Jul 16th, 2009
Dayan Viciedo: A First Half Review
Dayan Viciedo, the big money international signing for the White Sox this past offseason, has been a hot topic for conversation this year and unfortunately not all of the talk has been good. I’m going to break down his season to date and see what conclusions I come to.
Dayan made a good account of himself in spring training resulting in many fans calling for him to break camp with the Sox, but that didn’t happen and he received a still aggressive assignment at Double-A Birmingham. On the surface, Dayan’s numbers may not look impressive, but as with most other things in life, when evaluating prospects you have to take the context into consideration. At the start of the season Dayan was the 3rd youngest player in Double-A and currently he is the 10th youngest, not only that but he’s also had to learn a new language, adjust to a new country and culture while playing professional baseball. I know when I’m on holiday in a foreign speaking country I have a hard enough time adjusting and all I have to is sit around for two weeks, so I can’t even imagine how tough it is for him. Basically what I’m saying is that his numbers this year need to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Now I’m going to take a look at Viciedo’s numbers, I realise I said to take them with a pinch of salt but that doesn’t mean we can’t gain some information out of them. Overall on the year Viciedo is putting up the following line:
.263 AVG/.300 OBP/.355 SLG in 338 AB’s with 17 BB/61 SO.
So it’s safe to say they’re unimpressive numbers, but let’s break them down into monthly splits to see what improvements, if any, Viciedo has been making:
April- .234 AVG/.244 OBP/.299 SLG in 77 AB’s with 2 BB/19 SO
May- .293 AVG/.314 OBP/.397 SLG in 116 AB’s with 3 BB/23 SO
June- .270 AVG/.328 OBP/.396 SLG in 111 AB’s with 9 BB/14 SO
July- .206 AVG/.289 OBP/.206 SLG in 34 AB’s with 3 BB/5 SO
The main thing that jumps out to me is the BB/SO rates, in April and May Viciedo struck out a lot and wasn’t walking much but he improved both rates significantly in June and appears to be carrying it on into July. BB/SO rates along with wOBA* are two of the best statistics in terms of correlation from Minor League success to Major League success which is what makes this improvement so encouraging to me. Dayan’s OPS is what it is, I’m not going to dwell on it too much, he struggled a lot in April when it appeared he was quite over matched at the plate but he made some improvements and put up more respectable lines in May and June.
Batted Ball Percentages
The next thing I’m going to look at are Viciedo’s batted ball percentages as they can often tell us a story that the overall statistics don’t:
57.3 GB%, 22.9 FB%, 14.3 LD%
Here we can see that his batted ball numbers are much more indicative of a slap hitter than the power hitter that Viciedo is billed to be, and I find the low LD% especially curious because of how good his bat speed is, we saw back in Spring Training and then again briefly in the Futures Game that Dayan has near elite bat speed but for whatever reason it’s not translating to a high LD%. If Viciedo is going to become the consistent power threat that we expect him to be then he needs to start doing two things, 1. Hit more line drives and 2. Elevate the ball more often. It would be very interesting to see Viciedo’s batted ball numbers broken down into monthly splits as I’m curious to see if the LD% has been improving with the increased pitch recognition he’s showing in June and July, but unfortunately I have been unable to find that data.
Foreign MLB Star Comparisons
The final thing I am going to do is look at what some of the premier foreign Major League players were doing in their first year of ball in the US. My aim is to prove that even if a player struggles in the early going it doesn’t mean that they can’t become a great player.
Hanley Ramirez (aged 18):
First season in US- 261 AB, .352/.401/.548 (.949 OPS), 20 BB/ 29 SO
Jose Reyes (aged 17):
First season in US- 132 AB, .250/.359./.318 (.677 OPS), 20 BB/ 37 SO
Victor Martinez (aged 20):
First season in US- 235 AB, .277/.346/.366 (.712 OPS), 27 BB/ 31 SO
Miguel Cabrera (aged 17):
First season in US- 251 AB, .259/.338/.347 (.685 OPS), 25 BB/ 52 SO
Magglio Ordonez (aged 18):
First season in US- 111 AB, .180/.266/.333 (.599 OPS), 13 BB/ 26 SO
Vladimir Guerrero (aged 18):
First season in US- 137 AB, .314/.366/.562 (.928 OPS), 11 BB/ 18 SO
You’ll notice that most of these players were younger than Dayan but they were also playing at lower levels, most typically rookie ball or short season A ball. This comparison is far from an exact science and in fact holds no relevance to Dayan’s projection, but it is comforting to know that a lot of the top international players in the game struggled initially (note: I’m not basing my entire opinion on these 6 examples alone, I looked at many other cases but did not feel the need to include them all here). I think there’s a very steep adjustment period for young international players that many people tend to ignore or overlook and this has led to Dayan receiving, what I think, is a lot of undeserved stick.
I’m not worried about Viciedo at all, sure it would have been nice for him to come out all guns blazing but it was unrealistic to expect him to move at the same rate as Gordon Beckham, who is several years older and has three years of collegiate ball under his belt. There were a lot of concerns about Viciedo’s work ethic when he was in Cuba but word out of Birmingham is that he’s been much improved in this area and hasn’t given them any problems, which is great to hear. Dayan still has a lot of things to work on like hitting more fly balls and line drives, and this is without me even touching on defense, where he’s been an errors machine. Fortunately there is still plenty of time for Dayan Viciedo to improve and the numbers he puts up next season should give us a far better indication of the type of player that he can become.