Dayan Viciedo More Effective As White Sox Designated Hitter?
The White Sox have utilized Dayan Viciedo primarily as an outfielder the last few seasons, and the injury to Avisail Garcia early this season necessitated his use in that role once again. Considering Viciedo’s defensive skill set, the recent departure of Adam Dunn, and Paul Konerko’s impending retirement, the team may be better served using him as a designated hitter in the future.
The curious case of Dayan Viciedo has perplexed White Sox fans since 2010. “The Tank,” as the Cuban slugger is affectionately known, hit his 20th home run of the year Tuesday night against Oakland Athletic’s ace, John Lester. However, as the 2014 season winds down, Viciedo finds himself auditioning for his own job. At times, he displays the raw power and natural ability that validates the White Sox eagerness to sign Viciedo to a $10 million dollar contract at the age of 21. Other times, he infuriates White Sox fans with his inept defense and frequent offensive slumps.
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While discussing the Tank’s future with the team, White Sox GM, Rick Hahn, pointed out that Viciedo, “Still obviously has that special power that we see on display.” When referring to Viciedo’s shortcomings in the field Hahn noted, “I think he’s made some improvements in certain areas of his game that needed improvement and have been highlighted by… the coaches.” We know that GM’s typically don’t tip their hand regarding future plans and personnel decisions, but Hahn’s comments regarding Viciedo sound more like a guy trying to sell his 2001 Ford Taurus to a skeptical buyer than a general manager sincerely confident in his player’s potential.
The most obvious issue to Sox fans, and hopefully the organization, is the youngster just doesn’t look comfortable playing in the outfield and it shows. He’s a poor communicator, routinely letting balls drop between him and another outfielder, and a poor judge of the ball in the air. Below is a gut wrenching example of Viciedo’s impact on the team’s overall defensive effort.
Colleen Kane from the Chicago Tribune quoted Viciedo describing the adjustments he needs to make in order to become a better outfielder, stating, “It’s just getting good reads off the bat, getting (better) reaction time… Getting quick reads off the bat is basically what I need to do to get better.” Unfortunately, Viciedo has played 382 major league games in the outfield and 98 in the minors, according to baseball-reference.com. If he hasn’t figured out how to read the ball of the bat by now with consistency, he probably never will.
Utilizing Viciedo’s power as a DH will allow the Cuban slugger to focus on consistency at the plate, which seems much more likely than consistency in the outfield. The psychological benefit of not having to worry about last inning’s error or misplayed fly ball will likely do wonders for those recurring slumps that Viciedo experiences every other month or so at the plate. Many Sox fans may have been hoping that Andy Wilkins would be ready to take over the DH spot next season, but his .053 batting average in 9 games since being called up from Charlotte may have dampened those hopes. Without having to spend money in free agency to fill the DH role, Rick Hahn would be free to spend that money on an adequate defensive replacement.
2014 is Dayan Viciedo’s second 20-plus home run season in the last three years, according to SI.com. The White Sox lost some power when they traded Adam Dunn to the A’s more than a week ago. Allowing Viciedo to gain comfort in the designated hitter role gives the White Sox an opportunity to take advantage of his power and potential at the plate, while eschewing the liability he presents in the field. The financial flexibility of not having to replace Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn in free agency will allow Hahn to commit resources to fill other areas of concern… like, you know, pitching.