Position Battles: White Sox 3B, Pt. 3: Dayan Viciedo

The Chicago White Sox entered the 2008 season facing an identity crisis. Coming off of a disappointing 72-win campaign, the South Siders possessed an aging roster and a farm system that had become fallow due to years of conservative drafting. Baseball America ranked the Chicago system 28th-best before the year, leaving an ominous forecast: “With an aging roster in Chicago that stumbled in ’07, the White Sox could be in for a long dry spell.”

Instead, the Pale Hose tallied 89 victories (supported by a +82 run differential). Southpaw John Danks emerged as a potential ace, and the maligned player development program received an infusion of much-needed position player talent. The White Sox system won’t be confused with that of the A’s or Rangers any time soon, but draftees Gordon Beckham (a middle infielder with a quality bat) and Jordan Danks (John’s brother; a rangy outfielder snagged out of Texas), as well as potential secondary-skills monster Tyler Flowers (a C/1B/DH to-be-named-later picked up in the Javier Vazquez deal) gave the system a boost. The Sox also dipped into the international market, signing a highly-touted Cuban for the second straight year.

Dayan Viciedo, who turns 20 this week, inked a four-year major league contract paying him a $4 million bonus and ensuring $10 million overall. The star of Cuba’s junior national team defected in May according to Baseball America, taking a boat to Mexico before etablishing residency in the Dominican Republic. He then shifted to Miami with his agent, Jaime Torres.

While Alexei Ramirez is a sleek athlete known for his speed and quick wrists, Viciedo is a burly right-handed hitter noted for his immense power. As you can see from this video, Viciedo has a quiet, powerful swing. Although this sounds a bit on the hyperbolic side, BA commented that he “has the power to hit 40-plus home runs in season, thanks to a quick swing that’s triggered by strong wrists.”

Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein also extolled Viciedo’s virtues (subscription required), dubbing him the fourth-best prospect in the White Sox System. “Viciedo”, Goldstein noted, “has the potential to be a top-line offensive prospect. He combines brute strength with incredible bat speed, and he’s one of those rare players for whom solid contact “sounds different” when he can fully square up on a fastball.”

While it seems as though a near-consensus exists regarding Dayan’s hitting ability, his skill set afield is much less heralded. Viciedo is listed at 5-11 and 240 pounds on MLB.com, and he was reportedly heavier than that when the White Sox first scouted him. With an ample frame, he could end up shifting down the defensive spectrum to first base or DH. Here’s one scout’s take on Viciedo:

“His body could go the same route as Livan Hernandez, and when I saw him in Mexico, he wasn’t very good at third base anymore,” one international scouting director said. “But he can really hit; in fact, I think he’s probably a better hitter than [Angel] Villalona.”

There have been some rumblings that Viciedo might have a shot of cracking the opening day roster for the White Sox. However, as Goldstein pointed out, “that’s more than a bit aggressive.” While spring training stats can be awfully misleading, he hasn’t hurt his case with two homers in 15 at-bats. The more likely scenario entails Viciedo starting the year in the minors, perhaps at Double-A. Long-term, he’s certainly someone to watch closely.

Fields and Betemit look like a decent platoon duo, but third might be there for the Cuban if he has the defensive chops. If not, DH and 1B will also be vacated sometime soon, with Jim Thome and Paul Konerko reaching the latter stages of their respective careers.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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hmmm… not sure how much 1st or DH is as open to Viciedo with Brandon Allen looking like he’s ahead of Dayan at this point.