Prospect of the Day: Andy Dirks, OF, Detroit Tigers
Rookie outfielder Andy Dirks of the Detroit Tigers is holding his own in the Show so far, rapidly making the transition from unheralded sleeper prospect to major league contributor. What does the future hold? Let's take a look.
Andy Dirks was a successful college player at Wichita State University, hitting .320/.406/.400 with 19 steals as a junior in 2007, followed by a more robust .388/.498/.632 with 11 homers and 26 steals in 2008 as a senior. Although not a big guy at 6-0, 190, he was a good athlete with average tools across the board and a strong performance record, so it was a bit surprising that he wasn't drafted at all until his senior year. The Tigers took him in the eighth round, signing him for $35,000. He got into just 13 games after being drafted, though he went 15-for-44 (.341) for the GCL Tigers and West Michigan.
Dirks began 2009 with Lakeland in the Florida State League, where he hit .330/.410/.379 with 10 steals in 27 games. This earned him a rapid promotion to Double-A Erie, where he hit .255/.323/.349 with 11 steals in 98 games. This wasn't too impressive, though Tigers officials still felt he was a sleeper. Returning to Erie in '10, he hit .278/.342/.425 with 11 homers and 19 steals in 98 more games, then a sharp .375/.398/.648 in 22 games for Triple-A Toledo. He hit .328/.375/.527 in 34 more games for Toledo this spring before moving up to Detroit. Overall in his minor league career, Dirks is a .291/.352/.429 hitter.
So far in the majors, he's at .263/.317/.421 with three homers, a 6/10 BB/K in 76 at-bats, and two steals. He hasn't been amazing, but there are things to like here.
Dirks is already 25 years old, so his upside is more limited than many prospects, but he has a broad base of skills. He has a compact swing that hits liners to all fields. Although he can be overpowered by plus fastballs, he holds in well against breaking balls and changeups thanks to a discerning eye. He doesn't draw a huge number of walks, but he avoids excessive strikeouts.
His running speed is a tick above average and he was an aggressive, and successful, stealer in the minors. His arm is average or a bit below, but his throws are usually accurate, he has enough range to play center field, and is very good in left. UZR already rates his defense very positively, granted the sample is small, but it does accord with the minor league scouting reports. Scouts love his makeup.
Dirks profiles as a perfect fourth outfielder since he has no spectacular skills, but does a lot of things well. He could be a regular under the right circumstances. He's similar to players like David DeJesus or David Dellucci, guys who aren't world-beaters but who help their teams in myriad ways.