06/12/12 10:18 PM ET
Rockies sign first pick Dahl, two others
By Trey Scott / MLB.com
Todd Helton, the longest-tenured player in Rockies history, strolled over, extended his hand, and then started ribbing the starstruck draftees."He came up to us, started feeling our guns," said Willoughby, a relief pitcher drafted in the fourth round. "He thinks we're a little small. "I had never shook a big-leaguer's hand before." All three, who signed on Tuesday, agreed nothing about their new life had begun to feel like reality.
"It's pretty cool, definitely hasn't sunk in yet," said Butler, a right-handed starter from Radford University drafted No. 46 in the supplemental round. "I'm just trying to have fun and enjoy it."For Willoughby and Butler, it was their first time to visit Coors Field. The two pitchers watched -- in both awe and in trepidation -- as balls jumped off bats and soared through the thin air during BP. "It's a beautiful place, I'm excited to hopefully pitch here one day," Willoughby said. "But the ball flies out of here, so as a pitcher that might not be ideal." "Yeah, but he's got a good sinker," Dahl interjected. "That's all he needs." What the Rockies need is for their top picks to make the kind of impact they haven't received from recent Drafts. Since Troy Tulowitzki was drafted No. 6 overall in 2005, none of the club's first-rounders have contributed significantly. The best bet for a quick rise is Dahl, the multi-talented center fielder whom the Rockies took at No. 10 -- their highest pick ever for an outfielder -- and signed for a $2.6 million bonus, a source confirmed. Dahl, along with Butler, will start at Rookie-Level Grand Junction. Willoughby will start with short season Tri-City in Pasco, Wash. "I hope to come up pretty quickly, I'll put in the work," Dahl said. "It's a great honor to be drafted so high and I'll try and be a leader on and off the field. Dahl had what he calls "the best workout of my life" at Coors Field before the draft. He hit nine home runs in batting practice and ran a personal-best 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash. That, combined with Dahl's impressive body of work -- a .435 batting average and 18 stolen bases this season, and 15 RBIs in last summer's Pan American Games -- was enough to convince the Rockies to draft him. "We followed him the last couple of years, hard through the whole [Draft] process," said Rockies scouting vice president Bill Schmidt. "In all the different showcases, he always produced and always hit." Dahl had committed to play his college baseball at Auburn, but the lure of the Rockies was too much to pass up. Dahl signed for $2.6 million, according to Baseball America. "I really liked meeting all the people [here]," Dahl said. "Really liked what they had to say and that they're team-oriented. I fell in love with the place. This is what I wanted to do, finish high school and start my pro career."
Trey Scott is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Reporter Jonathan Mayo contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.