Andrew Vaughn has only been paid to hit baseballs in 245 plate appearances. Yet, he already looks like a professional hitter. When Jose Abreu did not arrive at camp with everyone else due to COVID-19, it was cause for minor concern. Despite being asymptomatic, the Chicago White Sox were forced to spend the first couple of days of spring training without their MVP first baseman.
While the White Sox missed his presence in the clubhouse it gave Vaughn the opportunity to get the majority of first-team reps at first base. He rose to the occasion and people took notice. Vaughn entered camp with a ton of pressure. The White Sox have made it clear that the mentality is “World Series or bust”.
Vaughn has only played 55 professional games yet is expected to step up and fill the void at the designated hitter position. That is a tall task for a 22-year-old kid, yet he seems unfazed. The White Sox released a video on Twitter of Vaughn in the cage launching six consecutive bombs.
Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa has seen his fair share of great hitters throughout his career and was not shy about heaping praise on Vaughn earlier in camp:
"First of all, if it’s in a cage or he’s taking live batting practice– and I’m sure it would be the same in a game– he doesn’t ever step in there where he’s not ready to do damage. He’s got that hitters attitude. Second, he has no fear. And third, he works left center, right center, which is what high average hitters do, produce a lot of RBI’s a lot of home runs, they start a lot of rallies. In other words, what I’m saying is, very impressive.”"
This is not the first time members of the organization have admired Vaughn’s talent. During last year’s Summer Camp the White Sox ace Lucas Giolito had high praise for him when he was asked about his game.
In his Cactus League debut, he drew a pair of walks. While it was not an exciting box score by any means, he was the only White Sox player to reach base twice. Drawing walks is one of the staples of Vaughn’s game. It is also one of the reasons people have penciled him into the vacant DH spot. Batting .374 with 50 home runs and 163 RBIs in college does not hurt either.
Tony La Russa talked about Vaughn’s performance after the game on Sunday saying:
"“today was the kind of start you expected: really good at-bats, nice defensive play. He doesn’t take an inning off. He’s the real deal.”"
Vaughn also flashed the leather at first-base making a diving snag on a sharply hit line drive. While Vaughn doesn’t figure to see a ton of time at first base, it should be noted that we do not know how Abreu’s body will react to COVID-19.
Yoan Moncada was also feeling great at the start of last season and his body slowly deteriorated as the season wore on due to the effects of COVID-19. At one point in the season, he had to be fanned off by then manager Rick Renteria in an attempt to keep him from collapsing after running the bases in Cleveland. Hopefully, Abreu will be fine moving forward but if he needs any extra days off, Vaughn’s play thus far is giving them the assurance they will be in good hands. It is still early in Vaughn’s career so expect some growing pains but the early returns are very promising.