Andy Dirks has proved he deserves to see his name in the lineup every single day.
The Detroit Tigers outfielder has been a platoon player during his first two major league seasons, playing 78 games in his rookie year in 2011, and 88 games last season, but in 2013, Dirks should be the everyday starter.
Dirks had a breakout season in 2012, with eight home runs and 35 RBI to go along with a .322 average—good for second best on the team, trailing only Miguel Cabrera.
Eight home runs and 35 RBI don't look like much, but you have to consider that Dirks missed all of June and July after suffering an Achilles injury that kept him sidelined for 55 consecutive games.
Producing alone after such a debilitating Achilles injury is difficult enough, but maintaining a consistent rhythm becomes exponentially more difficult when you're not in the lineup most days that left-handed pitchers are on the mound.
If Dirks had played every day last season, his power numbers would have at least doubled, and his average may have been even better.
Dirks did most of his damage last year against right-handed pitchers, averaging .336 in 241 at-bats against righties.
He did most of his sitting when the Tigers faced lefties, only getting 73 at-bats against southpaws, averaging .274 in his few and far between opportunities.
Dirks' average, slugging and OPS went way down when he faced left-handers, but a .274 average in such few chances isn't too shabby. If given a chance to play everyday and see lefties on a consistent basis in his third year of MLB action, Dirks will show he can produce against any pitcher.
The 26-year-old has an average arm in the outfield, but with good speed, he has the range to cover a lot of ground in spacious Comerica Park, and gobbles up any fly ball he can get to. He's an accurate thrower and rarely makes defensive mistakes.
Although he only had one stolen base last season, Dirks has shown the ability to rack up steals in the minors, and if he stays healthy, could do some damage on the base paths in the future.
He just does whatever the team needs him to do.
He received the highest honor of his career last October when he earned a roster spot for the World Series, and was dubbed a "dirtbag" by manager Jim Leyland.
"Dirtbags" are the players Leyland falls in love with, who have a knack for making crucial plays in big games, and don't necessarily always make headlines.
"I'm sure that's probably a compliment," Dirks said to the Detroit Free Press' Drew Sharp in October regarding the "dirtbag" reference. "There are a lot of labels that you can put on people, but the bottom line is that you have to play hard every time you step onto the field."
Dirks embodies the "dirtbag" label with a no-nonsense attitude, hard work and a mentality that he's "been there before."
He's not a guy who's going to show up a pitcher, or complain about lack of at-bats.
He just shows up to work every day and takes advantage of whatever opportunities come his way.
Dirks will be battling Quintin Berry and Brennan Boesch along with others for playing time during spring training in 2013, but as the season progresses, and Dirks stays healthy, he'll emerge as an everyday starter in left field for the Tigers.
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