Viciedo might be a hitter after all

Viciedo might be a hitter after all
Contact! // Nuccio DiNuzzo,Tribune photo

On rare occasions, I have ideas for post staked out well ahead of time.  This Monday was one of those times, I was going to address how much longer the White Sox should attempt to let Dayan Viciedo develop in a major league lineup.  If my schedule had worked out, I was even going to write it before attending Monday's game, and schedule it to publish Tuesday morning, anticipating another 0 for 4, 2K-night from Dayan.

Naturally, Viciedo pretty much won the game for the Sox with an offensive onslaught, going 2 for 4 with a HR and 4 RBI.  The homer was his first of the month, as was the multi-hit game, and the 4 RBI were the first runners he's driven in since May 1st.  In other words, I had a really good case until Monday night.

Not that one should look for reasons to unseat Viciedo.  The contingency plan in left field is borderline nonexistent--Fukudome might be all done as viable hitter, Jordan Danks in his third year at AAA is most ready outfield prospect--so any sliver of hope for Dayan must be clung to.

The question is how much of one did he provide Monday.  Dayan's performance in 2012 has been the sum of all fears.  He strikes out all the time, never walks, and can't square the ball consistently enough to hit for power.  It's not a good combination.

The plate discipline he established in the minors last season has completely eroded--which has taken the form of both never taking a walk, and also putting himself in awful counts consistently by taking seismic cuts at breaking pitches out of the zone.

While his bat speed and raw power are still tools to be harnessed, his swing is too long and loopy for them to matter at the moment.  Jim noted his problems getting jammed on inside pitches, and a power-hitter isn't much of a power-hitter if he can't turn-and-burn balls on the inner-half over the fence.

To provide an example, Dayan's first at-bat Monday saw Smyly bust him inside with a fastball, and he promptly popped it up off his hands.

For his home run, Viciedo crushed a slider than hung in a less than optimal location.

This is certainly a meaty offering, and we tend to undercut the accomplishment of the hitter when the pitch they hit has this type of profile, which is wrong.  Hitting bad pitching is a vital major league skill; the offense that leads the league in hanging breaking balls crushed assuredly also leads the league in runs scored.

That said, this pitch is one that could be victimized by someone still dealing with all the mechanical issues listed above.

Dayan's other hit gave the White Sox the lead, but wasn't as impressive of a feat in a vacuum.  His 6th inning two-run single initially resembled an rally-killing double play and was the result of a first pitch hack.

Yet one can hardly blame Dayan for being eager, and given the location it's a lot easier to allege that Putkonen got lucky rather than Viciedo.

Even if neither hit saw Viciedo suddenly cast aside his bad habits all at once, he's a 23 year-old having an awful season who succeeds when he's aggressive at the plate, surely his confidence is buoyed.

Dayan Viciedo said he never had any doubts during his 1-for-17 slump.

“The confidence hasn’t gone,” said Viciedo.

Dayan might be overselling it a bit, but there was certainly a lot of confidence in the way he froze in the batter's box to admire his home run for 2-3 seconds.  The young man has never been cited as lacking in self-esteem, and given how far he's come in life, it's hard to blame him.

But the positive results can only help, even if they served nothing more to remind him what it feels like to make hard contact again, and nothing happened Monday to encourage any bad habits.

It was a great night, and a testament to his raw skills that he could leap out of a slump and have such an impact.

Especially since he's probably still in the woods.

 

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