This White Sox player is far from a problem at this point

Andrew Vaughn has 11 home runs and 44 RBI in just 74 games this season.
Andrew Vaughn has 11 home runs and 44 RBI in just 74 games this season. / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Chicago White Sox were right about Andrew Vaughn.

The 25-year-old former first-round draft pick has hit the ground running in his first season as the White Sox's starting first baseman. The right-handed slugger has 19 doubles, 11 home runs, and 44 RBI this year in just 74 games and 274 at-bats.

The question of whether Vaughn could replace Jose Abreu at first base has been answered before the mid-way point of the season. He leads the team in RBI (44), walks (26), and hits (66) and is second in runs (35), doubles (19), on-base percentage (.323), and total bases (120).

Allowing Abreu, the White Sox's starter at first base from 2014-22, to go to the Houston Astros as a free agent last off-season is clearly not the main reason why the White Sox have struggled to a 32-44 start this season.

Vaughn, despite a .241 average, is clearly have a better season than Abreu this year.

The Chicago White Sox made the transition to Andrew Vaughn at 1B.

Abreu has fewer runs (21), hits (62), doubles (11), home runs (four), RBI (33) and has a lower batting average (.225), on-base percentage (.279), and slugging percentage (.308) than Vaughn. Abreu has also struck out 74 times in 276 at-bats compared to Vaughn's 57 in 274 at-bats.

White Sox fans, understandably, are not comparing Vaughn to this year's Abreu or even the Abreu that hit just 15 home runs and drove in 75 runs last year in 157 games for the White Sox.

The tendency is to compare Vaughn to the Abreu that drove in 100 or more runs from 2014-2019 and 2021 and won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2020.

Vaughn will likely never win that comparison. He also likely won't ever come out on top with a comparison to White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas (1990-2005) or Paul Konerko (1999-14).

Thomas, arguably the greatest White Sox hitter in team history, hit 448 home runs and drove in 1,465 in his 16 seasons in Chicago as well as winning back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and 1994.

He also was named to five All-Star teams, led the league in on-base percentage and walks each four times, runs scored in 1994, and batting average in 1997.

Konerko also played 16 seasons for the White Sox and hit 439 homers, drove in 1,412, and made six All-Star teams. He also had six 100-RBI seasons and his home run in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series is one of the most iconic moments in team history.

If you are Vaughn how do you compete with Thomas, Konerko, Abreu, and a ridiculously productive Hall of Fame-quality stretch of 33 years in a row at first base?

Well, you don't. You just go out and put up a solid first half of your first season at first base and hope your critics remember to wait 16 years before making a judgment.

Will Vaughn ever become another Thomas, Konerko or Abreu? Probably not.

He also probably won't ever be another Dick Allen or even Zeke Bonura. Allen was the 1972 MVP and hit 85 homers, drove in 242 runs, and hit .307 in just 1,218 at-bats from 1972-74. He's one of the most underrated hitters in baseball history.

Bonura hit 79 homers and drove in 440 on a .317 average from 1934-37 for the White Sox. He had an OPS in his four Sox seasons of .914, better than even Konerko (.847) and Abreu (.860).

But that doesn't make Vaughn a bust. If all goes as planned (and so far it has), the White Sox won't have to worry about first base for the next decade or so because of Vaughn. What other position on the field can you say that about right now? Not many, if any.

Yes, Vaughn is more Greg Walker (113 homers, 442 RBI, and a .262 average in nine Sox seasons) than he is Thomas, Konerko, Abreu, Allen, and Bonura right now. But don't forget he is just 25 years old and in just his first full-time season at first base.

He's only going to get better.

Imagine how many RBI Vaughn would have right now if the White Sox had a legitimate lead-off hitter this year. As things stand Vaughn will finish this year with roughly 20-plus homers and around 90 RBI. Keep in mind that Abreu had 15 and 75 last year.

Hitting, though, was never going to be a problem for Vaughn in his major league career. The White Sox made him the No. 3 overall pick out of California in 2019 because Vaughn hit 50 homers, drove in 163 runs, and hit .374 in three (2017-19) seasons and just 596 at-bats in college.

Vaughn was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2017 and was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and Golden Spikes Award winner (the best player in the nation) in 2018.

Catcher Adley Rutschman of Oregon State (now with the Baltimore Orioles) won the Golden Spikes Award in 2019 despite 15 homers, 50 RBI, and a .374 average by Vaughn.

Rutschman went No. 1 in the 2019 draft followed by shortstop Bobby Witt at No. 2 by the Kansas City Royals.

The Sox took Vaughn at No. 3 ahead of notable players that went later in the first round such as Riley Greene (Detroit Tigers), Josh Jung (Texas Rangers), Bryson Stott (Philadelphia Phillies), Corbin Carroll (Arizona Diamondbacks) and Anthony Volpe (New York Yankees).

Don't forget that the White Sox are the same organization that once took catcher Zack Collins 22 picks ahead of catcher Will Smith (2016), outfielder Courtney Hawkins five picks ahead of shortstop Corey Seager and outfielder Jared Mitchell two picks ahead of Mike Trout (2009).

Vaughn is one of the best draft picks in recent White Sox history. And he's only going to look better and better as he grows into his role as a productive major league hitter in the middle of the order.

Vaughn's critics quickly point to his .241 average and .323 on base percentage this season.

It must be pointed out that Vaughn's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is just .264 this year compared to .301 last year when he hit 271.

His average exit velocity is the same as last year (91 miles per hour) as is his hard hit rate (ball in play with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more) at roughly 49 percent.

You can argue that Vaughn has much more pressure on him this year than last year and he has handled it tremendously well considering he's just 25.

A year ago he had little pressure in a lineup that featured Tim Anderson, Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, and Luis Robert (when healthy).

Vaughn was just an afterthought last year playing out of position in the outfield.

This year he has been branded as Abreu's successor and has been thrown into the middle of a batting order that has provided him little help, other than the occasional hot streak by Luis Robert Jr. and Jake Burger.

Vaughn should be thanked for keeping this lineup afloat when almost everyone else either can't even stay healthy, let alone provide consistent production.

Once Anderson remembers he's a .300 hitter, Jimenez gets hot and Moncada proves he's a top prospect instead of a huge bust, you can expect Vaughn to start to thrive.

Next. The 15 worst contracts in Chicago White Sox history. dark