Dirks was an eighth round choice by the Tigers in the 2008 draft, and he promptly jumped right on the fast track after signing for a $35,000 bonus. Dirks was assigned to low-A West Michigan after just ten games in the Gulf Coast League, and after three games with the ‘Caps, he suffered a hand injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
The Tigers weren't bashful with Dirks in 2009 as he debuted at high-A Lakeland for his first full professional season. Serving as the team's everyday left-fielder to start the season, Dirks posted a .330/.410/.379 line through 27 games.
Dirks performance in the early going earned him a quick promotion to double-A for his first taste of advanced pitching. In 98 games for the Seawolves, Dirks continued to be a solid contributor with a .255/.323/.349 line while continuing to play mostly left field.
Prior to turning pro, Dirks was a successful four-year collegian at both Hutchinson Community College and Wichita State University. After hitting .341 and .415 in his two years at Hutchinson, Dirks stepped right into the Shockers' lineup and hit .320 in 64 games his junior season; earning him All-Missouri Valley Conference. During his senior campaign on campus, Dirks smoked the ball to the tune of a .388 average with 22 doubles and 11 home runs while earning All-MVC first team.
The opinion among scouts is nearly universal that Dirks will be a Major League fourth outfielder. He profiles solidly across the board, but nothing stands out to make him an everyday guy at the big league level.
Dirks is an above-average runner and he gets up to speed quickly. He uses his speed well in the outfield, getting to balls in the gaps and covering plenty of ground. He is a solid instinctual outfielder getting good jumps and taking proper routes to balls. He has the ability to cover center field, but most scouts like him better as a defender in left field. His arm is slightly above-average with good accuracy.
Though Dirks only has average power in his bat, he has good bat speed and he can spray line drives to all fields. He gets balls in the gaps regularly and has enough juice in his bat to hit 8-10 home runs annually at the big league level. Dirks understands the strike zone and is able to work counts, but he is an aggressive hitter that looks to swing at good pitches early in counts. He has good hand-eye coordination and an ability to make contact with ease. Dirks is an adept bunter and situational hitter, giving him added versatility on an MLB bench.
None of Dirks' tools will bowl you over, but the combination of fringe-average to slightly above-average tools, and an all-out style of play give him a chance at an MLB career. With either a slight increase in his power output or an improvement in his defensive ability allowing him to play center field, Dirks could develop into a second division starter.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A+
Dirks suffered a right hand fracture in his first season at West Michigan, but that injury has not continued to be a problem. He went on the DL in August at Erie with a wrist injury, that shut him down until early September. There are some scouts that are concerned with Dirks' ability to remain healthy over the course an entire season because of his aggressive and all-out style of play. In a reserve role as a fourth outfielder, this concern should be lessened, and most coaches or managers will never argue with someone on their roster that plays too hard.
After a solid if unspectacular showing at Erie in 2009, Dirks is a likely candidate to head back there to start the 2010 season. Dirks is getting close to being a finished product, but his overall offensive approach could use some polish to make him a more consistent contributor.
With a likely season ahead of him split between double-A and triple-A, Dirks will be knocking on the door to the big leagues by the start of the 2011 season and he could be a solid and inexpensive, as well as offensively and defensively versatile reserve player for the Tigers.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.