I find White Sox first baseman Andrew Vaughn fascinating. During my brief tenure here at Sox On 35th, he’s by far and away the topic I have written about the most. Whether I am spearheading mailbag articles about his trade value, proclaiming he should be an All-Star, or discussing his 2023 pre-season expectations, I keep on coming back to Andrew Vaughn.
I think the reason I’m so interested in Vaughn is because his journey to the majors and how the White Sox organization has treated him is so unique. Vaughn was drafted third overall by the Sox in 2019, where he would spend 55 days in the minor leagues, never hitting above High-A. Vaughn missed out on competitive baseball altogether in 2020 thanks to COVID-19, only to be thrust into the major leagues in 2021. The initial plan seemed to be to make Vaughn the primary DH that season; however, thanks to a pectoral injury to Eloy Jiménez during the pre-season, Vaughn primarily played in left field, despite almost no experience in the outfield.
Andrew Vaughn is now playing his in third full season in the major leagues. While it’s still very early to make a full judgment on how Vaughn’s 2023 season will go going forward, enough time has passed to evaluate how he’s doing now.
As of the writing of this article, Andrew Vaughn has a triple slash line of .244/.320/.424, with 7 home runs, good for a wRC+ of 106. He has +1 Defensive Run Saved (DRS) (leader among first basemen has +4) per Fielding Bible, and -3 Outs Above Average (OAA) which is in the 12th percentile. Vaughn has a 0.0 fWAR and 0.2 bWAR. This is his StatCast player profile:
By almost all statistical measurements, Andrew Vaughn is not having a very good season so far. He is barely above average offensively (106 wRC+ and 103 OPS+, where 100 is average) and mid-to-bad defensively, depending on which resource you trust to judge your defense. Though, to his credit, Vaughn does lead all White Sox players in Runs Batted In (RBI) with 39.
Outside of the actual, on-the-field performance, one of the more disappointing aspects of Andrew Vaughn’s offensive game is that he doesn’t seem to be improving. Here are some of Vaughn’s statistics in his first three seasons in the majors:
In 2021, Vaughn’s rookie season, he had a triple slash line of .235/.309/.396, good for a wRC+ of 93. In 2022, Vaughn had a triple slash line of .271/.321/.429, good for a wRC+ of 113. A large reason for the disparity between these two seasons was the uptick in batting average (.271 vs. .235), but as 2023 seems to show, this improvement is largely the result of better luck with a better BABIP, and maybe not so much with Vaughn’s skill.
So far this season, Andrew Vaughn is putting up similar numbers that he did in his past seasons, without drastic improvements from his rookie campaign.
Additionally, when Andrew Vaughn was seemingly having a breakout season to start the year in 2022, which I wrote about for Sox On 35th, I had this to say about how I thought he could get even better:
A big hole in Vaughn’s game right now is when the count in full. In these situations, he has an OPS+ of -8. Vaughn is also not great when the count is 3-1. Here, he has an OPS+ of -11. Right now, that’s heavily contributing to Vaughn’s low walk rate. Again though, so much of Vaughn’s game this year has been great, and he’s still very young and gaining seasoning, that I am confident his BB% will be red by season’s end as Vaughn learns to be more patient and hit better when he’s in Hitter’s Counts.
Unfortunately, not much seems to have changed since I wrote that almost literally one year ago. As of this writing, Vaughn has an OPS+ of 7 after a full count and an OPS+ of 12 after a 3-1 count.
On top of his offensive woes, Andrew Vaughn is limited defensively. Thanks to injuries and poor organizational backup plans, Andrew Vaughn has played a lot of corner outfield during his tenure on the South Side. Per StatCast, Vaughn had -4 OAA in left field and -2 OAA in right field in 2021. In 2022, after an off-season to actually work on his defense, Vaughn was the worst defensive outfielder in the league per StatCast thanks to his -8 OAA in RF and -9 OAA in LF.
In 2023, Andrew Vaughn got to move to his more natural defensive position of first base. As alluded to earlier, his defense contributed to the White Sox has not gotten that much better. Vaughn has -3 OAA at first, +1 DRS, and a score of -5.6 per Fangraph’s defensive rating. As such, even if Andrew Vaughn does take a leap forward offensively, it needs to be with greater strides to make up for his limited defensive capabilities.
While I personally believe the Chicago White Sox messed up Andrew Vaughn’s development by thrusting him into the majors too early in 2021, we are now at the point in Vaughn’s career where he needs to start taking personal responsibility for his performance. He has seen enough major league pitching and has shown the ability to consistently hit against it, such that he should not be performing as poorly as he has been so far this season.
I am personally rooting for Andrew Vaughn to succeed. I would love nothing more than for things to click and for him to go on a run the way he did in the first half of 2022. Baseball is streaky, and there’s nothing to prevent Vaughn from doing that again. However, there’s nothing Andrew Vaughn has consistently shown this season that would lead me to believe things are going to get better.
Sadly, I think this version of Andrew Vaughn is generally what he is. I think he will be a player that will be poor defensively, only slightly above average offensively, and a player the White Sox organization hyped up too much. I hope I’m wrong.
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