The answer has to be yes—Viciedo’s production will be the key to the offense for the White Sox.
To be sure, there are plenty of unknown variables for the Pale Hose at the dish.
For example, can Alex Rios avoid a letdown? After all, he is one of the most mercurial hitters in the game.
How about Adam Dunn? Will he ever be anything more than a 40-home run/200-strikeout guy who hits .202? And will Gordon Beckham hit enough to stay in the starting lineup?
Don’t forget about Jeff Keppinger. Can general manager Rick Hahn’s major free-agent acquisition provide the type of production batting second that will generate run-scoring opportunities for the middle of the order?
After all, Keppinger was brought in as much for his ability to make contact as he was for the way he handles left-handed pitching. If he fails in either task, who knows what the offense will look like.
All that said, Viciedo—who hit .255 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI in 2012—stands above the rest in his ability to impact the success of the White Sox offense.
And it's all because he is bating sixth.
In 2012, Viciedo drove in more runs than the White Sox produced as a team (77) from the sixth position in the lineup. If Viciedo can up his RBI total to 90 or more, the entire dynamic of the order will change.
The more opposing pitchers fear Viciedo, the more likely it is that Konerko will see pitches he can drive. That, in turn, will set up easy RBI opportunities for Viciedo.
Also, if Viciedo underperforms this season, it will put undue pressure on Tyler Flowers, Alexei Ramirez and Beckham.
As CSNChicago.com’s Dan Hayes noted, Flowers is concentrating on the small things. The White Sox coaching staff does not want him bogged down looking at “the big picture.”
He needs to focus on catching, not replacing A.J. Pierzynski.
Ramirez badly needs to return to the form that earned him the 2010 Silver Slugger award, and Beckham would benefit greatly from having all offensive expectations removed.
Without Viciedo providing an effective bridge, the lower third of the order for the White Sox could spiral out of control quickly.
Look at it this way. The only position player with a Steamer WAR projection (h/t fangraphs.com) above 3.0 is Alejandro De Aza. There is not much optimism regarding the White Sox's lineup.
It will be up to a few select individuals to provide the power—and the timely hitting—that will keep the South Siders on track for the AL Central title.
Viciedo stands at the front of line.
*Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
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