In the third inning of the Chicago White Sox‘ victory over the Cleveland Indians, Dayan Viciedo hit a bomb over the left field fence to put the Sox up for good. After failing to capitalize on two previous mistakes made by Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin in the sequence, Viciedo was able to deposit a hanging breaking ball into the bleachers for his fifth home run of the season.
Viciedo’s ability to crush a baseball is nothing new. Ever since the Sox signed the Cuban slugger, the team knew that he had the potential to hit 25 homers a year just because of his raw power and calling a hitter’s ballpark his home.
What always caused a concern about Viciedo was his lack of plate discipline. Pitchers would throw a breaking ball in the dirt every time they had a two strike count on him because Viciedo would never hold up. His aggressiveness made him a one-dimensional hitter at the plate. While he still took advantage of pitchers’ mistakes, it only occurred at the beginning of counts because he would never make the pitcher work.
In 338 games entering the season, Viciedo only walked 63 times. Think about that for a second. In 1,235 plate appearances he was able to draw a base on balls on only 63 occasions. Middle of the order hitters, which is what the Sox expected Viciedo to become, usually accumulate that many free passes three-quarters of the way into one season. If he would be able to have more discipline at the plate, than he would transform into an all-around better player.
Enter new White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson. Under his reign this season, Viciedo has shown a different approach at the plate. Through 50 games this year, Viciedo has half the amount of walks, 14, as his career high of 28. Instead of hacking at the first pitch or any pitch in the dirt, Viciedo is waiting for a pitch he could do something with.
Based on the pitcher that is on the bump for the opponent, Viciedo has tinkered his strategy at the plate in order to best succeed. In previous years Viciedo would have the same mentality no matter who was on the mound. As seen in the game on Monday, Viciedo worked the count against Tomlin in his first at-bat, but after realizing that he was going to be jammed by an inside fastball early on in the count, he turned on an offering and roped it for a single in his second plate appearance.
Viciedo is still nowhere close to a completely polished hitter. He still needs to improve in covering the entire plate, especially outside pitches. His walk total must continue to increase if he wants his overall OBP to rise, which will make him a force in the middle of the lineup.
In a season that began with Viciedo being seen as the weak link in the left field platoon, he has provided enough offensive production to be penciled into the lineup every day. Coupled with Jose Abreu, the Sox could have two feared Cuban sluggers in the middle of the order for years to come.