Editor's note: We've made a change with the PuRPs list this year, deciding to unveil each player individually over the course of a few weeks. To keep track of the rankings, keep checking our PuRPs list StoryStream.
PuRP No. 2: David Dahl (455 points, 16 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 2 | High Ballot 1 (3), Mode Ballot 2, 3
Dahl, a 20-year-old lefty outfielder who spent time with Low-A Asheville and High-A Modesto last season, was Colorado's first-round pick (10th overall) in the 2012 draft. To say that Dahl impressed in his professional debut would be an understatement. Playing against pitchers three years older than him on average, all Dahl did was hit .379/.423/.625 (161 wRC+), win the Pioneer League batting title by 41 points, run away with the Pioneer League MVP, and get named the top prospect in the league. In other words, Dahl had just about the best start to a professional career you could hope for.
Unfortunately, his 2013 campaign was a lost year. Dahl began by getting suspended by the team for missing a flight. By nearly all accounts I've read, this was a one-time thing and was not indicative of any other problems. In fact, Dahl has been lauded for his work ethic and makeup before and since. Dahl then tore his hamstring in May shortly after his return. The end result was that Dahl was limited to just 10 games in 2013. This resulted in Dahl receding somewhat from the consciousness of prospect hounds.
Last season was a much better story for Dahl. Despite the lost year, Dahl was still more than a year younger than average in the Low-A South Atlantic League (for reference, he's two months younger than PuRP No. 5 Raimel Tapia), but he didn't have too many problems dealing with SAL pitching. In 422 plate appearances, Dahl hit .309/.347/.500 (133 wRC+) with 49 extra-base hits and 18 steals while playing an excellent center field. In the tougher environs of High-A Modesto, against pitchers nearly three years older than him, Dahl held his own, batting .267/.296/.467 (93 wRC+) in 125 PAs. If one were to quibble with these results, it would be to look at Dahl's low walk percentage (5.5 in Asheville, 4.0 in Modesto) and elevated strikeout percentage (15.4 in Asheville, 21.6 in Modesto).
As the results came in, so too did the scouting accolades. Dahl was placed in the midseason top 50s of Baseball Prospectus (24), Keith Law (35), and Jon Sickels (33). When the big 2015 preseason top 100 lists are revealed, Dahl will assuredly be in that range or higher again (he topped Baseball America's Rockies prospect list). In an episode of Purple Row's own Purple Dinosaur Podcast (it's excellent, please listen!), prospect guru Jason Parks said that Dahl had the potential to be as good as Andrew McCutchen, one of the top five players in the game today. That's high praise indeed from a guy who knows a lot about a lot of prospects.
Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus rated Dahl second in the system, giving him an overall future potential of 70 (an All-Star player) with a realistic floor of 60 (first division regular):
Strengths: Easy barrel delivery with extended pitch plane overlap; regular hard contact and comfort spraying line to line; good athleticism boosts the aggregate skillset; run is legit plus, showing up on the grass and rounding the bases; glove could play to plus at maturity with continued improvement in reads off the bat; already shows understanding of how to let power manifest naturally; arm plays across the outfield with carry and solid accuracy.
Weaknesses: Lacks leverage in swing so power will be reliant on ability to barrel ball and might be limited to pull; routes are improving, but still limit full utilization of natural speed; can get aggressive, particularly early in count when hunting fastballs; advanced arms will work to expose with spin.
The Alabama prep product's true five-tool potential alone provides enough reason for evaluators to lock in, but it's the combination of athleticism and baseball acumen characteristic of impact major leaguers that could see the profile emerge as one of the elite talents in the game. Dahl missed much of 2013 due to injury and some disciplinary issues, neither of which pose any concern moving forward, and it is highly encouraging to see the talented center fielder slide into the full-season routine with nary a missed step. There is work to be done smoothing out the reads and routes in the outfield, and the approach at the plate will need to be focused, but most of these potential issues reside in developmental areas commonly addressed through reps.
Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs had Dahl third in the system and gave him a 55 Future Value grade:
Scouts never really doubted Dahl's ability to hit and one said he almost put a 7 on the bat after seeing him this year and that same scout put a 5 on the power despite a line drive approach. It may take a few years but advanced, talented hitters with a natural opposite field stroke will often will outhit their raw power at maturity (even with a line drive approach) due to how much hard contact they make. The offensive upside combined with plus speed and a center field profile give Dahl the upside to be a star, but scouts would like to see more than one year in full-season leagues before they go all-in.
Dahl, who was third on my list, is a five-tool talent who projects to stick in center field defensively and comfortably projects as a MLB regular with the potential for much more. That's obviously an exciting profile, and it's a testament to the abilities of Jon Gray that Dahl hasn't topped this list since fall 2012. A crowded outfield situation in Modesto, thanks to the conversion of PuRP No. 10 Rosell Herrera to center field, may mean that Dahl gets a bump up to Double-A New Britain to start the year, or he might begin the year with Modesto and move quickly up the ladder should he prove ready.
Contract Status: 2012 first round, not Rule 5 eligible, three options remaining
MLB ETA: Late 2016