Predicted left fielder Dayan Viciedo was noticeably absent from the Chicago White Sox opening day lineup as they readied themselves to start the 2014 season in Chicago against division rival the Minnesota Twins.
The team announced shortly before the game that they would run a merit — and not necessarily matchup — based platoon in left field between Viciedo and veteran Alejandro De Aza. Speaking with the media before the game, general manager Rick Hahn stressed that winning will remain the ultimate goal on any given day, with righty-lefty matchups not at the forefront of the lineup decision-making process.
But with righthander Ricky Nolasco on the mound for the Twins, De Aza earned the starting nod, and responded by going 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs while hitting seventh in the lineup. It was the first time a member of the White Sox hit two home runs on opening day at home since Minnie Miñoso accomplished the feat in 1960.
The left field job went into limbo during spring training, thanks to each player’s respective performance. De Aza put up an impressive .383/.400/.596 slash line in Spring Training, and showed his decent mix of power and speed by hitting four doubles and two home runs. He also played 85 error-less innings in the field, spending most of that time in left. Viciedo also had one of his best springs to date, with a line of .280/.345/.380. However, the White Sox need power and production from him, and Viciedo had just five doubles and one RBI. He also did not hit any home runs in 50 spring at-bats.
The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in 2008 and over the past several years, his potential has shown through in towering home runs and RBI totals that came close to 80. But for every hit there also came a stretch or two in which his ability to make solid contact came into question, puzzling the brass with questions of untapped potential.
As Viciedo still works out his major league kinks, the platoon works in the White Sox favor. De Aza is a more well-rounded hitter, with the mutual abilities to launch long home runs and steal bases while still covering left field with the broad defensive skill of a center fielder. And, if the White Sox decide to trade Viciedo, the team needs to provide him with sufficient playing time in order to prove his value on the market. During Spring Training, rumors flew that the Seattle Mariners asked about working out a deal for Viciedo, and any potential deal can’t happen without some season stat line behind it.
It’s also important to remember that Viciedo is still only 25, and that he has plenty of potential and time to grow. However, as Viciedo continues to struggle with his defensive deficiencies and inconsistency at the plate and as De Aza continues to put strong numbers on the board, creating a left field platoon between the two is the best option for the White Sox right now.