Profile: 5'11" - 240lbs - BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 22
• Hit: 40-50
• Power: 60-70
• Eye: 25-35
• Range: 40-45
• Hands: 45-50
• Arm: 60-65
• Run: 40-40
Viciedo was considered one of the most interesting teenage bats to come out of Cuba back in 2008. He had played shortstop, third base, and the outfield for the Cuban Junior National teams and he had shown impressive power. There was no shortage of interest but many teams were scared away by the fact that in just two years Viciedo had gone from around 190lbs to 230lbs and teams worried about just how big he might get. The White however were undeterred and in signing him to a huge 4 year 10 million dollar Major League deal further cemented themselves as one of, if not thee, primary Major League player for Cuban free agents.
Viciedo has gotten his weight issues under control but even at just 21 years old he already weighs 240lbs, and even upon debuting the White Sox seemed to understand that he wasn't capable of playing third base in the Major Leagues. He has the solid/plus arm, and while his hands aren't good, they're around league average, it's his range however that does Viciedo in. He's simply too big to have the quickness to handle anything laterally. The presence of defensive standout Brent Morel cements the likelihood a position change further. To that end, the White Sox have toyed with the idea of a switch to the outfield but his lack of range wont play any better there.
Offensively Viciedo's greatest strength may also be his greatest weakness. Dayan has impressive hand-eye coordination that allows him to consistently get the fat part of the bat on the ball, and when he squares it up, his power is very impressive. The problem with that comes in the fact that he rarely sees a pitch he doesn't like and he'll chase if pitchers know well enough to make him. Minor League pitchers are generally still wild enough that he'll get his share of mistakes to take advantage of, but once Major League pitchers understand that you're a free swinger, you're going to get a heavy dose of pitches outside of the zone - they'll make you hit their pitch.
One of the dangers in signing an amateur player to a MLB contract is that it immediate sets that players option years in motion and it can force a team to rush a player who isn't ready to the Major League level. In the White Sox case, they debuted Viciedo at AA despite him being just 20 years old and predictably, he got manhandled. Thankfully for the White Sox his power finally manifested itself at the AAA level, and he more than held his own in a brief MLB debut.
There are issues here however. For one, we can see that his .308 MLB average was the product of a wildly unsustainable .365 BABIP. There is also the alarming fact that he swings at nearly everything, seemingly taking personal offense to the idea of a walk. You can get away with that in the Minors, but at the MLB level it's a different story. In the past three years 40 players have posted walk rates of less than 5%. Only three of those have posted an OPS over .800 in that time, and none of those three had a strikeout rate over 14%. Simply put, it's really hard to be an effective hitter at the MLB level when you refuse to take a walk AND strikeout a lot.
In order to hit for average, Viciedo is going to have to cut down on his strikeouts, and in order to post a respect OBP, he's going to have to start taking more walks or take the Carlos Quentin route, and lean into a lot of others.
This is where we get back to the problem about MLB contracts I was mentioning earlier. Clearly there are areas of weakness that Viciedo needs to improve in order to be a consistently impactful MLB hitter, but with 2011 being his final option season, it will be his last chance to get consistent playing time at the MiLB level. After that, the Sox will need to give him a Major League roster spot and with Viciedo unlikely to be effective as a defender regardless of where you put him, that leaves him primarily as a DH or first baseman. Of course anyone who has been paying attention realizes the White Sox have solutions at those two positions for the foreseeable future. That leaves GM Kenny Williams in a tricky spot. Viciedo can definitely improve his strikeout and walk rates to a point where they'll play at the MLB level - he'll be just 22 in 2011 after all - but without consistent at-bats, that'll be far more difficult to do. So does he hold him and use him as a bench bat, or try and trade him for help elsewhere?
Viciedo isn't going to have a problem making a Major League roster - his contract ensures that much. The question is how he's going to develop. An optimistic opinion would be to say he'll take a Delmon Young path - another well regarded prospect who was given a MLB contract and was rushed to the Majors despite being less than fully groomed. Young was like Viciedo in so many ways - very low BB rate, fairly high K rate, and defensively challenged - but a very good pure hitter with good hands and impressive raw power. Actually of the 3 players who managed a .800 OPS despite a walk rate below 5% I referenced earlier, Young's 2010 season is one.
Like Viciedo, Young also had an impressive short-term debut with the Rays buoyed by an unsustainable BABIP (.370 in Young's case) and showed off his power at the tender age of 20. Despite the high prospect rankings and promising debut, it would take Young another three years of toiling away as one of baseballs worst everyday players (combined -1.7 WAR from 2007-2009) before his talents would finally manifest themselves to some degree.
Whether Viciedo will follow a similar trajectory remains to be seen. Young had the benefit of getting consistent playing time with the Twins, who stuck with him despite his struggles. Viciedo by comparison is in a more difficult position with established players entrenched at every realistic position he could play. That's going to make it difficult for Viciedo to make the necessary adjustments to Major League pitching and hinder his development. He has the talent to be a good player, but I'm deeply concerned about his ability to get enough opportunities to improve his game. I see him as a prime trade candidate.
Corey Ettinger is a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net and 312Sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus.