After disappointing debut, Viciedo likely moving to first base

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Billed as a big-bat third baseman when the White Sox spent $10 million to sign him out of Cuba last offseason, Dayan Viciedo “certainly appears to be gradually making his move across the diamond” according to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin.
Viciedo still considers third base his primary position after playing there almost exclusively at Double-A last season, but the 21-year-old added yesterday that he’ll “play wherever they tell me to play.” Mark Teahen is signed through 2012 and Paul Konerko is in the final year of his contract, so “wherever they tell me to play” will apparently be mostly first base.
Someone listed at 5-foot-11 and 240 pounds at age 21 was unlikely to stick at third base for long anyway, particularly after making 30 errors in just 284 chances in his minor-league debut. However, his lack of range won’t be much of an issue across the diamond and articles often referencing his “soft hands” indicate that he should be solid defensively at first base.
Unfortunately his bat is another issue, because Viciedo hit .280/.317/.391 with a terrible 89/23 K/BB ratio and just 32 extra-base hits in 130 games at Double-A. He was young for the Southern League, but Baseball America‘s scouting report says Viciedo “sits on fastballs to the point where he often looks helpless against offspeed pitches, doesn’t consistently center hittable pitches, and chases out of the strike zone too often.”
So in one year he’s gone from being a supposedly MLB-ready middle-of-the-lineup hitter and third baseman worth $10 million to minors-bound first baseman who barely cracked a .700 OPS at Double-A.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.