The Colorado Rockies are off to an encouraging hot start in 2017. They’ve won their first two series of the season, giving them a record of 5-2. One of the major factors leading this successful start is, surprisingly, Gerardo Parra.
The early emergence of the veteran outfielder creates a problem — albeit a good one — when left fielder David Dahl returns to the team later this month. The Rockies will have to make the choice between a successful veteran or a young, inexperienced talent.
Heading into 2017, it seemed obvious that Dahl would be full-time left fielder to start the year. When he was called up in 2016, he quickly outplayed Parra in just about every aspect. Unfortunately for Dahl, a rib injury in spring put a delay on his season, and he’s now expected to return the club in late April.
Last year, Parra walked a meager total of nine times. His inability to show any patience at the plate led to a .671 OPS — his lowest total for a season in his entire career. Most players come to Colorado and see a boost in their numbers; Parra did not. All in all, he finished with an unfavorable -2.7 WAR in his debut season with the Rockies.
Parra has notched a hit in all but one game he’s started so far this season, including two walks. He’s currently putting up an absurd slash line of .440/.462/.600 through 27 plate appearances. It’s obviously a small sample size, but Parra already looks like a completely different player from 2016.
Although he has put up astronomical numbers, reality will set in and we will see his numbers come back down to earth. He’s not a .300 hitter and he’s not going to hit 20+ home runs or drive in 100+ runs. The defense is still there, and his speed on the bases above average. But the reality is, Dahl is the better player in all of these areas.
It’s not really surprising, seeing as David Dahl has been a top-100 prospect in baseball since 2013 according to Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and MLB.com
The 23-year-old made his debut last season and slashed .315/.359/.500 and even began his career with a 17-game hit streak. In 63 games, he hit 7 homers while driving in 24 runs. He showed a mature approach as he walked 15 times in 237 plate appearances (as opposed to nine in 381 appearances for Parra).
The Rockies already have a young, competitive core on this roster. The sooner Dahl is back in the lineup with this team everyday, the more in sync the club will be.
There’s no doubt that Dahl is the better player at this point, and there’s no reason for the Rockies to suppress his bat in the lineup. While it’s likely he will need a few minor league rehab appearances before he’s inserted in the lineup, I fully expect to see Parra demoted into the backup role while Dahl becomes the everyday starting left fielder, regardless of how Parra is performing upon Dahl’s return.
By Nick Stephens