The Dayan Dilemma

Cry as you might, get used to seeing Dayan Viciedo in a White Sox uniform for the foreseeable future. Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

After two full seasons and more than 1,200 plate appearances, it might be safe to say we’ve seen all we’re going to get out of Dayan Viciedo as a member of the White Sox.

Viciedo signed a four year, $11 million contract with the White Sox in 2008 as a 19 year old with a lot of potential. The Sox saw him as a long-term solution at third base, and in 2009, Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook had this to say about the then-20-year-old.

“Viciedo has the power to hit 40-plus homers in a season, thanks to a quick swing that’s triggered by strong wrists… He’s an aggressive hitter who will chase bad pitches… Viciedo has a high ceiling but brings a bigger risk than the more experienced and athletic [Alexei] Ramirez.”

Viciedo showed signs of being able to produce as a hitter when called up in 2010, hitting .308/.321/.519 in 106 plate appearances. That small sample size ended up being a far cry from the Viciedo we’ve seen since, as his OPS has hovered in the low .700s, his walk numbers have been expectedly bad and his defense has been nothing short of atrocious in left field and, for a short time, third base.

In short, Viciedo, the prized Cuban who was once ranked as highly as No. 2 in the White Sox’s farm system, has been on par with a replacement-level player during his four seasons as a pro.

So it goes as no surprise that fans are ready for the White Sox to move on. But is the White Sox front office ready to give up on him?

It appears, for now, that Rick Hahn & Co. are prepared to give Viciedo at least one more season to try to figure it out. And despite his lack of production, it’s not hard to see why.

While Viciedo has 1,200 plate appearances that tell us he’s bad, it’s easy to forget how young he still is. He’ll be 25 for the entirety of next season, and knowing most players hit their prime around the age of 26 or 27, and considering the amount of time and money they’ve invested into the development into him, it’s not a surprise that the White Sox aren’t willing to give up on their investment just yet.

It’s likely that Viciedo’s defense will never improve beyond what we’ve seen in left field during the past two seasons. Some have mentioned a potential move to first base with Paul Konerko‘s future in doubt and Adam Dunn‘s contract expiring after 2014. But with the recent signing of fellow Cuban Jose Abreu, the White Sox have a logjam of guys who can only play first base or DH even if Konerko isn’t brought back. And besides, Viciedo’s one positive defensive trait is his arm, which wouldn’t help him much at first.

It’s also unlikely his walk rate will see drastic improvement. His BB% has consistently been around 5 percent during his two full seasons, which ranks somewhere between poor and awful

But if (and that’s a big IF) Viciedo’s bat can start to generate some of the power he showed in 2012, he won’t be a complete detriment to a team starving for offense. And, specifically, starving for offense in the middle of the order.

One must also consider the alternatives. The White Sox’s farm system lacks any outfielders who are ready to step in as starters in 2014. The free agent market does open the possibility of sending Viciedo elsewhere (either to the bench or to another team) if the White Sox’s pursuit of Curtis Granderson proves to be true (and moves the equally-expendable Alejandro De Aza to Viciedo’s perch in left field). But it’s hard to argue that improves the White Sox drastically enough to justify what it will cost to sign Granderson.

All that adds up to an increasing likelihood that Viciedo remains the White Sox’s starting left fielder for 2014 and possibly 2015. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that he begins producing enough to justify remaining there long-term (he’s not arbitration-eligible until 2015 and can’t become a free agent until 2018), but the early returns completely justify skepticism.

Topics: Chicago White Sox, Dayan Viciedo

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