Top pick Dahl arrives in GJ after two-day whirlwind
He’s played on the USA 18-under national team in Cartagena, Colombia, but he’s never experienced anything like he has the past couple of days.
Colorado Rockies first-round draft pick David Dahl arrived in Denver on Monday, signed his first pro contract with a reported $2.6 million signing bonus and has been inundated with numerous interview requests.
He arrived in Grand Junction on Wednesday morning and had his first practice with the Rockies Rookie affiliate.
“My head’s still spinning, but once the games start, I think everything will sink in,” Dahl said Wednesday afternoon before his first practice with the Grand Junction Rockies.
Dahl said he’ll be more relaxed once the games start, adding, “It’s been crazy the last couple days.”
Dahl attended the Colorado Rockies game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night and did a live interview during the television broadcast.
“I was a little nervous,” Dahl said. “It was the first one (on TV) I can remember. I had a good time. It was fun.”
Supplemental pick Eddie Butler signed at the same time as Dahl and also joined the Grand Junction Rockies on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s set in yet,” Butler said. “It’s going to be tougher.”
They bring the Rockies roster to 33 players, two short of the maximum allowed by the Pioneer League.
Although it’s not common for the first-round pick to start with the Rockies Pioneer League team, it’s not unusual.
Chris Nelson and Ian Stewart started their professional careers in Rookie ball with Casper before the team relocated to Grand Junction this year.
“We had Chris Nelson and Ian Stewart (in Rookie ball in Casper),” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “Being a first-round pick doesn’t make them more special. They’re like the rest of the guys. We’re going to demand the effort, focus and professionalism and the hard work. That’s got to be automatic.
“It’s exciting. I’m not going to diminish that, but you’re dealing with a high school kid that is his first time away from home, playing at a level that the average age is 20–21. You’ve got to keep those factors in mind. This game is not easy. It’s a humbling game.”
Players like Nelson, Stewart and Seth Smith, who are all in the big leagues, had their struggles in Rookie ball, Diaz pointed out.
“I remember going back to Chris Nelson,” Diaz said, “he struggled early, then he broke out, but it took him three weeks at least to realize he belongs. Seth Smith had good numbers, but he didn’t come out of the chute killing the ball. It’s not an easy game, but we’ve got to stay positive.”
Although Dahl has hit with a wood bat, he hasn’t played a full wood-bat season.
“(The wood bats) are another factor for the position players,” Diaz said. “They’re not the big fish in the pond anymore. They’re just fish. These guys were big fish where they were. It comes down to how they handle adversity. If they don’t learn how, it’s an uphill battle.”
Dahl, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound outfielder, hit .412 with 11 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 17 RBI and had 18 stolen bases in his senior year at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Ala. He was rated the 12th-best prospect in the draft and the third-best outfield prospect by Baseball America.
“(Dahl) has a tremendous work ethic,” Diaz said. “He’s a fierce competitor. As far as the total package, he’s comparable to a Grady Sizemore or Jacoby Ellsbury. That’s just tools. It’s up to us to develop those tools and make him play at a consistent high level that can help us win games.”
Butler (6-2, 165) was 7-4 with a 2.20 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 98 innings for Radford (Va.) University this spring. He was rated as the 85th-best player in the draft and the best prospect from the state of Virginia by Baseball America. He is the highest drafted player from Radford in the school’s history.
“I spoke with the scout that signed him, Jay Matthews, and he was extremely high on the kid,” Diaz said. “He’s not afraid. He goes after hitters, has a heavy sinker and is a ground-ball machine.”