Finding a Place for Dayan Viciedo

Dayan Viciedo was supposed to be good. In retrospect, we probably should have known better. He now finds himself a free agent, and the question is whether or not there is a team for him.

In his initial signing story back in 2008, there is a lot of excitement. It is intimated that the South Siders traded Nick Swisher and Javier Vazquez in order to make room for Viciedo. That seems like a stretch, but we can say that the team did some planning in order to get them there. Just before the chess moves are mentioned, the article also casually mentions — in the seventh paragraph — that the White Sox would like him “drop some weight.” He was already at 246 lbs., and they wanted him to get down to 230.

Despite the risks (like that he swings at everything), which Baseball America noted in their 2009 capsule on him, his debut was hotly anticipated. As Marc Hulet detailed in that September, 2009 piece I just linked to, Viciedo had hype. As a 20-year-old Cuban refugee playing his first ball stateside in Double-A, you can see why. Alas, he didn’t do much in that 2009 season. In 2010 though, he stepped up his slugging, from .391 in Double-A in 2009 to .493 in 2010 in Triple-A. Not a bad jump, and ever since his full-season debut in 2012, he’s been able to bop. Not at an elite level, but at an above-league average level:

Dayan Viciedo Power Statistics
Year ISO Lg Avg SLG Lg Avg
2012 0.188 0.151 0.444 0.405
2013 0.161 0.143 0.426 0.396
2014 0.174 0.135 0.405 0.386
’12-’14 0.175 0.143 0.425 0.396

Again, you don’t need the Hulk-buster armor to stop this kind of raw power, but it’s still pretty good. Among the 263 hitters who tallied at least 300 plate appearances last season, Viciedo ranked 52nd among those who hit right-handed (righties plus switch hitters).

That’s what he does well. He does plenty of things not so well though, otherwise he wouldn’t be a free agent right now. He can’t field, for starters. Initially thought to be a third baseman, or someone who could play a little third base — a situation that seems eerily reminiscent this offseason with respect to Yasmany Tomas — Viciedo only played 23 games there in the majors, and that was back in 2010. He has since played first base, left field and right field, and has fared poorly at all of them. Only six players had a worse Fans Scouting Report mark than did Viciedo last year. Viciedo also isn’t a very good runner, and his plate discipline still leaves plenty to be desired.

Looking a little deeper, we see that Viciedo historically hits lefties much better, but that last year he didn’t have much of a platoon split. Perhaps that trend continues, perhaps it doesn’t. One thing that has been quite prevalent the past two years, and was scratch in 2012, is Viciedo’s Clutch score. Viciedo fares poorly enough in most situations that his WPA and RE24 are nothing special, but his Clutch score tells a different story. Since 2012, his 2.25 Clutch ranks 16th in baseball. Likewise, we see on his splits page that he hits best in high-leverage situations. The sample size isn’t large enough to be anything near definitive, but if you’re looking for a ray of hope, there you have it.

So who could use a righty bat to either be a designated hitter or a bench bat, or both? Perusing the DH depth chart, right away we see — once we scroll to the bottom, that is — an obvious candidate: the Giants. They have a long supply of noodle bats on the bench, aside from Andrew Susac. But if the plan is to use Susac as the backup catcher, and the team doesn’t plan to carry three catchers, they probably won’t want to use Susac as a bench bat all that frequently. Aside from him, there’s not much in the way of power, right-handed or otherwise:

#30 Giants

Joaquin Arias 225 .252 .285 .335 .274 -5.7 0.4 0.0 0.1
Gregor Blanco 15 .248 .327 .346 .302 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Juan Perez 15 .233 .274 .339 .273 -0.4 0.0 0.0 0.0
Matt Duffy 15 .247 .301 .329 .282 -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0
Nori Aoki 15 .277 .341 .365 .317 0.1 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Andrew Susac 15 .224 .304 .355 .297 -0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 300 .250 .291 .338 .279 -6.4 0.4 0.0 0.3

And even if the plan is to use Susac heavily, he’s a rookie who doesn’t have a great projection, so having Viciedo around would be helpful.

The Reds are also a team without a real bench bat. They actually clock in at #12 on the DH depth chart, but that’s largely because their DH/bench is simply their good players who would be getting a breather to let some of their crappier players see some action. Upgrading on guys like Skip Schumaker or Thomas Neal would be a good idea. The Braves and Phillies also could use an infusion of power as well.

There are also the teams that might have injury needs. If Victor Martinez’s injury is worse than the Tigers hope, Viciedo could be his temporary replacement. If Kyle Blanks can’t stay healthy again, Viciedo could step in there. Same thing with Alex Rodriguez in New York. And those are just the players we know are hurt or could expect to be hurt.

Dayan Viciedo was once thought to be a very productive player. Things haven’t turned out that way. The last two years he was below replacement level. But this year he’ll still only be 26, and he does still have decent power and has shown a flair for the dramatic. That is a useful player, and one who is worth giving a shot in a part-time role.

Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

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7 years ago

I wonder how much of his HR he’d lost @AT&T? His power to RF and especially to RC would be wasted. Giants need to target RH dead pull hitters.

7 years ago
Reply to  Azmanz

If he hits the gap in right center, you could see quite a few triples turned into doubles.