By Yusseff Díaz
Once considered the next great power hitter, Chicago White Sox prospect Dayán Viciedo never really panned out. However, in Japan, he’s living up to the hype.
Dayán Viciedo was once a highly touted Chicago White Sox prospect and some even suggested he was the next great power hitter in the windy city when he signed with the team in 2009. But his defensive limitations and holes in his swing caused the native of Villa Clara to exit our nation’s pastime quite early in his career.
In his five years in the big leagues ” The Cuban Tank” hit .254 with 66 round-trippers and 211 runs batted in, but in this time of advanced stats players like Viciedo have become obsolete. Many thought his career as a ballplayer was over, and boy were they wrong. It was just the beginning.
Dayan Viciedo was once compared to Cuban great Omar Linares due to the fact that they were both teenage phenoms and played the same position, third base. Just like Linares, the Villa Clara native came up with his home team, the Sugar Farmers, at the age of Fifteen. At sixteen, a young Viciedo had a breakout season hitting .337 with 14 long balls and 58 RBIs.
I asked Vicideo about being compared to Linares. This is what he had to say: “Omar Linares has always served as a mentor to me. It gave me great pride and pleasure to be compared to him.”
At the end of 2008, the young slugger decided to defect from Cuba. Viciedo signed with the Chunichi Dragons of the Nippon League in 2016 and made an immediate impact with the ball club homering in each of his first three games.
That season, he was selected to the all-star game as a first baseman. He finished a season cut short by injury hitting .274 with 22 bombs and 68 RBI’s. “Although the Majors has pitchers that throw very hard, Japan has pitchers with better control and better breaking pitches.”
Viciedo has become a cult figure in Japan and in 2018 he signed a 3 year 9.9 million dollar contract with the Dragons. Coming off a down year in 2017 in which he hit .250 and suffered a broken forearm Viciedo’s career looked once again in disarray, but a familiar face came to the rescue. “My forearm injury was a very serious one, my recovery from the injury was very slow. I had many therapies and was prescribed a long rest period before I was able to strengthen the muscles in my forearm. “
In 2018 the Chunichi signed Omar Linares to be their hitting coach and Viciedo once again flourished. That season he won the Central League’s batting title hitting a robust .348 while going yard 26 times and knocking in 99 runs. This earned him a spot on the league’s ideal nine at the end of the season. “Reuniting with Omar Linares was a Godsend, he corrected a few holes in my swing and he also taught me how to stay more balanced within the batter’s box. ” Last season Viciedo once again raked in the Nippon Central circuit finishing second in hitting .315 while blasting 18 long balls and driving in 93. Viciedo looks like he will be a major force in Japan for years to come.
The former Chicago White Sox prospect longs for the day he can once again see the four letters on his chest,” I would love to see Cuba on my chest in an international competition. Representing my country would be an honor and a privilege for me. Even it’s for one inning, it’s something I’ve always dreamed of.”
Like many of his exiled countrymen, Viciedo watches in the wings hoping one day he can bring home an international title to his homeland and the fans that watched him grow and become who he is today.
In 2019 and 2020 he combined for 35 long balls and 185 runs batted in , this season he has a 13 game hitting streak and is hitting a robust .304. In total during his time in the land of the rising son he’s hitting .296 with 108 homers and 419 RBI’s. So if one says that Viciedo is making an impact in the NPB it definitely isn’t an understatement.