2017 Pod Projections: David Dahl

The Pod Projections are back! My projections are based on the methodology shared in my eBook Projecting X 2.0, and the process continues to evolve and improve.

2017 Pod Projections Index:
Lance McCullers

Today, I’ll dive into the first hitter to receive the exciting 2017 Pod Projection treatment. David Dahl thrilled us during his debut last year, showing power (.185 ISO), speed (7.7 Spd score, five steals), and batting average ability (.315). That’s literally everything we want as fantasy owners. Of course, let’s not ignore the fact that he required an absurd .404 BABIP to reach that impressive batting average mark. That said, he plays half his games at Coors Field, so perhaps his average has some staying power. Early 2017 NFBC drafters are already falling over each other to roster him, selecting him as the 22nd outfielder off the board (just before Matt Kemp, Khris Davis, and Adam Jones), and 91st overall. WOWZERS! That’s some serious love.

Plate Appearances: 540

Could you imagine if your 91st overall pick opened the season in the minors?! At the beginning of January, Brad Johnson laid out the scenario that could push Dahl to Triple-A to start the year. While the Rockies never acquired that mashing first baseman, they still have Gerardo Parra, who has been good before, and is still on the right side of 30. And Dahl has recorded just 68 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. That said, all that speculation isn’t actually factored into my plate appearance projection. While it might look low, the reality is that Dahl is likely to sit against lefties, with Mark Reynolds taking over first base duties and Ian Desmond moving to left field. There is seemingly far more downside than upside to this playing time forecast, but we’ll have a clear idea by the time the regular season rolls around.

BB%: 6.6%

Until his stint at Double-A in 2016, Dahl was never much of a walker. Having never posted a walk rate above 6.9% previously, he suddenly walked at an 11.7% clip at that stop. He held onto some of his gains during his short time at Triple-A, but lost the majority of them upon his arrival in the Majors. He swung a lot with the Rockies, as his 52.9% Swing% would have ranked around the 15th highest mark among 146 qualified hitters. He also posted a worse than league average O-Swing% mark, so he was swinging at all pitches often. Sometimes young hitters are overeager during their first taste of Major League action, so I forecasted a slight improvement.

K%: 23.9%

How do you cover up a terrible SwStk% of 14.9%? By swinging, swinging, and swinging some more! That’s the dirty secret shared by guys like Adam Jones, who you wouldn’t even realize whiffs so frequently. Despite all those swings and misses, their strikeout rates are reasonable because they swing so often. Eventually you’ll put the ball in play, rather than strikeout, when you’re swinging that much. That was essentially Dahl in a nutshell in 2016 and I’m projecting minor improvement here as well.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 45% / 21% / 34%

Ehhh, without a go-to site for minor league batted ball type distribution data, I generally assume more of the same for the youngsters. Dahl’s batted ball profile in 2016 was essentially the same as I’m projecting, so no fancy explanation here.

BABIP: .333

Here’s where it gets fun. So as noted in the intro, Dahl posted an insane .404 BABIP. If you look at his batted ball type distribution, it looks fairly league average. But then you remember he has power and speed, plus calls Coors Field home, which is a notorious BABIP booster. His xBABIP was .336, so while he certainly deserved an inflated mark, he was obviously being paid visits from the BABIP fairies far more often than the BABIP dragons. That xBABIP was also boosted by his 7.7 Spd score, which is very likely to decline this year.

Over the last three seasons in the minors, he has posted a .354, so it’s quite clear that he owns real BABIP skills. But we’re still dealing with a hitter with fewer than 70 Triple-A at-bats and just 222 Major League at-bats, so expectations need to be tempered. Spoiler — Dahl’s BABIP projection still ranks 21st highest among all hitters I have forecasted.

HR/FB Ratio: 12.0%

Dahl never showed a whole lot of home run power in the minors. It was more of the modest variety. So his 13% HR/FB rate was a bit surprising, but also probably not totally deserved. His xHR/FB rate was a less impressive 10.7%, after adjusting for his home park. But young hitters typically enjoy power growth, so I’m not projecting regression down to his xHR/FB, but more of a marginal drop-off.

