Something to keep in mind when reading this and any other analysis of Dayan Viciedo’s 2010 season is that he was playing at a level well beyond the norm for a 21-year-old. Under normal circumstances, Viciedo would’ve began 2010 in Double-A, with a promotion to Triple-A coming sometime during the middle or late part of the season. He’d then start 2011 in Triple-A, with a September call-up waiting at the end of the year.
By 2012, Viciedo would ideally be ready to take a spot in the everyday major league lineup as a 23-year-old.
Viciedo’s development is accelerated by a year. He still has some significant issues to iron out, but it’s similarly significant that he had success in the majors as a 21-year-old.
Stats and Stuff
- fWAR: 0.4
- FanGraphs page
- bWAR: 0.2
- Baseball-Reference page
Viciedo’s swing-first, ask-questions-later approach actually had more success in the majors than minors in 2010. His .365 major-league wOBA was 20 points higher than his .345 Triple-A wOBA, which certainly looks interesting.
But Viciedo only had 108 plate appearances in the majors this season, so that’s hardly a large enough sample size to make any long-term judgments. Viciedo amassed his .345 wOBA across 363 Triple-A plate appearances, so it’s likely that’s closer to his true level of production than his major-league wOBA.
There’s an interesting note regarding Viciedo’s home/road splits in Triple-A. In 185 plate appearances at Knights Stadium—in potentially its last year as a hitter’s paradise—Viciedo hit 15 home runs and had a .379 wOBA. Away from Charlotte, Viciedo hit five home runs and had a .292 wOBA in 176 plate appearances.å
Those home/road splits carried over to his small MLB sample size of plate appearances. In 66 plate appearances U.S. Cellular Field, Viciedo hit four home runs with a .439 wOBA. On the road, Viciedo hit one home run with a .237 wOBA in 39 plate appearances.
The gulf between Viciedo’s home and road stats likely isn’t caused by one single factor. Part of it may have to do with Knights Stadium and U.S. Cellular Field playing easier, and part of it may have to do with Viciedo—who, remember, is only 21 and hasn’t lived in the United States for two years yet—being more comfortable playing at home.
I’m willing to chalk up those home/road splits to more randomness than anything else until we see some more data from Triple-A or the majors. In 2009, Viciedo had the exact same wOBA at home and on the road in Double-A, so there’s not a long-standing trend with those splits.
Is Viciedo’s aggressiveness a problem?
Only A.J. Pierzynski was more aggressive than Viciedo among members of the 2010 White Sox.
Pierzynski led the team by swinging at 41.7 percent of pitches out of the strike zone, while Viciedo came in second with a 38.7 percent swing rate at pitches out of the strike zone. Pierzynski (56.5) and Viciedo (55.5) essentially swung at the same percentage of pitches, but where they deviate is obvious.
Viciedo’s approach was to try to hit the daylights out of the ball, with strikeouts being a minor casualty. Pierzynski’s approach was to do anything to not strike out, instead opting to make weaker contact more often if it meant putting the ball in play instead of striking out.
And that’s why you see the discrepancy in the contact rates for Viciedo (73.8 percent) and Pierzynski (86.3 percent).
Viciedo’s aggressiveness has a better chance of working out than Pierzynski’s, though. For Pierzynski, he’s neither fast nor powerful, so swinging at such a high rate of pitches with poor plate discipline is bound to get him nowhere offensively.
But for Viciedo, that full-on attack mode can be successful on one condition: he stops swinging at so many pitches outside of the strike zone.
With a few notable exceptions—Vladimir Guerrero, Adrian Beltre, and Josh Hamilton, to name a few—most of the players who swung at 37 percent or more pitches out of the strike zone didn’t produce much offensively in 2010. There’s nothing wrong with being aggressive inside the strike zone, as Viciedo was—he swung at about three in every four pitches he saw in the strike zone.
But, to be productive major leaguer, he’s going to have to reign in that aggressiveness outside the strike zone just a little bit. That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to take more walks—well, okay, he does, but he’ll only have to walk at around a 4 to 5 percent rate to give himself a chance at success.
