When the Chicago White Sox selected Andrew Vaughn third overall in the 2019 MLB June amateur draft, they knew Vaughn could hit. Vaughn spent three years at the University of California-Berkeley, where he was a standout. Vaughn finished his collegiate career with a .374/.495/.688 slash line and an OPS of 1.183 over 160 total games. While Vaughn finished college with impressive numbers and high expectations being the third overall pick, there was and is a roadblock for him at the major league level in the name of Jose Abreu.
While Vaughn spent his college career anchored over at first, he would soon have to learn to play different positions as Jose Abreu is locked in at first base for the White Sox. While most college baseball players are given time mostly measured in years, Vaughn would have no such time to prepare leading to the need for him to learn to play different positions in order to find at-bats and playing time.
Vaughn played 55 games in the minor leagues throughout the 2019 season after he was drafted. Due to the loss of the 2020 minor league season, this would be the only minor league baseball experience Vaughn would get finishing with decent numbers at a slash line of .278/.384/.449 with six home runs and 36 RBI. Vaughn would only get those 55 games and 245 plate appearances at the minor league level.
Vaughn made his major league debut on the day before his birthday April 2nd, 2021. At just 23 years old, Vaughn would spend the rest of the 2021 season with the major league club and started great before a late-season slump leading to a middling slash line of .235/.309/.396. In all fairness to Vaughn, a huge part of hitting is being comfortable and Vaughn seemed less than comfortable in his role with the White Sox. As the season went beginning with a spring training injury to Eloy Jimenez, Vaughn’s role would continuously change throughout the season. Vaughn essentially went from what many think was the everyday designated hitter role while occasionally being removed for a left-handed hitter. When Jimenez went down Vaughn would be called on to fill that void. Vaughn would finish the season with 95 games played in left field. Vaughn would also play right field in 18 games, 15 games at first base (his natural position), just six games at DH, two games at third base, and even made one appearance at second base.
While having a player capable of playing so many positions defensively is a great problem to have, it is not necessarily conducive to a rookie trying to figure out major league pitching. Vaughn struggled with right-hand pitching as the season wore on but still hit lefties very well leading to more of a platoon role with left-handed-hitting Gavin Sheets in right field as Jimenez made his return to left field. Vaughn’s splits vs right-handed and left-handed pitching show just that, as he carried a .938 OPS against lefties and just a .610 OPS versus righties.
2022 And Beyond
Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond is still very promising for the 24-year-old slugger. Vaughn should settle into a more consistent role this year for the White Sox albeit a likely platoon role in right field with young lefty slugger Gavin Sheets. Vaughn has surely put in the work this offseason to overcome the long length of a 162-game marathon season and hit right-handers better. If Sheets can continue to develop and bring left-handed power to a very right-handed dominant lineup, Vaughn may find it difficult to get at-bats against right-handed pitching.
With Abreu anchored at first base for the 2022 season, Vaughn will find limited innings at first base as well. However, with Abreu set to become an unrestricted free agent following this year, could 2023 be the year Vaughn takes over at first base for the Sox? While all Sox fans would hate to see Abreu go, that may open a door for Andrew Vaughn to return to his natural position permanently. Nobody thinks Abreu is finished at this point and all Sox fans want him to get a championship on the southside. If the White Sox can take another step closer to a championship in 2022, that may entice Rick Hahn and company to at least attempt to retain Abreu for the 2023 season and possibly longer depending on 2022 results specifically for Abreu.
Regardless of defensive position, the White Sox and their fans expect Vaughn to hit in 2022 and hit well. Vaughn should slot into every lineup La Russa puts out against lefties and probably some against righties this season. Vaughn was drafted for his ability to hit and should be given the time and rope necessary to come into his own as a major league slugger. This is exactly the reason the White Sox front office has been hesitant to move Vaughn in a trade, as they should be. The opportunity to trade Vaughn for major league talent that could help the Sox win this year has almost certainly presented itself and the Sox have not pulled the trigger. Let us all hope they remain steadfast and bullish on Vaughn and keep the young slugger on the southside for years to come!
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