Sunday, December 14, 2008

White Sox sign Cuban teen Dayan Viciedo

Sox's Viciedo plans to drop weight, then compete at 3rd base

By Mark Gonzales
December 12, 2008

During his two-day tryout last month in the Dominican Republic, Dayan Viciedo's weight was a bigger concern to several major-league scouts than his ability to hit a breaking pitch. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen shared those concerns after he saw the 19-year-old Cuban third baseman on television. To quell those worries, Viciedo plans to start a workout program next week in Florida with countryman and Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez in an effort to make a strong impression in spring training.

"I did hear Ozzie's commentary," Viciedo said Friday in a conference call shortly after the Sox announced his signing of a four-year, $10 million contract. "I have some work to do before I get to spring training." The 6-foot-1-inch Viciedo said he weighs 246 pounds but wants to get down to 230 before reporting to camp in late February. A National League scouting director who raved about the youngster's hitting ability said Viciedo had lost 14 pounds before working out in front of about 100 major league scouts at the Sox's and Yankees' Dominican academies. The scout projected him as a first-round draft pick.

"We wanted him pretty badly," the scout said. "I was impressed by the way he ripped breaking pitches." A scouting director for an American League team said Viciedo's hitting ability would make him a "top-three pick" if he were in the amateur draft. But for Viciedo to have a reasonable shot to compete at third base against leading candidate Josh Fields, he'll have to report in shape, as Guillen pointed out last week.

Viciedo likely will start the season in the minors but said he would play anywhere he is asked to in an effort to help the Sox and advance his chances. He cited the success and comfort level of fellow Cubans Ramirez and Jose Contreras, along with a contract that includes a $4 million bonus, as reasons for signing with the Sox. "[Ramirez's] success made me extremely happy," Viciedo said. "Cuban baseball, I feel, is good baseball. We have good players in Cuba. His success has motivated me to work a little harder, and I feel with him and his motivation and what he did last year, I can also be successful."

An NL scouting director who watched Viciedo's workouts believed he would start at Double A but could advance quickly if he continued to hit for power and polish his fielding. Viciedo will receive contracts worth $1 million in 2009, $1.25 million in 2010-11 and $2.5 million in 2012.
Viciedo gained notice internationally at 15 when he was named the most valuable player of the world junior championships in Mexico. He batted .296 with 32 home runs and 123 RBIs in 233 games over the last three seasons with Villa Clara of the Cuban League and posted a slugging percentage of better than .500 in two of his three seasons in Serie Nacional, Cuba's top-level league. The Sox also signed outfielder Dewayne Wise to a $550,000 contract, leaving closer Bobby Jenks as their only unsigned arbitration-eligible player.

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