To prepare you for the upcoming draft season, the Noise, every Friday until opening day, will feature a lesser-known prospect that has excellent odds of making an indelible fantasy impact this season. Obvious products David Price and Matt Wieters, and charitable Bon Jovi songs, need not apply.Miguel Cabrera has a rival in an all-you-can-eat hot tamale competition.
Wide-framed import Dayan Viciedo is the latest Cuban defector to join the Calcetines Blancos del Norte de Havana (For those that bombed high school Spanish, the Chicago White Sox of North Havana). The 5-foot-11, 240-pound teenager – he's supposedly 19, but it's doubtful he would ever get carded on Rush Street – is currently locked in a battle with post-hype product Josh Fields for everyday third base duties.
Shielded by Fidel Castro's communist cloak, Viciedo's true potential is shrouded in mystery, which has caused widespread speculation in the fantasy community about what his 2009 impact might be.
Before leaping to outlandish Alexei Ramirez comparisons, it's important to understand the type of player Viciedo is. Unlike his emaciated teammate, the youngster is very raw defensively. Many in the organization feel he could eventually be moved to the outfield or across the diamond to first. Fields is hardly Cal Ripken at third either, but at this point he's far superior with the leather.
What Viciedo lacks defensively, he makes up with the stick. When most kids in the U.S. were acquiring driver's permits (15), the powerful prodigy was drilling professional pitching in Cuba. At 16, he hit an astonishing .337 with 14 homers. In three seasons with Villa Clara (801 at-bats) he compiled a .296 BA with 32 homers and 131 RBIs. He also notched an admirable 123:98 K:BB split (10.9 BB%, 13.3 K%).
Equipped with lightning quick hands, prodigious all-fields pop and a fair eye, Viciedo has convinced many scouts his bat is major league ready. Once his defense rounds into form, annual .280-30-100 returns are possible. Ozzie Guillen, who has playfully nicknamed the portly kid the "Cuban Tank" and the "Cuban Pimp," foresees a bright future:
''We all know he's going to get better. He's not there yet, but he will get better. That will come with time, and I'm pretty optimistic this kid will be a pretty good ballplayer. He can swing the bat. He had good at-bats. He's not scared. Obviously, at third base, he's got to work a little more, but I like what I see...Someday we'll say we didn't spend $10 million just because. The kid is going to be in the big leagues soon."
Exactly how soon is anyone's guess. Based on his cumbersome glove, Viciedo will likely start the year in the high minors. However, if he continues to spank pitches this spring – he's 4-for-15 with two titanic homers – it could make the decision more difficult.
For those who've yet to see Viciedo in motion, here are a few exhibition clips to whet your appetite:
For now, consider the young slugger only in AL-exclusive leagues ($2-$5 bid). Having Ramirez and "El Jefe," Jose Contreras, on roster will help ease the assimilation process, but overanxious owners who think he's going to reap immediate rewards are blinded by optimism. But keeper leaguers should feel jacked about his power upside.
As Ice T has always claimed, "Pimpin' ain't easy." For Viciedo, that phrase definitely applies. Because of his relative inexperience, oversized plush hats and jeweled canes are at least a half-season away.
Pending Fields' productivity and health, the rookie probably won't make a fantasy impact until sometime after the All-Star break.
Fearless Forecast: 238 at-bats, .251 BA, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 23 R, 1 SB
Image courtesy of Getty