It’s hard to envision Paul Konerko not coming back to the White Sox in 2011, so Viciedo will have to wait to succeed Konerko for at least one more year.
But there’s an entirely plausible scenario in which Viciedo finds himself playing a significant role on the major-league roster next year. Ozzie Guillen has stated his desire to have flexibility with his designated hitter spot, and that desire won’t go away even with the failures of Mark Kotsay in 2010.
If Guillen wants to have that flexibility to rest Konerko but keep his bat in the lineup, a Konerko/Viciedo 1B/DH combo could be an option.
Viciedo wouldn’t be counted on to DH all the time, either. If the Sox bring back Andruw Jones—I’d argue they should, but Scott Boras could make it difficult—Carlos Quentin could always slide in to DH, giving Viciedo a day off while keeping Quentin’s bat in the lineup and improving the team’s outfield defense.
There would be good and bad with this strategy. First, the good:
- It would give the 35-year-old Konerko much-needed rest without an offensive dropoff. In my player review of Konerko, I mentioned that maybe, just maybe, some of his 2010 success came from 20+ starts at DH. By no means am I confident in that argument, especially because first base is the least physically-demanding position on the field. But, as Konerko ages, he will need more days off from the field, so having that DH option open would be a plus.
- Viciedo wouldn’t be completely exposed. If Quentin makes 30 starts at DH, that’s 30 starts Viciedo won’t make. Ideally, those would be against hard-throwing right-handers. Viciedo will only be 22 next year and still needs to make major strides in his patience and pitch recognition to be the impactful everyday player so many think he’ll be.
- Futhermore, given Viciedo’s propensity to go on really hot or really cold streaks, having the flexibility to take him out of the lineup would be nice, too. When Viciedo is locked in/has a run of high BABIP, he’ll be a force in the lineup. When he’s not hitting anything, pulling him and inserting Jones in right and Quentin at DH may not result in much of a net loss, if there’s a loss at all given the great defensive improvement in right.
And the bad:
- Viciedo, as I mentioned before, still has a lot on which to work. There’s a good chance that if he plays 100+ games, pitchers will find a weakness of his sometime during the season and exploit it. While he’s made considerable offensive strides over the last two seasons, his aggressiveness needs to be reigned in. Unless he’s the next Kirby Puckett, Viciedo isn’t going to get by with a walk rate below 3 percent. As I said, that walk rate needs to get up around 4 or 5 percent. Whatever work on his patience that needs to be done is better suited for the minor leagues—and remember, he’ll only be 22 and still has a lot he could accomplish at the Triple-A level.
- Any DH scenario that doesn’t involve Quentin getting the bulk of the at-bats drags down its overall value because Quentin really is that lousy of a defender. Ideally, the White Sox could use Quentin as the primary DH with someone else starting in right. Konerko would be mixed in at DH when that right fielder (I’ll get more into who that could be in Quentin’s player review) and/or Quentin need a day off. In this scenario, Viciedo doesn’t have a place on the White Sox, as getting his frequent at-bats in Triple-A would be more beneficial than infrequent at-bats as Konerko’s backup.
The bad outweighs the good in this DH scenario. I’ll look into it more into potential DH scenarios in future reviews, but this one involving Viciedo isn’t the best option the White Sox have.
Although it’s better than the one they used in 2010.
- Jim talked to SNY.tv about Rick Hahn’s interview with the Mets. Here’s hoping Hahn doesn’t take the job 1) because I’d like to see him stay in the Sox organization and 2) because, as Jim writes, the Mets aren’t exactly a great organization.
- James reviews Matt Thornton and Jeff Marquez along with Bobby Jenks—who he points out, according to FIP, had the best season of his career in 2010.
- Joey Cora will interview for the Brewers’ managerial position. He previously was a candidate for the Mariners’ job in 2008 before Seattle hired Don Wakamatsu.