Andrew Vaughn’s last in-game action was in the fall of 2019 when he finished his professional debut with the Winston-Salem Dash, the White Sox’s Advanced Single-A affiliate. Just a few months prior the White Sox selected him third overall in the 2019 MLB Draft, and during his debut professional season, Vaughn played just 55 games between Rookie Ball and Advanced Single-A.
Vaughn’s .760 OPS over 126 plate appearances with Winston-Salem was nothing to write home about, but as much as we can use his draft year stats against him, we would surely disvalue them as a small sample size if his OPS was .960 instead of the latter, so let’s throw that out of the equation.
So, how do you evaluate what a soon to be 23-year-old rookie who hasn’t seen affiliated game-action in over a year, but is expected to play a substantial role with the major league club in their quest for a deep postseason run in 2021?
Well, there’s the tools and the scouting reports that carry them.
FanGraphs has Vaughn ranked atop the White Sox prospect list for the 2021 season and grade out his tools like this with the current tool first followed by their future grade on that tool:
- Hit: 55 (70)
- Game Power: 50 (60)
- Raw Power 60 (60)
- Speed: 30 (30)
- Field: 40 (40)
- Future Value: 60 (NA)
Alright, so FanGraphs has him maxed out in Raw Power at an impressive 60-grade, maxed out in the Speed and Field tools (he won’t be asked to steal bases, and he won’t play much first base in 2021), and an impressive Future Value of 60. The only place that FanGraphs sees future development to occur at is the hit tool, which even so is at 55 today.
Eric Longenhagen wrote that Vaughn projects out as an “All-Star first baseman” with his assigned 60-grade Future Value.
Here’s how MLB Pipeline has Vaughn’s tools ranked in their latest report:
- Hit: 65
- Power: 60
- Run: 30
- Arm: 50
- Field: 45
- Overall: 60
Much like over at FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline has Vaughn graded as above-average to plus in the hitting, power, and overall areas. While FanGraphs’ Longenhagen noted that Vaughn spent 2020 at the “unscoutable alternate site,” MLB Pipeline’s reports include his work at the alternate site, and they’re surmised by highlighting his, ability to thrive against advanced pitchers in Schaumburg.
“Vaughn impressed by repeatedly posting quality at-bats against the advanced competition, working deep counts and barreling balls with hard contact to all fields.”
FutureSox’s James Fox, who made three trips to watch Andrew Vaughn compete at the alternate site last summer, confirmed as much to me in a recent podcast episode.
Photo: Chicago Tribune
Scouting reports post-draft and post-alternate sites all seem to paint an encouraging picture for Andrew Vaughn thus far. Then there’s the opinion of the man that scouted him as closely as anyone while he was becoming a decorated collegiate hitter at Cal and then drafted him in 2019, Nick Hostetler. Here’s what Hostetler, now the special assistant to the general manager (focusing on the pro scouting side of things), told me about Andrew Vaughn’s readiness for a big-league role in 2021.
“There are very few guys that I think you see as amateurs that could play in the big leagues right then — he was one of probably, and I’ve been scouting for 20 years on the amateur side, he’s one of probably five or six that I felt comfortable in saying that he can go right away,” said Hostetler. “Obviously we know it’s very lofty expectations, but he’s just got a professional, and it’s not just at the plate, he’s got a professional approach about him that you don’t see often.”
“He’s not a very tall guy in stature but he walks in a room and you know that he’s there, and he’s got a confidence about him in what he does, but also a growth mindset in what he does that he’s willing to listen, willing to make adjustments, willing to listen to coaching, but he also truly believes in what he does. Listening to him talk hitting, it’s probably in my top-five moments in my 20 years, sitting down with him at Cal and listening to him talk hitting, it was unbelievable. He was teaching me stuff about hitting that I never even thought of.”
That’s some high praise from the former amateur scouting director that drafted Vaughn.
Scouting reports, tools, and alternate site impressions are pieces of the puzzle here. Another is his brief body of work last spring in Cactus League competition before the first Coronavirus shut-down.
Vaughn slashed .259/.394/.444/.838 with a home run and a pair of doubles over 27 at-bats last spring.
“I’m just trying to feel comfortable in the box, stay within myself and stick to my plan.”
Vaughn’s words last spring after hitting his first home run jive with his, “he keeps it simple in the box,” evaluation in nearly every scouting report available. Former White Sox skipper Rick Renteria confirmed the same last spring as well.
“His approach is fantastic,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He has a really good idea of what he wants to do. He can take an at-bat, zone in. His physical approach is really simple. It’s clean, it’s quick. There is not a whole lot of moving parts. He really understands what his body is capable of doing. He can get to a pitch pretty quickly, but it’s consistent. No panic.”
With the departure of Edwin Encarnacion and no replacement at the designated hitter position this winter, it’s not a question of if Andrew Vaughn will assume that bulk of that role, but more so, when he will.
The White Sox have historically played the service time game with prospects, holding them down after camp until they’ve earned an addition full season of club control, save for the spring extensions of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert in back-to-back years.
They also brought 2020 first-rounder Garrett Crochet up last season, and plan to keep him with the major league club in the bullpen to open the 2021 season, and likely for good, so it’s not a guarantee that they’ll keep Vaughn off of the Opening Day roster this spring solely for financial gain.
I mean, after all, they are in a totally different place now than they were when they were staggering the debuts of guys like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, and Dylan Cease during the infancy stages of the rebuild.
White Sox assistant general manager and head of player development Chris Getz didn’t answer the burning question one way or another when speaking with the media this week, but he confirmed the organization’s confidence in Vaughn and his readiness for the role and didn’t rule out the possibility of him breaking camp with the team.
Photo: Ron Vesely/Getty Images
“Based on what we’ve seen with Andrew Vaughn since he’s been part of the organization — and I anticipate he’s going to carry that same approach that has made him successful not only as an amateur but throughout his time here — I would imagine with the amount of success that he’s had and he probably will in spring training, that he’ll be in a position to be that DH or be on the major league club,” White Sox assistant general manager Chris Getz said Wednesday. “He’s ready to help this team.
“He was a very advanced hitter coming out of Cal. That was quite obvious right out of the gate. What separates Andrew is his mentality, his makeup, how under control he is in the box, his discipline to sticking with an approach that works for his swing. … He’s got a very sound approach at the plate, and we feel that that’s going to translate very well in the big leagues when he’s asked to perform at that level.”
While it’s hard to accurately project what Andrew Vaughn’s rookie season might look like when it’s over, it’s for certain that he will be in the picture in 2021, and the organization’s resounding confidence in him makes it almost feel like they consider him the offseason acquisition that the designated hitter position went void of this winter.
Featured Photo: San Francisco Chronicle