Andrew Vaughn was ticketed for Double A when the Chicago White Sox arrived at spring training last month.
The 22-year-old first baseman forced a change of plans and appears to be getting close to a lock for Chicago’s Opening Day roster.
“I know he’s never played higher than whatever it is (high Class A Winston-Salem), but boy he takes great at-bats, makes great adjustments. He’s got all of the qualities,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He does things that really good hitters do. He can handle pitches, he really competes, never throws an at-bat away, uses the whole field. And he’s got thump.”
La Russa said White Sox officials all the way down to clubhouse attendants raved about Vaughn all winter. It didn’t take much time at all for La Russa to join the chorus.
“Now I’m raving about him,” La Russa said.
The White Sox are not yet committing to Vaughn being on the 25-man roster when bags are packed for Opening Day in Anaheim against the Angels, less than 500 miles from Vaughn’s hometown of Santa Rosa.
Vaughn attended Cal and has just 245 Minor League plate appearances. Last season, he spent the regular season at the White Sox training facility in Schaumburg, Ill. For most of the spring, Vaughn has worked closely with Hall of Famer Jim Thome to get accustomed to being a primary designated hitter. Thome told Vaughn it’s the same as preparing for a brand new position.
“He’s a very awesome man,” Vaughn said of Thome. “And so knowledgeable about the game and drills he likes to do. We were working on a drill that he liked when he was with the Indians. Just the way he goes about it, it lifts you up, gives you that positive energy that is pretty special.”
Vaughn turns 23 in April and comes with noteworthy credentials. He was the NCAA Player of the Year as a sophomore with the Bears in 2018. He was drafted third overall in 2020.
He has also been slotted at designated hitter in a semi-platoon with American League MVP Jose Abreu, who was the target of long-term contract talks by team president Kenny Williams. USA Today reported those talks have “cooled” and interrupted the pattern of the team committing up-front dollars to marquee prospects.
Williams insists there’s still a chance Vaughn won’t be on the team in April, but plying his trade in the minor leagues. However, Williams is leaving the decision to La Russa, absent any consideration for the service-time savings the team could realize by sending Vaughn to Double A or Triple A.
“We understand the service-time issue that plays here,” Williams told USA Today. “But our feeling is that when you’re ready to help the major-league club, there’s a spot for you. We’re trying to put the best team out there. We have proven that over and over again.
“I think there is a residual effect if you play those type of service-time games. As a former player, maybe I’m a little more sensitive to it than others. If you do that, the player and the agent don’t forget any time soon. Should you want to negotiate a contract down the line, or the guy becomes a free agent, I think that works against you.”
Outfielder Adam Engel said Vaughn already is “one of the purest hitters I’ve ever seen.”
Other teammates pointed to his maturity for a young hitter, with seven walks and nine strikeouts this spring.
“He is the real deal,” La Russa said.
Before Vaughn picks up a bat in the majors, the White Sox are hopeful he’ll grip a pen and sign a long-term deal.
The approach used with shortstop Tim Anderson prior to arbitration and more recently Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert — both signed six-year contracts with two club option years attached — is part of the rebuild that put the White Sox in the playoffs last season.
–Field Level Media