As spring training shifts into high gear, leading up to Opening Day, the Chicago White Sox appear to have a few question marks. One of those appears to be in the rotation, as is the case with most teams. Another that may seem minor to some is the backup catcher position. The Sox are confident that a healthy Yasmani Grandal will be able to carry a good portion of the catching load in 2022. However, at this point, the only two candidates for the backup spot are holdovers Zack Collins and Seby Zavala. Neither of them showed much in terms of catching in 2021, leaving Sox fans to get a little nervous as the season opener approaches. Hopefully, the Sox will add a backup catcher who can actually offer something of value.
However, the position that has more Sox fans than any other position is right field. 2021 featured a virtual revolving door for the South Siders, with very little in the way of offensive production. Yes, there were spurts here and there, but Tony La Russa’s boys never found a right fielder who could hit consistently. To the chagrin of many Sox fans, Rick Hahn has not acquired a right fielder (yet) this offseason. It appears that the Pale Hose will enter the season with young Andrew Vaughn as the leading candidate for the job. So, while the top six figure to do most of the damage for the Sox, Vaughn will be a key to the White Sox in 2022.
Andrew Vaughn – A Work in Progress
Vaughn came into the White Sox organization as a highly touted college hitter. He won the Silver Spikes Award in 1918, being named the best collegiate baseball player in the country. He played college ball at the University of California and was drafted in the first round (third overall) of the 2019 amateur draft. He played first base in college, and the White Sox were more than happy to draft him with that first pick. He was acclaimed far and wide as the best collegiate hitter and projected to be a successful hitter at the Major League level. The only questions were when would he come up and where would he play? After all, the White Sox had 2020 MVP Jose Abreu at first base, blocking Vaughn there.
Fate would step in during spring training in 2021, in the form of injury. Budding star Eloy Jimenez suffered a serious injury trying to rob a home run in an exhibition game. He would go on to miss more than half the season, leaving a huge hole in both left field and in the Sox lineup. La Russa did not have much in the way of viable replacements, and the Sox moved to Plan B – move their young first baseman to the outfield. It wasn’t necessarily what either the Sox or Vaughn had envisioned; however, necessity is the mother of invention, so Andrew Vaughn donned an outfielder’s glove and moved to the outfield.
2021 – A Mixed Bag
With Jimenez on the injured list, Vaughn took over left field more often than not in 2021. He was not necessarily the Sox full-time left-fielder, as La Russa rotated several others in and out of the lineup. Between La Russa’s lineup juggling and a couple of minor injuries, Vaughn ended up playing a total of 95 games in left field for the Sox. He compiled a .985 fielding percentage with three assists and two errors. Statistics don’t always tell the whole story for outfielders, though Vaughn did struggle early in the season. He showed improvement as the year went on, and ended up being a decent defensive outfielder. He will never win a Gold Glove, but he was serviceable.
Offensively, Vaughn had his ups and downs, which is normal for MLB rookies. While he had his moments and showed why he was so highly regarded, overall, his numbers were not impressive. He produced a slash line of .235/.309/.396 with 15 home runs and 48 RBIs. He also struck out 101 times in 107 games, a number which he must improve in the future. Considering he only had 205 minor league at-bats before being called up, his rookie season should be considered in context.
2022 – Time For Vaughn to Shine
The White Sox, much to the chagrin of many fans, did not sign a free-agent right fielder. At this time, all signs point to Vaughn getting a majority of the play in that spot. He did play right field in a handful of games in 2021, and the results were mixed. Yet, for a career first baseman, he learned a lot about playing the outfield in his rookie season and will spend at least one more season out there. White Sox fans hope that he can at least play respectable defense, which would help offset have Jimenez in left field. Hopefully, by 2023, the Sox will find an experienced outfielder to play in right. However, Vaughn is not in the lineup to win Gold Gloves.
Andrew Vaughn is paid to hit and hit well. The White Sox and their fans are counting on him to put up some big number in 2022, taking some pressure off their big six hitters. As long as Vaughn is in the lineup regularly, he should develop into a solid hitter in 2022, on his way to potential stardom. While he will no doubt make some mistakes in the outfield, we predict that he will be a solid hitter in 2022. Don’t be surprised if he slashes .280/,350/.460 or so. How about 25 home runs and 80 RBIs? A seventh-place hitter producing an OPS of .800+ will go a long way toward offsetting any deficiencies Vaughn may have in right field. We predict big things for Andrew Vaughn in 2022.
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