Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rockies best hitting prospects under age-20

Two of the most exciting Rockies' hitters are shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder David Dahl. Both are having productive seasons in their own right but which one is the best Rockies' prospects hitter, age 20 and under? 

John Manuel, an editor in chief of Baseball America and Jim Callis, the executive editor of that magazine, both with specialty knowledge of baseball's prospects, generously shared their research and viewpoints with Rockies' Analyst Magazine about Story and Dahl.

First, the setup - Story was the 45th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft while Dahl went no. 10 overall in 2012.

Story, as of this writing, has played 136 games in rookie-and-Low-A ball (Asheville) and has hit .266 with 37 doubles, six triples, 19 homers and driven in 72 runs. He's also stolen 22 bases in 26 attempts.

While he has struck out 125 times, he has balanced that some with 73 base on balls. He's known as a solid all-around player and his bat has played better than expected.

Dahl has played 32 games since signing in June but has hit a stunning .359 at Grand Junction with eight doubles, six triples and three homers, while driving in 25 runs. He has seven steals but has been caught five times. He has 12 walks and 20 strikeouts. He's out of the gate fast. 

Rockies' Analyst Magazine: In your early evaluation, how do you break down each player strengths and weaknesses?

David Dahl
John Manuel: This evaluation has nothing to do with what David Dahl has done as a pro; it's not a meaningful sample. That said, it's better to hit .350 in your first 119 at-bats than to not hit .350.

Dahl's tools are better than Story's across the board, with the exception of defense. Story is an infielder and has a good chance to stay at shortstop long-term.

Dahl has fine defensive tools in the outfield and potentially a premium arm, but to me even an average defender at short is worth more than a fine defender in the outfield.

I love Dahl's offensive upside and think his other tools — hitting for average and speed — are superior to those of Story, and believe the power is about equal.

Trevor Story
Jim Callis: Story has a chance to be a shortstop with five average or better tools, which is pretty rare. He has the bat speed to have power once he fills out, runs well and has the actions and arm strength for shortstop.

His to-do list is similar to that of a lot of young players: he needs to get stronger, he needs to improve his strike-zone discipline and he needs better defensive consistency.

Dahl also shows all the tools. He has plus bat speed, plus foot speed, plus arm strength. Some scouts who saw him as an amateur quibbled with his power projection and his center field instincts, but others liked him and he just went 10th overall in the draft. He hasn't had any trouble battling older pitchers in the Pioneer League.

RAM: Story does strike out and has not shown ability to hit for high average yet but as a player who entered the 2011 draft with questions about his bat, he's shown impressive power punch for a middle infielder. Will his offense play well at higher levels?

John Manuel: I like Story's first pro season.  He's hitting very well against RHPs (.298/.380/.580 split) and just struggling with the first quality LHPs he's seeing on a consistent basis.

He's got the bat speed and offensive approach to hit, and usually guys like him (you know, righthanded hitters) figure out how to hit LHPs. He'll be fine with the bat, and I do think his offense will play at higher levels. His power has been something of a surprise in his pro career; I don't think scouts expect him to be more than a 12-18 HR hitter (it's average power). He's not a slugger. Average power is just fine for a middle infielder whether he's at second or short.

Jim Callis: He has the tools to provide above-average offensive production for a shortstop. I'd caution against reading too much into his stats because he's one of the younger regulars in the South Atlantic League.

On the other hand, his home park (Asheville) also boosts his numbers. He is striking out too much but has plenty of time to make adjustments. I'm heartened by the fact that he's drawing a healthy amount of walks and showing some pop.

RAM: Dahl looks like an impressive hitter and isn't just hitting singles at Grand Junction (CO) but he doesn't appear to have corner-outfielder power. Does he have to play CF to profile as a starter with plus-value as a prospect or do you see power coming developmentally, as Baseball America often writes does come, last?

John Manuel: It's presumptuous to say whether or not Dahl has corner power. Some scouts thought he did as an amateur, and some didn't; there was no real consensus, it was an eye-of-the-beholder kind of deal.

The Rockies clearly are betting that he's going to stay in CF or else they wouldn't have taken him 10th overall.

What he's doing at Grand Junction is encouraging but doesn't answer any power question.

Baseball America doesn't write that the power comes last; we report that the scouts tell us that power comes last. It also happens to be true especially with high school draftees who grow into their "man strength," to use the scouting technical term. (little joke there …). If Dahl moves to a corner he'll be more of a Rusty Greer or Nick Markakis-type, a good player but not a star. He has a chance to be a star in CF.

Jim Callis: Some scouts who saw him as an amateur wondered if he had enough power for a corner. We'll see, because he's doing just fine against a lot older competition in the Pioneer League (though it is a notorious hitter's league). He has a good frame and plenty of bat speed, so there's no reason he can't develop at least average power, maybe more.

RAM: The Rockies have some talented potential bats in their system in Josh Rutledge (recently graduated to the Rockies), Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, Kyle Parker and Will Swanner but who do you most highly regard at Baseball America, on a small sample size, as the best bat under age-20, Story or Dahl, and why?

John Manuel: Dahl has a better feel for hitting, better speed, better all-around tools. I'm a big David Dahl fan and I also like Story, but Dahl is the choice for me there.

He's the best pure hitter of that whole group, including Arenado, and has the highest ceiling of the group. I think quite highly of Dahl.

Jim Callis: That's a tough call. I value Story a little more as a prospect because it's so hard to find quality shortstops. Purely on their bats, I might give Dahl a slight edge because I think he'll be a little bigger and stronger when all is said and done. Also, based on a very small sample size, he has made more consistent contact. 

Rockies' Notes

Christian Friedrich has exceeded expectations in 2012, including spinning seven-shutout innings his last time out, but he's still a far drive from being a successful pitcher. Saturday's outing - three homers and seven runs allowed in just 4 1/3 innings shows he's not doing much right most nights. He's allowed 19 runs in his 19 2/3 innings over his last three Coors' starts for an ERA of, well - 8.79. And fans were angry at Jeremy Guthrie.

The difference? Expectations. They were there for the known quantity in Guthrie but Friedrich was a surprise making it to the majors this year after two down seasons at Double-A.

Carlos Gonzalez added to his team-best RBI total with three more to total 70 on the season.

Michael Cuddyer hit his 15th homer.

Rookie shortstop Josh Rutledge banged out three more hits and his average is now at .370. For a player who worked hard to hit .300 at Double-A, the majors have been fun. Of course, Rutledge is not profiled to win batting titles but remember this, he hit over .400 in the second half of 2011 and he's white-hot again, only this time it's not High-A ball, it's the majors.

Rockies' Prospects Spotlight

Alex White on again
Alex White was brilliant at Triple-A Colorado Springs, allowing only one run and four hits over eight innings, striking out eight, walking but one. That masterpiece comes one start after he worked seven shutout frames. So if you're counting, in his last two starts, White's numbers - 1 run and eight hits in 15 innings, with 10 strikeouts and three walks. His ERA - 0.60.

Whatever adjustments White has made, they're working. He looks like a different player.

Eddie Butler
Eddie Butler went seven innings, allowing three runs, walking none, striking out five at Grand Junction in rookie-league ball. Those are the only three runs he's allowed in his last three starts and 19 innings for an ERA of 1.42.


Anonymous said...

Dahl is Mike Trout Lite

Rockies' Analyst Magazine said...

What would you say if I told you I've been thinking the same thing lately?

Granted, Trout is already in the majors and performing historically well and could be a four-tool star with only his arm being less than sterling but Dahl's pro debut has been special, very special.

On the road, he looks mortal but still strong but overall, he's been dominant.

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