dahl will never have to repeat. The injury, after a collision with a teammate while chasing a fly ball at Double-A New Britain on May 28, resulted in the spleen being removed. Lesson No. 2 is foul balls off the right knee also are a drag. Although he recovered from the splenectomy and finished strong at New Britain, the knee issue ended his year early and cost him participation in the Arizona Fall League.

The third lesson didn't involve lost or damaged body parts, but it's a simple one that could quicken the path to the Majors for Dahl, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Ala. Early-season struggles, from pressing, taught him that his ability is such that he needn't do anything more than trust his skills.

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Dahl, who turns 22 on April 1, coming off a solid Class A season at Asheville and Modesto in 2014, slumped to .212 with a .256 on-base percentage and .294 slugging percentage through his first month at New Britain in 2015.

"I was trying to do too much to show that I belonged there," Dahl said. "I was putting too much pressure on myself, swinging at too many bad pitches. Then I got back to basics, tried to put together good at-bats and started to not worry about it. I got over the struggle and I felt I was more confident and I could compete in that league."

Between May 3 and the spleen injury, Dahl hit .320/.333/.454 and displayed his solid speed in center field and on the bases. Then the injury occurred in the collision with New Britain second baseman Juan Ciriaco.

"It was a 10:30 a.m. Kids Day game, and it was really windy that day," Dahl said. "They had a big power hitter up [Altoona's Stetson Allie] so I took a couple steps back in the outfield. He hit what looked like a high fly ball but the wind just kept taking it in. The last two or three strides, I yelled, 'I got it.' [Shortstop Trevor] Story peeled off. Ciriaco didn't hear me until the last second. He tried to jump over me but he was running too fast to control it and kneed me right in the side.

"I also got hit in the nose so I was bleeding there. I couldn't breathe and there was a sharp pain in my side."

Dahl was in the clubhouse when the team's athletic trainer realized the injury was serious and called for an ambulance. At first he was told the spleen would be repaired and recovery would take eight months. But he quickly accepted when offered the option of having the spleen removed in a laprascopic procedure. He dropped from the 193-195-pound range to 178-180, but played his first rehab game at Short-Season Class A Boise on July 6 and was back at New Britain on July 17.

Dahl fouled a ball off his right knee shortly after returning and played through pain before being shut down after an Aug. 19 game. Despite being in pain much of the time, he hit .292/.318/.481 in 29 games after he returned to Double-A. Dahl, who batted .278 with six home runs and 24 RBIs overall, plus succeeded on 22 of 29 stolen-base attempts at New Britain, is ranked the Rockies' No. 3 prospect by MLBPipeline.com.

Dahl participated in the Rockies' fall instructional program but was not healthy enough for Arizona Fall League action. He chose to remain in Scottsdale, Ariz., and continues to train at the Rockies' complex.

The Rockies did not have to protect Dahl on their 40-man Major League roster, but he'll arrive for Spring Training with an opportunity to put himself on the big league radar. Dahl and Raimel Tapia, 21, a left-handed hitter who recently was placed on the Major League roster for the first time after a strong year at high-A Modesto and in the Arizona Fall League, are seen as keys to the Rockies' future.

That's where the non-medical lesson of 2015 comes into play.

"I just want to make sure that I come into Spring Training ready to go," Dahl said. "After that, I just have to stay healthy and trust the process, not worry about where I go or when I'll get called up. If I keep doing what I can to win, be a good teammate and learn, I will get called up sometime. Whether I get called up this year is something I can't worry about."

• Rookie-level Grand Junction announced that Frank Gonzales, the manager at Boise last season, will manage in 2016. Gonzales was pitching coach at Short-Season Tri-City the previous two years. Gonzales spent eight seasons as a professional player, mostly in the Tigers' organization, was head baseball coach at Fort Collins (Colo.) High School from 2009-12 and was head baseball coach for the club team at Colorado State University (his alma mater) from 1999-2005 before joining the Rockies. Gonzales is the father of Cardinals pitcher Marco Gonzales.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.