White Sox hope Viciedo can fulfill potential, fit right in
As club looks to upgrade, hitting coach sees inconsistent slugger as potential star
CHICAGO -- Finding the best fit stands as the most apropos way to describe the White Sox offseason pursuit of a talent upgrade.
Of course, many teams follow that same path. But for the White Sox, it's a theory that applies to trades and free-agent signees from players at the high end of the money and years spectrum right on down the line.
That philosophy also includes current players, with Dayan Viciedo standing as a prime example of a key decision to be made.
Viciedo turns just 26 on March 10, so there's plenty of room for the right-handed-hitting outfielder to grow into more of the dominant force expected by the White Sox. On the flip side, Viciedo has a career .254 average and a .298 on-base percentage through 1,798 plate appearances that stands as a significant sample size.
White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson sees the good and the not-so-good in Viciedo, but holds to that fact that the talent is evident, as Steverson explained during a conference call Friday afternoon.
"Nobody has ever got the genie in their hand or that magic bottle in their hand that says when somebody is going to completely figure it out," Steverson said. "Some do and some don't. But I'll tell you what, he has a lot of want in him to get better.
"You watch him on a daily basis and you know what he's capable of doing. And when it doesn't come out for him, you know ... .230 or whatever he hit this year, in my opinion, that's not him.
"He has ability to hit for average and obviously has the ability to hit for power to all fields. His gifts from this year have been well chronicled, and he's got to take that by the horn."
Discipline issues at the plate were mentioned by Steverson as a key area of improvement for Viciedo, but that suggestion stands as nothing new for the slugger. He platooned with Alejandro De Aza in left field at the outset of 2014, actually standing behind De Aza on the depth chart until Avisail Garcia was injured in Colorado, forcing Viciedo into more regular action.
As a right-handed hitter in a right-handed-heavy lineup, Viciedo also could emerge as a trade chip, with the Mariners having past interest. Viciedo is arbitration-eligible, and after hitting .231 with 21 homers, 58 RBIs and a career-low .281 on-base percentage, he is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $4.4 million in '15.
Keeping Viciedo doesn't necessarily mean putting him back in left field. Again, the White Sox are looking for the best fit in a lineup, rotation, bullpen and defensive alignment to take another step up in their reshaping process. They have a solid nucleus to build around, a nucleus that includes American League Silver Slugger Award winners shortstop Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu, who is the odds-on favorite to become Chicago's first AL Rookie of the Year since Ozzie Guillen in '85.
Video: Abreu, Alexei win 2014 Silver Slugger Award Steverson expected Ramirez and Abreu to claim Silver Sluggers honors for their strong '14 offensive showings, as they did on Thursday. He also expects Abreu to rise above the lofty bar set in his exceptional first season.
"I'm sure he'll start to realize seeing pitchers over and over again -- when they're pitching to him, when they're not pitching to him, have a bit more patience than he did at the plate here instead of trying to do everything by himself sometimes," Steverson said of Abreu. "But that comes along with what he's actually put on himself, which is having a great season and one of the greatest seasons as a rookie.
Video: AL Rookie of the Year Finalist: Jose Abreu "On that level, I know he has the mindset to stay the course and he has a good routine, skills and thought process. I can't put a ceiling on where he'll be next year. I'll say the big leagues are always an ever-changing league; it's an ever-adjusting league. So they're going to make some adjustments, as they did in the second half, which you guys all saw. It's on him to make another adjustment back with what's being thrown at him."