Runs and RBI: 64 and 60

RosterResource.com is projecting Dahl to hit sixth in the Rockies lineup this year, and outside of injuries to guys ahead of him, it’s hard to envision him moving up any higher than fifth. On the other hand, he could easily find himself hitting seventh, with Trevor Story moving up. Sixth in the National League isn’t the best slot for scoring runs, but his speed will allow him to score more than a slower guy would be projected for. Given my strong doubles and triples forecasts, I’m projecting Dahl for a higher RBI rate than the league average. But, because of his mediocre home run total and 540 plate appearance projection, he’s only forecasted for 60 runs batted in.

SB: 11

Dahl attempted a steal about a third as often as he had in the minors, so it’s hard to figure he’s going to get back to anywhere near his minor league attempt rates. I did forecast about a 30% increase in attempt rate, but because I’m also expecting him to actually get caught stealing this year, his stolen base total doesn’t jump as much as you might think.

Below is my final projected fantasy batting line, along with the other systems for comparison:

David Dahl 2017 Projections
System PA AB AVG HR R RBI SB BB% K% BABIP
Pod 540 501 0.269 15 64 60 11 6.6% 23.9% 0.333
Steamer 515 472 0.272 15 58 64 14 6.6% 23.6% 0.333
Fans (15) 568 525 0.284 18 69 75 17 7.2% 23.4% 0.349
ZiPS 531 492 0.285 23 66 71 18 6.6% 26.4% 0.355

Welllll damn, these projections are all over the map! When do you ever see ZiPS, not the Fans, as the most bullish of the bunch?! We’re all generally in agreement on the playing time, which makes counting stat comparisons much easier.

Look at that difference in home run projections! The ZiPS optimism becomes even more apparent when you look at its 215 ISO projection versus Steamer’s .169 (I’m at .177). What the heck is ZiPS factoring in that the rest of us are missing?!

We’re even in disagreement with the steals. The other systems are figuring a more dramatic rebound toward Dahl’s minor league attempt rates, whereas I’m a little more skeptical. Sure, the Rockies have never been afraid to run, but since attempting to steal is such a personal decision and all we have right now is that Dahl wasn’t all that interested in stealing in his first go-around, it’s hard for me to believe he’ll suddenly be more enthusiastic about it this season.

Ha, three of the four systems are projecting identical walk rates and three of four are in the 23% range for strikeout rate. I think I could see where ZiPS is getting its elevated strikeout rate from, but I can’t imagine he ends up closer to that projection than the rest of the group.

And there it is, another example of ZiPS not regressing a luck-related metric as much as Steamer or Pod. A .355 BABIP for a guy with just 222 MLB at-bats, really?! He has never even posted a mark that high in the minors, except during his debut in 2012 in the Rookie league, which barely counts.

So before comparing my projections to the rest, I thought Dahl was an early contender for the most overvalued player in fantasy drafts this year. After checking out the rest of the systems, I’m clearly just less bullish on his performance and if he hit the Steamer or Fans projections, would probably justify his cost. But there’s a whole lot of playing time risk being ignored and I still think it’s foolish to take him inside the top 100.



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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Gene McCaffrey
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Member
Gene McCaffrey

Solid let’s-not-get-carried-away info, but with two other LH-hitting OFs in the lineup, Dahl probably won’t sit that much against lefties. FWIW, he hit a respectable .313/.353/.375 against them.

johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

Also, if the Rockies truly are going to keep Desmond at 1B full-time, literally all of their OF options hit left-handed (Blackmon, Gonzalez, Parra, Tapia, Dahl, Patterson). Unless Colorado really wants to move Desmond to LF in order to give Parra at bats at 1B against same-handed pitchers, I’m not seeing why Dahl would be platooned. It seems like it will mostly come down to just how much the Rockies like Dahl in LF versus Parra/Tapia in LF.

On a related note, Mark Reynolds hit RHPs way better than LHPs last season and has essentially no platoon split over his career. He was signed to a minor-league deal, so a spot on the 25-man MLB roster is not even a sure thing for him.

jcutiger
Member
jcutiger

Wouldn’t you expect the 2 more experienced LH-hitting OFs to sit less than Dahl?