After selecting Forrest Whitley to rave reviews in 2016's first round, Luhnow and co. went a bit off the wall with their second selection, reaching for powerful Buckeyes outfielder Ronnie Dawson. The pick didn't fill a glaring need in the system and was seen as a head scratcher by some, a view that was seemingly validated by Dawson's early professional performance.
In his draft year, Dawson reported to the NYPL and hit .225/.351/.373, showcasing the strong approach that he had displayed at Ohio State and some pop (21 XBH, 7 HR), but made too much weak contact to look like an impact bat. That story continued into 2017, as he lurched through the first half to the tune of a .217 and weakened power numbers (.126 ISO, 5 HR in 230 AB). Ronnie did continue to walk at a very strong rate (27 in 257 PA), and his K rate remained in a reasonable range for a hitter with power- these strong peripherals provided some hope for Dawson entering the second half.
At the start of July, Dawson flipped a switch. After .181 and .264 averages in May and June, the right fielder exploded with a .373/.448/.618 slash for the month, including five homers, three triples and five doubles. In addition, Dawson struck out a solid 25 times in 115 plate appearances while only seeing his walk rate dip slightly despite the fact that he was hitting everything in sight.
After continuing to hit well in the month of August for Quad Cities, Dawson and teammate Carmen Benedetti earned promotions to Buies Creek. As of this writing he has played in nine games for BC, with a .316/.341/.368 slash line and 7/2 K/BB mark. He's swinging a bit more freely since the promotion but is finding holes and should settle back into his patient, powerful approach as he adjusts to his new digs as is typical. At 22, Dawson is a tad behind schedule in his development. That said, he has a skillset that has the potential to transfer very readily to the Major League game and could follow a path similar to J.D. Davis's steady ascent to the bigs. With premium walk rates, plus raw power and strong run and arm tools, he could project as a regular in right field if his offensive resurgence ends up being the new norm.
In my opinion, the ascendant performance of Dawson and Buies Creek teammates Carmen Benedetti and Yordan Alvarez likely played a role in the Astros deciding to part with Daz Cameron in the Justin Verlander trade. While Dawson and Benedetti may not have the well-rounded, five-tool profile of the departed youngster, both have done their stock many favors this season and should be able to pick up the slack within the organization with the highly talented Cameron in Detroit. Dawson's profile could make him a 5 or 6-hole hitter with plus on-base skills- that is, if he can break into an already crowded major league/Triple-A lineup mix.