2017 Fantasy Baseball draft strategy: How much changes with David Dahl's injury?
With a back injury derailing his spring, David Dahl went from breakout candidate to risky target, Chris Towers says.
Coors Field isn’t magic.
Even in the halcyon days of the Blake Street Bombers, it didn’t make everyone into a 40-homer-mashing offensive monster. Quinton McCracken played in 124 games, scoring just 50 runs and driving in 40 for one of the best offenses ever.
It can’t make a bad player great, in other words.
However, it sure makes it easier. Guys like DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon might be Fantasy relevant in other home parks, but both hit 70 points higher at home than on the road for their careers, so we can’t ignore the effect it has. Players who might be marginal options elsewhere are deservedly more exciting Fantasy prospects when they get to play half of their games in what remains -- humidor be damned! -- the best offensive environment in baseball.
David Dahl’s arrival to the majors last season made plenty of Fantasy players take notice, and not just because of where he would eventually play. With a career .310/.357/.513 line -- to go with 19 homers and 30 steals per-150 games -- to his name in the minors, Dahl had all of the makings of the next Coors-fueled Fantasy stud.
He could be the next Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson, and he was one of the Fantasy industry’s favorite breakout candidates coming into this season.
That he didn’t necessarily have an everyday job locked up coming into the spring was a minor speed bump. That Dahl was recently diagnosed with a stress reaction in his rib looks like a much bigger stumbling block, one that puts a big grey cloud over his Fantasy prospects for 2017.
Dahl will be re-evaluated in a few weeks, and likely won’t begin swinging a bat until late March. Given how tricky injuries to the back and sides can be for hitters, it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at this point to assume a best-case scenario that sees him ready for opening day. It is probably more likely than not at this point that Dahl will open the season on the disabled list, so we have to downgrade Dahl at least some right off the bat. How much?
Over at FantasyPros.com, Dahl’s Average Draft Position has slipped to 94th overall, which splits the difference nicely with his expert rankings. While we at CBSSports.com are all lower on Dahl than his ADP -- Scott White has him at 118 overall, I have him at 124, and Heath Cummings has him all the way down at 200 -- 54 percent of experts tracked at FantasyPros have him ranked higher than his current ADP.
Before the injury, the assumption was that Dahl would pretty easily dispatch of Gerardo Parra and win the everyday job in left field. When that was the case, I had Dahl as a top-70 player, with potentially as much upside as what Charlie Blackmon has shown. In their minor-league careers, both posted remarkably similar numbers, with Blackmon running a bit more and striking out a bit less, while Dahl hit for more power and even managed a slightly higher batting average.
That upside obviously still exists. Dahl struck out 24.9 percent of the time in the majors last season, up from 19.7 percent in the minors, however he maintained his terrific BABIP skills. In his 367-game minor-league career, Dahl had a .367 BABIP. Typically, we would expect that number to go down, but with the way Coors naturally inflates hitters’ success rates on balls in play -- Rockies’ hitters sported a .348 BABIP at home last season, compared to .302 on the road -- Dahl is someone we should expect to hit for a consistently high batting average.
Add in his power/speed combination, and the potential for even more growth, and it’s not unrealistic to project .300 seasons with 50 combined steals and homers, along with the typically huge counting stats playing in Colorado gives you. Dahl has the potential to be a Fantasy superstar, and doesn’t even turn 23 until just before Opening Day.
There was, of course, no guarantee Dahl would ever reach that potential, and this injury makes it more unlikely that he reaches that upside this season as well. The Rockies’ outfield is crowded, and Parra has proven he can be a useful option in the past, most notably when he hit .291/.328/.452 with 14 homers and 14 steals in 2015. A high ankle sprain largely ruined his 2016 campaign, but it’s not far fetched to think he could come out of the gates strong and make it more difficult for the Rockies to find playing time for Dahl whenever his injury heals. (Given the uncertainty surrounding Dahl, it’s not the worst idea in the world to snag Parra with a late-round pick, just in case.)
You have to find a way to balance risk and upside with any player, given how unpredictable baseball can be. If you ignore risk when it’s staring you in the face like this, you’re asking to get burned. Dahl still deserves to be drafted, and probably in the first half of any Fantasy draft right now, given his upside. However, we may not see him in an everyday role for a while, and this seems like the kind of injury that can really linger and spoil a promising season.
As good as Dahl can be, I’m still looking for him in the middle rounds, beginning around Round 9, based on what we know now.
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