Spring training has begun, which means that, by god, baseball season is almost here. As Chicago baseball fans, the truth is we really don’t have a whole lot to look forward to this year, as both the Cubs and White Sox should struggle to even finish .500. Still, it will be baseball, and we will be watching it. So instead of writing general team previews for the upcoming season, I’ll be writing a series of posts in which I make FEARLESS PREDICTIONS about what will happen during the upcoming season. Today we look at White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo.
When Dayan Viciedo first came up to Chicago in 2010 it was hard to keep my hopes for him in check. Here was this 21-year old kid built like a tank with immense power. The kind of power that would bring people to the park early just to watch him take batting practice. And the early returns were good, too.
Viciedo got off to a slow start, but after appearing in 38 games for the Sox that season he would finish with a line of .308/.321/.519. Yes, the fact he drew only two walks in 38 games was concerning, but that OPS+ of 122 offset it. He was a 21-year old kid, after all, far from a finished product.
Viciedo would not play nearly as well in 2011, putting up a line of .255/.327/.314 with an OPS+ of 74. After hitting five homers in 106 PA in 2010, he’d hit only one in 113 PA in 2011. There was good news, though, as he drew nine walks and saw his walk rate climb, while his swinging strike percentage plummeted. So, yes, the numbers were down, but you could see Viciedo was trying a more patient approach at the plate. At 22 he still had plenty of time to find the happy medium between his patience and his power.
In 2012, his first full season, it looked like he was continuing that journey. He wasn’t nearly as patient, but he got his slugging percentage back up to .444, which was above the league average of .419. The problem was his lack of walks kept his OBP to .300, which was easily his career low. But, not to worry, he was still only 23. There was time to grow.
And then 2013 came along and it was a lot like 2012. Viciedo finished with a line of .265/.304/.426. So he improved his average by 10 points, and his OBP by four, but his slugging actually dropped 18. It wasn’t the most promising season, though for the eternal optimists, there were still reasons to cling for hope.
First of all, Viciedo saw a career high of 3.81 pitchers per plate appearance, which would lead you to believe he was being more patient. Well, he wasn’t. The truth is that Viciedo swung at more pitches than he had since he first came up, hacking at 54.4% of the pitches he saw. The reason he saw more pitches per PA was because he was fouling so many pitches off. Foul balls were responsible for 32.9% of the strikes Viciedo saw. That number was only 26.1% in the first three campaigns of his career. He also swung at the first pitch 30% of the time.
Of course, you could also point out that Viciedo dealt with an oblique injury, and played much better in the second half. Before the All Star break Viciedo put up a line of .246/.288/.397, which was plain awful. After the break, though, his line was at .291/.327/.466. And that kind of improvement is nice to see, it’s just that his line during the second half of the season was just so wholly ordinary.
And I think that’s just who Dayan Viciedo is, and who he is going to be.
He’s still only 25 years old, which means he’s entering the part of his career where he’s going to have to put up or shut up. After the White Sox traded for Adam Eaton there were rumors that either Viciedo or Alejandro De Aza would be moved via trade as well, and I was torn as to which one I’d preferred to see moved.
Viciedo still has potential, but De Aza has actually been one of the most productive Sox hitters the last few seasons. At the moment, both are still in White Sox uniforms, and both are expected to platoon in left field.
Which is a move that could benefit both Viciedo and the White Sox.
If there’s one thing Viciedo can do it’s hit lefties. In his career he has a slash line of .322/.357/.551 with an OPS+ of 144 against southpaws in 336 PA.
His home run percentage against righties is 3.2%. Against lefties it’s 4.8%.
His extra-base hit rate against righties is 6.7%. Against lefties it’s 11.6%.
His BABIP against righties is .290. Against lefties it’s .341.
His strikeout rate against righties is 23.8%. Against lefties it’s 15.5%.
The trend is rather obvious, isn’t it?
So by having Viciedo in the lineup against lefties, odds are the White Sox will get much more efficient production out of Viciedo, and while it won’t lead to career highs in homers or RBI, it will likely lead to a better slash line than we’ve been expecting.
But it won’t make Viciedo a better player overall.
At this point my hope is that Viciedo performs very well in his platoon role this season and that the White Sox can flip him to a contender looking for a power bat at the trade deadline. Hopefully his platoon-inflated numbers will increase his value, because he already has value on the trade market. Again, he’s only 25.
I just don’t think he’ll reach the peak of his value with the White Sox. I haven’t had as much fun watching a White Sox outfielder play left field since Carlos Lee, but the difference between Carlos Lee and Viciedo was that Lee could mash. While Viciedo may be Carlos Lee in the field, he’s not Carlos Lee at the plate.
His long-term projection with the White Sox is as a designated hitter, and he’s just not good enough with the bat to be your designated hitter for an extended period of time. I don’t want replacement level production from the guy whose sole job is to see ball, hit ball. And that’s what Viciedo provides.
It’s what he’ll continue to provide for as long as he’s in a White Sox uniform. The only question I have at this point is how long that will be.
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