High-SchoolBaseball: Oak Mountain High School

David DahlCal Sport Media via AP ImagesOak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.) center fielder David Dahl, who hit .449 as a junior, is a potential first-round pick in June's MLB draft.
Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.) baseball coach Brian Breeze was prepping his team for its season-opener against Tuscaloosa County (Northport, Ala.) this February when he noticed the field was a little slick.

So rather than risk getting any of his players hurt during pre-game warm-ups, Breeze decided to have the Eagles hit indoors in the cage. Shortly after the players began taking their cuts, one of the coaches of the freshman team came running over to Breeze.

“He asked me, ‘Coach, do you want me to get all of these dads away from the cage?’” recalled Breeze with a laugh.

But those roughly 40 people gathered around the cage weren’t eager fathers trying to monitor their kid's batting stances. They were Major League Baseball scouts taking in the swing of Oak Mountain’s star senior center fielder, David Dahl, a potential first-round pick this June.

The Oak Mountain freshman coach might not have been used to the attention, but Dahl certainly is. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder has had scouts watching his every move for nearly a year now. And some have even made it a habit to go to Dahl’s regular BP sessions with his father, Mike.

“It’s been a lot more pressure-packed lately,” said his father of the BP. “It’s more nerve-wracking for me than for him.”

All the intrigue is justified. Rated the No. 16 overall draft prospect by ESPN Insider senior baseball analyst Keith Law and No. 2 high school outfielder by ESPNHS, Dahl has one of the smoothest swings in the country.

It’s something he’s honed since he was 7 while working in the cage, whether hitting off a tee, doing soft toss or taking live batting practice with his dad throwing.

“He stays balanced throughout his swing,” said Breeze. “It’s always the same and fluid. That’s why he’s such a tough out.”

“I just try to keep my hands inside the ball and not try to do too much,” added Dahl.

Dahl brings plenty of other skills to the table as well. He’s got a cannon for an arm (he’s been clocked at 95 mph throwing from the outfield), incredible range in center and is a terror on the basepaths. His total package of skills is similar to that of his favorite player, Boston Red Sox star Jacoby Ellsbury.

Dahl ran an official 60-yard dash time of 6.49 seconds at the Perfect Game National Showcase last June. By comparison, the average major leaguer runs the 60 in around 6.8 seconds.

He’s so fast that as of this writing he’s only been thrown out five times trying to steal in his career, none at second base. And he’s gotten even faster while training with Willie Smith, who won an Olympic gold medal on the U.S. 4x400 relay in 1984.

“This kid has a great arm and bat and defensively he’s a superstar,” said Breeze. “And he can run like that? People are surprised by it.”

Dahl hit .449 as a junior with 18 doubles, three triples, two homers and 29 RBIs and stole 16 bases in 18 attempts, though his power and speed numbers could have been higher were he not just getting over a stress fracture in his back.

He suffered the injury while squatting 425 pounds during his sophomore year and re-injured it by coming back too soon. Dahl batted .397 in 21 games that year and hit just one homer with 16 RBIs while dealing with considerable pain.

Finally, after the season was over, Dahl was told by doctors to avoid any physical activity for six months so he could let the fracture heal properly.

“That was really frustrating because all my friends were playing summer baseball and I couldn’t do anything,” he said.

Dahl was cleared to play a month prior to his junior season. And while he enjoyed a bounce-back campaign, he was beset by another ailment while trying out for the USA Baseball 18U National Team last summer.

Early in the tryouts, Dahl dealt with pounding headaches and couldn’t eat or drink. The diagnosis was mono, meaning Dahl would have to miss another five weeks of action and an opportunity to play for Team USA.

Or so he thought.

After playing in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego last August, Dahl and his family were about to board a plane home to Birmingham when his father received a call from Team USA saying they’d like Dahl to try out for one of the final roster spots.

Dahl ended up making the team and drove in 11 runs in 15 games to help the squad earn the gold medal at the Pan Am Championships in Colombia. And once Team USA recorded the final out, there was Dahl charging in from the outfield to get to the top of the dog pile.

“It was the best feeling ever,” said Dahl. “It was really satisfying with all I’ve battled through.”

“My wife and I went for the last week, and it was our proudest moment watching him,” added his father.

Now Dahl is just focusing on enjoying his senior season, even with all the distractions of the draft swirling around him and with the numerous autograph requests that get sent to the school and his house. Dahl is able to stay so even-keeled because he knows that no matter where he gets drafted, he has a nice fallback option in a scholarship to Auburn.

“I’m just trying to have fun this year and that stuff will work out in the end,” said Dahl. “I’m not stressing out about it.”

No matter how many “dads” are watching him take BP.

