It's outfielder Dayan Viciedo. Many of us figured Viciedo would hit for power, but he's doing so much of it in the past few weeks that it has fantasy owners adding him to their teams left and right. Viciedo entered Wednesday as the most added player in ESPN standard leagues, and I believe the power is for real, if not the rest of his offense, too.
When the White Sox jettisoned Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres on the last calendar day of 2011 for a pair of minor leaguers, the move was viewed skeptically by White Sox fans. Who will play right field? Quentin clearly has power, having averaged 27 home runs per season from 2008 to 2011. Only one of those seasons was a really good one, though, and perhaps Quentin would have won the AL MVP in 2008 had he not broken a wrist a month before the season ended. Since then, Quentin wasn't an all-around good player; he didn't hit for average, take walks, stay healthy or provide any defensive value. Quentin, who returned just a few days ago after knee surgery, now must hit regularly at spacious Petco Park.
Viciedo has no such issues, and if you're thinking about adding Quentin to your team, well, I'd add Viciedo first. Kudos to the White Sox for being patient with him when he hit .206 in April with one walk and 18 strikeouts. Viciedo hit just one home run in 102 at-bats late last season, slugging only .314. For this reason, fantasy owners weren't interested, and it was hard to blame them. They're interested now, as Viciedo entered Wednesday hitting .333 with a .602 slugging percentage in May. He had eight home runs for the month, four of them in the past week to go along with 12 RBIs. Viciedo had raised his batting average from a moribund .235 to .280, then got a few more hits Wednesday afternoon.
You might be wondering how I can possibly endorse a hitter who has drawn a grand total of four walks in 47 games while striking out 35 times. But let's be clear about what the expectations really are here. I can't see Viciedo hitting .280 for long with this approach, but while plate discipline isn't a strong suit or even a lukewarm one for him, he hasn't struck out in the past week. That's a positive. In fairness, he has been facing the ground-ball-inducing Cleveland Indians pitchers but also has faced a few hurlers who do miss bats, such as Matt Moore and James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays. It's a small sample size, though; Viciedo is still on pace for 13 walks and 111 strikeouts, which is almost ridiculous. I thought it was crazy that Michael Morse hit .303 with 36 walks and 126 strikeouts last year, and I've predicted a 30-point drop in his batting average. Morse could be back with the Washington Nationals this week. Add him now.
But add Viciedo, too, because the power is real, and while I don't know that he'll ever become a complete hitter, I do think a 30-homer season is going to happen this year. He's hitting a high percentage of his many fly balls out of the park, but he's trying to do so and doesn't worry about swinging and missing. One-dimensional power hitters can get away with that. What scares me is another month like April, when he doesn't get hits or get on base. He will be streaky. Certainly I like Viciedo more than Quentin, who must deal with all his issues and do so in San Diego. Hitting in Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field is more fun. We don't know if Viciedo can stay healthy all year, but he haven't seen otherwise.
Sadly, there's little indication he wants to take more pitches or draw walks, so knock the batting average down at least 30 points -- I'm hoping he can hit .250, but even that might be optimistic -- but the power is real, and if he can make more contact, as he has done recently, the upside is greater. Forget about the walks; Viciedo has two in the past three weeks. He's not going to draw walks. But after striking out 30 times by May 12 (30 games), he has whiffed only five times in 16 games. This is progress. I'm also a bit concerned about the complete lack of doubles (three all season?), but he's trying to hit home runs, and lately it's working. Let's focus on that!
I suspect a cold streak is coming soon, and just as fast as Viciedo landed on the most-added list he'll end up on the other one, and it might go back-and-forth all season. In a head-to-head league, I'd adopt that approach, using him when he's hitting, but in a roto league it's irrelevant. Don't miss the home runs he does hit. This could be a fellow who hurts your batting average, but when he hits 30 home runs and knocks in 90, you won't care. He's no Konerko, for sure, but he's still interesting.