Truthfully, I was never a fan of Chicago White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo; I just never understood the hype surrounding him. Sure, during his first professional season the Cuban-born Viciedo held his own in Double-A, at the age of 20.
Viciedo, though, is built like a bowling ball, listed as a portly 5-foot-11 and 240 pounds. Those numbers tend to lie as well. And while he showed above-average of better power potential, his game was highly flawed: he barely walked, his defense at both corner infield positions was pretty horrendous, and I had serious questions about his overall ceiling.
In fact, if you would have asked me two years ago if Viciedo would ultimately be a league average starter I honestly don’t know how I would have replied. I suspect that I would have said no.
Now, though, I’m a changed man. I’m jumping on the Viciedo bandwagon. Hypocritical? Yes, perhaps. I would have never guessed that the man nicknamed The Tank would have ever developed plate discipline either. But he has.
As the saying goes, though I believe it’s generally attributed to Dominican prospects, not Cubans, “No one walks off the island.” Well, Viciedo sure as hell didn’t. But he might be able to now.
During his first year in Double-A Birmingham, he walked just 23 times in 540 plate appearances; his walk rate, 4.3%, tied for the second lowest in the league that year. And it only regressed the next season in Triple-A. In 363 International League plate appearances, he reached base via the walk 11 times – 11 times! He did, however, get called up to the White Sox that year and promptly – or not – walked two times in 106 PAs.
But something happened last season, though; something that I can’t explain because, well, it’s a cosmic miracle.
Dayan Viciedo, the same man that walked in 3.6% of his total professional plate appearances, developed plate discipline – a lot of it. Or at least a lot compared to what it was. While in his second season with the Charlotte Knights, Viciedo more than doubled his career rate, to an impressive 8.9%.
Admittedly, I don’t know how often a younger player more than doubles his walk rate at the Triple-A level but I suspect that it doesn’t happen very often. It actually seems counterintuitive. Pitchers get better further up the minor league chain, show better command, and walk fewer batters, generally speaking.
And what also impresses me, or at least intrigues me, is that for three consecutive years in the big leagues – albeit in very limited sample sizes – Viciedo has increased his pitcher per plate appearance (P/PA) from 3.34 to 3.75 to 4.16. Yes, I know three small sample sizes don’t make one full sample size. But I do find it intriguing nonetheless.
Look, if Viciedo can even hover around the league average walk rate – somewhere in the neighborhood of 8.0% – he should easily become an above-average major league player. We’re still talking about a player with 25+ homerun potential whose defense in left field shouldn’t be as nearly as costly to his team if he stayed in the infield. Most likely he’ll ultimately end up as a designated hitter, but that shouldn’t happen for the next few years.
In my opinion, Dayan Viciedo is a potential 3.0 to 4.0 WAR player, a solid big league contributor who might squeak into an All-Star game or two.
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