Don't Overpay for David Dahl in Fantasy Baseball
Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in a little over five weeks, which means our first set of consensus rankings is out over at FantasyPros.
Per the Colorado Rockies' depth chart, David Dahl is due to man left field to start the season. Like many other hyped prospects, this generally leads to lofty rankings and some early draft spots used on these youngsters. Dahl is currently the 24th-ranked and 94th player overall, which means in a 12-team mixed league, you'll need to spend an eighth round pick on him. Is Dahl worth that hefty price tag?
Let's take a closer look at both Dahl and some others in the outfield and find out.
The Hype is Real
Dahl comes with a lofty pedigree, which is to be expected for a former a first-round draft pick. Since being selected 10th overall in the 2012 June Amateur Draft, Dahl has flashed a power-speed combo at every stop, and in his first taste of the bigs last season, he didn't do anything to slow down the hype train.
Outside of an injury-plagued 2013, when he tore his hamstring, Dahl has notched double-digit home runs and steals at every stop in the minors, excluding a nine-homer showing 2012, when he logged only 306 plate appearances the summer after being drafted.
If you worshiped at the Church of Dahl before, he only added believers to that congregation in 2016. Across three different levels, in a combined 637 plate appearances, Dahl belted 25 home runs and swiped 22 bags. Of those plate appearances, 237 came at the major-league level, where he mashed seven homers and nabbed five bases. The kid can play.
One of the quirks of the Rockies' outfield, as it stands today, is that all four possible regulars are left-handed bats. Dahl joins Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Gerardo Parra in a productive outfield but one dominated by hitters from the same side of the plate. New signing Ian Desmond, who's currently slated to man first base, could help break up the left-handedness and play some outfield as he played centerfield last year with the Texas Rangers.
In a limited sample size of 48 plate appearances against left-handed pitching in 2016, Dahl really struggled. He posted a decent average (hitting .313), but the power numbers plummeted -- registering only a .063 ISO, far below his mark of .218 against righties.
Dahl has always been a healthy hacker at the plate, and that only got a little worse against lefties -- his strikeout rate rose from 24.7% against righties up to 25.5%.
In order for Dahl to see the field against left-handed pitching, he will need to shore that up quickly as the National League West is a division dominated by left-handed starters (Robbie Ray, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Moore, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Julio Urias).
The Price Isn't Right
For us, from a fantasy perspective, what this really boils down to is what we expect Dahl to produce, and what we expect others at the position to produce.
Using Steamer projections from FanGraphs will give us a consistent baseline to measure what we think Dahl will do, and it allows us to compare him to three other players. Below are Steamer's 2017 projections and each player's consensus preseason fantasy rank and draft position.
|Player||OF Rank||Overall Rank||R||HR||RBI||SB||OBP|
In comparing Dahl to Player X, these two match up pretty consistently, with Dahl a notch behind in all categories except a decided advantage in steals. In comparing Dahl to Player Y, these two match up pretty consistently, with Dahl lagging behind a decent amount in home runs but pacing quite a bit ahead in steals. Compared to Player Z, Dahl falls behind considerably in runs and on-base percentage while he is ahead in homers with a decided advantage in runs batted in.
The biggest takeaway here is the difference in Dahl's preseason ranking compared to the other three players. Dahl is ranked 43 spots ahead of Pence, 65 places in front of Bruce and 69 slots before Fowler. The production, however, isn't markedly different between any of these players.
Not Worth the Inflated Cost
Heading into spring training, the starting left-field job appears David Dahl's to lose. If his past performance is any indicator (while playing in a very strong offensive ballpark), he will likely put up strong numbers in the summer of 2017.
But given his strong audition last summer and positive park factor, if Dahl's projected performance is anywhere close to the Steamers projections noted above, the hype around the promising young player seems to be outweighing what he may actually produce. Several players, some of whom are ranked many spots below Dahl in consensus rankings, may meet or exceed his production.
While Dahl could surpass the projections and lead the Rockies and fantasy owners to glory in 2017, the current cost seems to be a bit rich.