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The Rise of Andrew Vaughn on the South Side

by Adam Kaplan

I am currently writing this article on a Friday night. My kids have gone to bed. My wife has gone to bed. My dog has gone to bed. I am writing because all I can think about is Andrew Vaughn.

Last Friday night, AV had himself a game against the Boston Red Sox. He hit a 3-run base clearing double in the 3rd inning and a two-run home run during his next at-bat in the fifth. On the year, as of this writing, Andrew Vaughn is slashing .292/.349/.500, with 5 home runs, good for a wRC+ of 150.

We are almost into June, and we have come a long way from the off season where White Sox fans were wondering if the team should trade Andrew Vaughn. In our defense, we here at Sox On 35th basically said “No, we should not trade him”, but the Hot Takes were still aflame anyways this off-season. Also, we didn’t know if we were even going to have baseball in 2022 at the time. Give us a break.

To play Devil’s Advocate, it’s not like Andrew Vaughn had a particularly good rookie campaign. He didn’t receive a single AL ROY vote. In 2021, in 469 plate appearances, Vaughn had a triple slash line of .239/.305/.396, with 15 home runs, good for a wRC+ of 94. His bat was, by definition, below average. Come playoff time, Andrew Vaughn was used mainly in a platoon thanks to his drastic lefty/righty splits. Vaughn was incredible against left-handed pitching (.269/.383/.555, 155 wRC+), but was downright bad against righties (.221/.277/.332, 68 wRC+). Gavin Sheets had reverse splits, so platooning them both at DH in the playoffs made sense.

Andrew Vaughn was a highly touted prospect. He was drafted 3rd overall by the White Sox in 2019, but had spent very limited time in the minors. AV spent a total of 52 games in the White Sox farm system, never playing above A+ ball, before becoming an every day starter in 2021. His lack of minor league experience led some people to believe that he should start the year in AAA to get some seasoning.

Me. That somebody who suggested Vaughn should start the year in the minors is me.

My logic is not hard to follow. Andrew Vaughn was going to make the 2021 Opening Day roster no matter what, regardless if Eloy Jimenez injured himself. However, there certainly was the appearance that Vaughn would get consistent playing time, largely at DH, mainly because he came cheap, and not necessarily because he was ready. And to be fair, AV had long stretches in 2021 where it looked like he was not fully developed.

Right now, Andrew Vaughn is making anyone who had even the slightest negative thing to say about him (at least offensively, he is still bad defensively) look pretty darn foolish. Among players with at least 100 plate appearances, as of this writing, Andrew Vaughn currently is 24th in the majors (and second on the White Sox to Tim Anderson) in terms of wRC+.

Improvement Against Righties

Just because Andrew Vaughn didn’t hit right-handed pitching in 2021 doesn’t mean he was never going to. As it turns out, Vaughn took to hitting RHP pretty quickly in 2022.

This season, so far, Vaughn is basically hitting both righties and lefties well- though is he is hitting righties slightly better. Vaughn has a wRC+ of 143 against LHP and a wRC+ of 152 against RHP. Further, 4 of Vaughn’s 5 home runs have come against righties.

RISP with Two Outs

Andrew Vaughn was really, really bad to end his 2021 season with runners in scoring position and two outs in the innings. Asking a rookie to consistently get hits and get on-base with two outs already in the inning is not the easiest task. I get that. However, as of September 4, 2021, Vaughn was 2 for his previous 50 with RISP and 2-outs. As the Pete Campbell/Mad Men GIF goes: “Not Great Bob!”

Unsurprisingly, Andrew Vaughn is performing much better in these situations in 2022. My QT of the Sox On 35th video of Vaughn hitting a three run bomb that I shared above came with two outs in the inning. As of this writing, Vaughn is slashing .429/.429/.857, good for an OPS+ of 258 with RISP and 2 outs in the inning. Granted, it’s only been 7 at-bats, but still, you can only perform in the situation handed to you, and in 2022, Andrew Vaughn has done just that.

Further, Andrew Vaughn is hitting when the team needs him to. Regardless of the outs in the inning, Vaughn is slashing .412/.421/.824, good for a wRC+ of 252, with runners in scoring position. In situations that Fangraphs considers “high leverage”, Vaughn has an incredible 444 wRC+.

Positive Underlying Statistics

It would be one thing if Andrew Vaughn was performing this well, but the advanced metrics told another story. However, I don’t believe that to be the case here. For starters, he’s AV’s StatCast card:

There is a lot of red in the picture, and most of the blue including his Sprint Speed, Outs Above Average, and Outfielder Jump, don’t bother me at all. Andrew Vaughn is slow and a bad outfielder. That’s fine because he was always a 1B/DH anyways that the White Sox are shoehorning a round peg into a square hole making AV play in the outfield.

The one blue aspect of Vaughn’s StatCast card that does have my eyebrow raised is that walk rate. Though, the White Sox offense as a whole aren’t walking, not just Vaughn. Still, AV often has shown a more patient approach at the plate compared to almost every one of his teammates. Take swinging at the first pitch for example, something the White Sox have been notoriously bad at doing this year. Andrew Vaughn rarely swings at the first pitch he sees, and when he does, he’s slashing .546/.583/1.364, good for an OPS+ of 318. Basically, AV doesn’t swing at the first pitch unless he knows he can do something with it.

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.

Anyways, to go back to Andrew Vaughn’s StatCast card, here is a chart for how Vaughn is performing compared to what the advanced statistics say he should be performing:

Actual PerformanceExpected Performance
Batting Average.292.273

Overall, Andrew Vaughn is putting up spectacular traditional and advanced statistics, all with a BABIP of .311. Maybe Vaughn’s numbers will come down a little bit, but all of this data suggests to me that Vaughn is mostly performing with very little luck one way or another. And I think he’s going to get better.

It should not come as a surprise in how well Andrew Vaughn is currently playing. He always had the talent and pedigree, but he just hadn’t been able to put it all together. Further, my colleague Nik Guar wrote an excellent article at the end of last season arguing than Vaughn was getting unlucky in the past few months. The combination of improvement, talent, and luck not being held against him has made Andrew Vaughn one of the best offensive weapons the White Sox currently have.

Personally, I am also of the mindset that Andrew Vaughn being forced to play left field in Eloy Jimenez’s absence about a week before the 2021 season stunted his development. I don’t have either statistics or anecdotal evidence to back up this claim, just my general belief that throwing a young baseball player into a defensive position he was very uncomfortable with while also having spent almost no time in the minors was probably not ideal when it came to his 2021 campaign. However, I do believe that Vaughn’s ability to prepare and train for time in the outfield has helped to improve his offensive game. It doesn’t appear to have actually helped his defense, but I do believe he is better at the plate because of it.

Regardless of the reasons, Andrew Vaughn has clearly taken a giant leap forward in terms of his offense. He’s showing us why the Oakland A’s wanted him so bad.

The White Sox have managed to stay relatively afloat in the AL Central despite an anemic offense, in large part because of the bat of Andrew Vaughn. He has been excellent in 2022, and I think he is only going to get better.

Featured Photo: White Sox / Twitter

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Tiny Tanks

Take Jimenez and I can digest Vaughn giving maximum effort in Left Field

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