School: Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.)
Class: 2012
Position: Center fielder
HT: 6-2
WT: 185
College: Auburn

TV Show: “SportsCenter”
Movie: “Gladiator”
Athlete: Jacoby Ellsbury
School Subject: Math
Food: Cheeseburgers

Buxton headlines star-studded OF list

February, 24, 2012
Byron BuxtonMike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesAppling County (Baxley, Ga.) senior Byron Buxton is the nation's top outfielder and a potential top-five pick in June's draft.

Each week from now until early March, we’ll take a look at the elite Class of 2012 high school baseball prospects by ranking our Top 10 players by position. This week, we unveil our list of the Top 10 outfielders led by Appling County (Baxley, Ga.) standout Byron Buxton.

Last season, Buxton established himself as one of the nation’s top overall prospects by hitting .594 with 10 homers and 48 RBIs. And this week, he was named by Keith Law as the No. 1 prospect for this year's MLB draft.

1. Byron Buxton, Appling County (Baxley, Ga.)
Buxton is a two-sport star with plus speed and a steady setup and swing at the plate. He has the athleticism to play center field but scouts tend to believe he'll settle in right in a similar manner as Arizona Diamondbacks star Justin Upton. Buxton hits the low-90s off the mound, but his future is as an everyday talent, and he may hit for plus power down the road. He could be a top-five pick, but if he prefers college, the University of Georgia will welcome him with open arms.

2. David Dahl, Oak Mountain (Birmingham, Ala.)
Dahl is a multi-talented athlete, but his best asset may be his eye for the strike zone. He can throw and run, projects to hit for average and power and should get on base with regularity. He's likely to end up in right field but could play some center early in his career. Dahl is an Auburn commit, but is a good bet for the first round and is a possible top-10 pick.

3. Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.)
Almora , a Miami commit, may be the best prep center fielder in the class and projects to hit for average with a chance to add 10 to 15 home runs. He's a 55 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and has tremendous instincts in the field and on the bases. Almora performs well in showcases and big games, which could get him selected in the top 20.

4. Courtney Hawkins, Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Hawkins, also a right-handed pitcher, is an enticing talent with plus power that he put on display at the Area Code Games, where he was one of just two players to leave the yard. Blair Field is rather cavernous, making the feat that much more impressive. He improved from the end of the spring into the showcase circuit, but scouts do show concern about his defensive instincts and how he handles soft stuff at the plate. Hawkins should hear his name called on Day 2, if not late on Day 1.

5. Lewis Brinson, Coral Springs (Fla.)
Brinson is quite the athlete, grading out above average across the board, including a 55 run grade and throwing arm. He has legit power that plays now, but he's raw in terms of plate discipline and pitch recognition. Florida could get a terrific corner outfielder with a bright future if Brinson passes on pro ball for the college game. Such a decision could put him in the first round conversation in 2015.

6. Billy “Nick” Williams, Ball (Galveston, Texas)
Williams could fit anywhere on this list and the argument for such a ranking would be legitimate and justified. He lacks polish and has big problems with offspeed stuff, which means his draft stock is based largely on his physical tools. He's a 70 runner with good raw power, but his mechanics at the plate need work and his defensive instincts are below average. If he maximizes his potential, he's a future star. Williams may benefit greatly from three years at the University of Texas.

7. Skye Bolt, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal (Atlanta)
Bolt has a chance to move up this list with some fundamental changes this spring. He's projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, is a 60 runner and thrower and can handle center field. The switch hitter's swing (he’s better from the right side) mechanics are poor — he was mostly upper body in 2011 — but that’s not irreparable and big power could come as a result. If he spurns North Carolina and signs, he might be a sleeper to keep an eye on.

8. Jesse Winker, Olympia (Orlando, Fla.)
Winker is known for his sound swing and big power, but he may have to convert to first base down the line, erasing some of his value. He doesn’t run or throw all that well, but is a good worker who sets an example for teammates on and off the field. Winker is committed to Florida.

9. Rhett Wiseman, Buckingham Browne & Nichols (Cambridge, Mass.)
Wiseman brings a little of everything to the ballpark, including good feet, wrist strength and good bat speed. His swing is a mess, however, which keeps his stock down. He's a decent defender but lacks polish and does not make plays instinctually, but he's always played multiple sports, somewhat explaining the lack of natural baseball skills. He's a Vanderbilt commit, so he's not going to be easy to sign, and frankly he could use the time to develop anyway.

10. Anthony Alford, Petal (Miss.)
Alford may take his game to the gridiron — he's committed to Southern Mississippi to play quarterback as well as baseball — but he's a physical specimen at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds to go with above-average speed. He may have to play left in pro ball, and is still unrefined at the plate, but there's plenty to like athletically.

Jason A. Churchill covers scouting, player development and the MLB Draft for ESPN Insider, as well as Prospect Insider, where he's the founder and executive editor. You can follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider and email him at churchill@prospectinsider.com.