Last night saw two of the Detroit Tigers’ younger faces get in on the offensive action with singles, even though they did not score, Detroit saw yet another look of their potential outfield of the future.
Anibal Sanchez stole the show last night and for good reason, he absolutely dealt, but Avisail Garcia and Andy Dirks both singled to reach base and show they are better than the team’s other outfield options. Both players are relatively young, with Garcia being 21 and Dirks being 26, and the both have shown they can not only hit in clutch spots, but can also consistently perform.
Before we dive into Garcia, who is by far the more intriguing of the two outfielders, Dirks deserves some praise as a forgotten piece in the Detroit offense. Before he went down with injury early in the season, Dirks found a home in the second spot of the batting order. Teaming up with Austin Jackson, he helped the Tigers put runs on the board early by getting on in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder with less than two outs. While he hasn’t been as hot now, a lengthy stint on the disabled list is contributing to his recent drop in production, but his history of success should be what the Tigers focus on.
Last winter the “country-strong” outfielder played in the Dominican Winter League and really broke out as a professional baseball player. Actually more accurately, he won the Dominican Winter League and earned the nickname “the Dominican Hero” after he singled up the middle with the bases loaded to win it all. Dirks came back to Major League Baseball and despite struggling in April, really turned it on in May.
When he left the lineup on May 30, he had pushed his batting average to .328 with more than ten multi-hit games in May alone and was playing a solid defense. Sure, he may have fallen back upon returning to the lineup, but he is still hitting .316 on the season and is in the midst of an absolute hot streak. Since September 19, a six game span, Dirks has a .455 average with five runs scored, three extra-base hits and three RBIs. Those are pretty good numbers for any player, let alone a second year pro who, oh by the way, provides some pretty solid defense in the outfield as well.
Now the argument for keeping Garcia, a sure fire winner in any Miguel Cabrera look-a-like contest, in the major leagues heading into next year is a little bit harder than the one for Dirks. At only 21-years old he is certainly young, but is one of Detroit’s top prospects and has shown why. In 38 at-bats at the major league level, he has 14 hits, has scored six times and knocked in three RBIs. All of those numbers are decently impressive for a player who had never faced a pitcher above the Double-A level.
His strikeouts may be a little high, with seven, but it isn’t so alarming the team can’t trust him at the plate. Garcia is impressive in size, athleticism and even his defense, with a 100-percent fielding percentage, no errors and one assist. With an outfield seemingly in flux at all times and Brennan Boesch clearly over his head at the moment, Garcia provides a young face who is succeeding at the right time.
Neither Dirks or Garcia is flawless, but really there are very few flawless players in baseball. What they provide is speed and consistency to a lineup and defense that has lacked both for much of the year. Even if they aren’t scoring or aren’t knocking in runs they are getting on base, which makes pitchers throw more pitches, extends innings and ultimately improves the overall offensive look of the club.
Heading into the stretch run and the playoffs, if they make it, Detroit should, if manager Jim Leyland doesn’t start making crazy lineups again, get to see a decent amount of both players. They have shown they can perform down the stretch and are both hot, with Dirks hitting in six of his last seven and Garcia in the midst of a seven game hitting streak.
At some point, both players may struggle, with them amassing barely two full years of service combined it should be expected, but they are clearly the current future in Detroit. Quitin Berry is a nice piece and Boesch may come back to form, but it is hard to argue with the results the Tigers are having right now. Neither of Dirks, nor Garcia, are the sole-reason the Tigers are now tied a-top the Central Division, but they are certainly part of the reason and have shown they can help contribute to the club’s success in the future.