Had Rick Hahn wanted to attract some early attention after taking over as White Sox general manager, he could have traded Dayan Viciedo for a proven left-handed hitter or a promising package of prospects.
It’s no secret the Sox’ lineup is stacked with right-handed hitters, so moving Viciedo was on the table.
At the winter meetings in early December, rumors had Viciedo going to the Arizona Diamondbacks for left-handed hitting Jason Kubel or the Seattle Mariners for prospects.
There also was speculation the White Sox would keep the right-handed hitting Viciedo and make him a platoon player.
Hahn never tipped his hand on Viciedo during baseball’s annual winter gathering. But at SoxFest in late January, he was quite clear when asked about the soon-to-be 24-year-old left fielder.
Simply put, Viciedo is staying put.
“There were a bunch of rumors about our interest in a big power, left-handed hitting former outfielder from the National League (Kubel) with the notion being we’re going to bring in this guy and essentially become a platoon partner with Viciedo,” Hahn said.
“In theory, you can see why that might make sense to make us stronger in 2013. Maybe. He is a proven entity and he hits right-handed pitching, and Viciedo struggled last year against right-handed pitching.
Hahn proceeded to pull the plug on any scenario involving Viciedo wearing a different uniform or staying with the Sox and only playing against left-handed starting pitchers.
“If you take a step back and look at the long-term good of Dayan and the organization,” Hahn said, “this guy is 23 years old in his first full year in the big leagues, he hit 25 home runs and about .260 (actually .255).
“If we all of a sudden turn him into a platoon player at age 24, he’s never going to reach that ceiling.”
At times last season Viciedo’s ceiling was substantial.
Overcoming a sluggish start, the 5-foot-11, 230-pounder batted .351 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI in May, helping the Sox end the month with a 1½-game lead in the AL Central.
Viciedo finished his first full season hitting .350 against left-handed pitchers, tying him for the third-highest average in the American League. He also batted .323 with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.
Defensively, Viciedo made a quick adjustment to left field after playing third base, first base and right field earlier in his career. He committed only 2 errors in 248 total chances and consistently made powerful, accurate throws back to the infield.
Yes, he finished the season with a so-so batting average and struck out 120 times while drawing just 28 walks in 505 at-bats. Hitting coach Jeff Manto said he thinks Viciedo benefited from the experience and is going to be even more dangerous this season.
“I don’t think what he did last year was a fluke, by any means,” Manto said. “This is what I always thought he was, and he’s going to get better once he gets the timing down.
“That’s what’s scary about this guy — he didn’t do a lot of things right and he had those numbers.
“Once he calms his stuff down and understands what the pitchers are doing to him, he’s going to be a big-time, impact player. I really believe that. And his numbers that he put up, they’re legit.”
Viciedo batted .225 against right-handed pitchers last season, so he’s likely to sit against dominant righty starters such as Detroit’s Justin Verlander and James Shields, Kansas City’s new ace.
Dewayne Wise is a reliable left-handed bat off the bench, and he is the White Sox’ top option when Viciedo needs to take a seat.
Jordan Danks is another left-handed hitting outfielder who can fill a utility role, but look for Viciedo to be in the starting lineup for most of the season.
“Not too many guys were able to do what he did at the big-league level at his age,” Hahn said of Viciedo. “And a short-term fix could well stunt him from becoming that middle-of-the-order, potentially 40 home run guy that a lot of people in the organization see in him.
“You don’t want to just drop somebody in there that can potentially compromise a guy’s development that is important for the future.”
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