Monday, March 07, 2011
Is Andy Dirks for Real?
Andy Dirks is impressing Jim Leyland this spring (Photo courtesy of Roger Dewitt/hueytaxi)
At the beginning of spring training, before a game had been played, Jim Leyland announced that a relatively unknown rookie Andy Dirks had a legitimate shot at making the opening day roster. That came as a bit of surprise considering that the 25-year-old Dirks is not even on the 40-man roster.
Once the games started, fans got a glimpse of what was impressing the Tigers manager. In nine games, the left-handed batting outfielder has been the hottest Tigers hitter batting .478 with six extra base hits in 23 at bats. That's an awfully small sample size, but just the fact that he leads the team in games played shows that the Tigers are taking a serious look.
Who is this guy? In his first year in the advanced minors in 2010, he batted a combined .292/.336/.492 for double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo combined. This included a very strong final month in Toledo where he batted .375 with 15 extra base hits in 93 plate appearances. By all accounts, he played over his head at Toledo, but continued his hot hitting in the Dominican Winter League with a .906 OPS in 46 games.
The six-foot tall 195 pound Dirks does not have one outstanding skill, but does a lot of things well. His best position is left field, but is capable of playing all three outfield positions at at least an average level. He does not have blazing speed but is a smart base runner who stole 22 bases in 26 attempts last year. As a hitter, he makes good contact, and has pretty good gap power. He's not a big home run hitter, but could potentially reach 15 homers in the majors some year.
Here is what some of the prospect experts are saying about him:
Mark Anderson, Scout.com: "A well-rounded player, Dirks' broad skills and solid skill set has long given scouts the vision of him as a traditional fourth outfielder."
Baseball America Prospect Handbook: "He doesn't have standout tools, but he grows on managers because he plays the game the right way and always gives you 100%. If all works out, he could be a David Dellucci-type regular, and should at least have value as a fourth outfielder."
Baseball Prospectus 2011: "Dirks is a gamer who worked his way up to triple-A and profiles as a likable fourth outfielder."
He sounds like a fourth outfielder. Doesn't he? He also sounds like the type of hard-working gritty player that managers appreciate. That should give him a major league career.
Will his career start on opening day, 2011? Since he's not on the 40-man roster and he is probably competing with Clete Thomas and Brennan Boesch for the final bench spot, he's a long shot. Since he probably can't do anything that Thomas can't do and doesn't have Boesch's power, there really isn't a need to create space for him on the roster. He'll likely start the season in Toledo, but will see Detroit at some point this year if he hits.