For a long time a big part of the excitement surrounding Dayan Viciedo was just how young he was. In 2011 when he hit .296/.364/.491 in AA he was only 22-years old. The analysis then was roughly, “Sure, he’s still too aggressive, and those are numbers are good, not great, but hey, most prospects his age are in Low or High A!”
And yes, being young for your level and succeeding is pretty much always a good thing. The problem is, youth is no guarantee of improvement. There needs to be some area of the player’s game wherein there is a realistic expectation of improvement. For example, yes, Leury Garcia is super young, and it is plausible that he keeps making some improvements in pitch recognition/strike zone judgment as he gets some time to consolidate and get repeated looks at advanced offspeed stuff – although nothing drastic – and maybe he can cut down on his errors with experience. He’s already shown minor improvements in those areas. However, Leury Garcia is never going to hit for power to any real degree no matter how old he gets. It’s just not in his build, swing, or game. That’s fine.
One big hurdle for Viciedo was that he didn’t really have a position. The guy is stocky and has a ton of bulk. That’s not going to get better as he ages, it’s only going to get worse. I am not questioning his effort at all – by all accounts, Viciedo is pleasant and hardworking – it’s just the way he’s built. In the field he essentially has no range, runs bizarre routes, and has only okay hands. His arm is certainly plus. That doesn’t leave a lot of options. The positions he can feasibly play without actively hurting the team require him to hit like an elite bat in order to be worthwhile. So that brings us to the other problem.
It looks like Viciedo can’t hit.
His inability to recognize pitches is unavoidable. And I don’t mean that he’s just impatient in the way Adam Jones is. Adam Jones has decided walks are for losers and somehow it’s working out really well for him. Jones has maintained high average and power, and while he’ll never be one of the top players in the majors, he can sit with an OPS in the .830-.850 range and play a pretty good CF and be a real asset. Viciedo is going to have to be a bad LF, a mediocre 1B, or a DH. The standards for hitting in those positions are quite different.
No, Dayan Viciedo’s inability to recognize a pitch means he is pretty much just guessing – it makes his legitimate power sort of irrelevant because he can’t square the ball up frequently enough to make up for the fact that he was never going to get on base much anyway.
This hasn’t really improved at all, and Viciedo’s primary asset – his youth – is becoming a less and less viable excuse. He’ll be 25 in March and he has almost 1,200 major league PAs. He’s not improving. Left fielders are posting a wRC+ of 101 around the league – Viciedo sits at 90 for this year. He’s basically had the same season three years in a row:
Viciedo’s walk rate and strike out rate are virtually unchanged – if anything his power has taken a step back this year without any real gains anywhere else. This matches the eye test. You know he’s going up flailing as hard as he can, and frequently it looks like he doesn’t even keep his head still.
He’s under team control until 2018 and won’t even be arbitration eligible until 2015. On the other hand, the White Sox have said they’re trying to reload for 2014 and he’s one of the worst regulars in the majors – a huge defensive liability who is a below average bat for his position.
One consideration is that all of the young outfielders who were supposed to develop and start getting closer to the majors this year – Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson, Keenyn Walker, etc. – have all taken a huge step backwards, which takes some of the pressure off. Similarly, however, Jordan Danks is at least a plus fielder, he hits the bigger half of the platoon (righties v. lefties), and it’s looking more like he’s just a better hitter than Viciedo to boot.
If the White Sox really do plan on competing next year, the time is rapidly approaching for them to make Viciedo cool his heels in AAA and only use him for occasional platoon duty against lefties barring some sort of drastic change in his game. The franchise has a ton of money, plenty of pitching, and some okay regulars up the middle. They need big, middle of the order bats, and the best places to put them are LF and 1B/DH. Viciedo is not part of the solution, he is part of the problem.