Colorado Rockies outfielder David Dahl has been out for the entirety of this week with a back injury—one that might keep him out for at least another full week, manager Bud Black recently told Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
Missing a couple of weeks’ worth of at-bats may not be an issue for Dahl, who has bounced back quickly from injuries before. But assuming he’s human, the lack of game reps is likely to impact him in a negative way, and the timing of the optimistic version of his return would put him at around 2-3 weeks prior to the start of the season.
It’s fair to wonder whether the Rockies might choose to take things slowly with Dahl given their outfield depth. Gerardo Parra was not good last year, but he dealt with injuries of his own and could be primed for a year that, at worst, would represent a regression to the mean (prior to 2016, he owned a career on-base percentage 55 points higher than what he produced in his first year with the Rockies). Colorado also has to find a spot – in Triple-A or otherwise – for Jordan Patterson, Raimel Tapia, Chris Denorfia, and Mark Reynolds, all of whom could be affected either directly or indirectly by Dahl missing time.
There’s also Ian Desmond, whom the Rockies plan to start the season at first base but becomes a much more justifiable addition to the team when considering potential issues just like what we may see with Dahl to start the year.
In summary, the Rockies are in a much better position than they were a year ago to deal with a setback like this. It’s not ideal—Dahl is a high-ceiling (and maybe now, even a higher floor than initially though) player who is coming off of a rookie campaign in which he hit .315/.359/.500 while presenting significant problems for opposing pitchers and defenders—but the pieces are there to make it work. Plus, with the implementation of the new 10-day disabled list, Dahl may not have to miss as much time as he would have even a year ago in the event the injury isn’t too serious.
The Rockies have the luxury of taking things slow with their young star, and not just because it’s only March 3. That’s a great thing for the team—and, obviously, a great thing for Dahl in the long term. It just might potentially be a bummer to see the excitement of such a dynamic young player sapped, even if only a little bit.
“To experience an Opening Day would be amazing,” Dahl told Purple Row at a Rockies Caravan stop in January. “I’m just itching to get back out on the field. I'm hoping to come out and play well in spring training to make the team and get a role to help the team win.”
Even if Dahl is forced to miss another big chunk of spring training and can’t participate on Opening Day as a result, there should be many more of those to come for the toolsy 22-year-old outfielder. And for Dahl, and this year’s Rockies, there are bigger fish to fry.
“We have some big things coming,” Dahl added. “We have a lot of good players; we just need to turn that into Ws.”