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Why Andrew Vaughn is my favorite White Sox draft pick since Carlos Rodon

by Nik Gaur

From what I have seen online, people are not talking about the Andrew Vaughn pick as much as the recent Nick Madrigal and Jake Burger picks after their drafts. There is probably a good reason for this: unlike those years, the White Sox are actually entertaining, and might be somewhat good. There is not as much of a need to look forward to the future because we are already seeing much of it develop in front of us. Additionally, Vaughn took awhile to sign, which may have tempered some of the fanbase’s excitement about him. Regardless, I am still ecstatic about the Vaughn pick, as it is my favorite White Sox draft pick (immediately after the selection, without the benefit of hindsight) since the 2014 selection of Carlos Rodon.

First, this is not necessarily a slight at the team’s first rounders from 2015-2018. Carson Fulmer was the right pick at the time no matter what proponents of revisionist history will tell you, Zack Collins was destroying AAA prior to his promotion, Burger’s catastrophic injuries were not exactly predictable, and Madrigal is off to a scorching hot start in AA. Personally, I just have not been more excited about a White Sox first round pick since Rodon, who many believed was a lock to go #1 overall before he fell to the Sox at #3.

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Photo: Chicago Sun-Times

In general, I am analytically inclined, so my being excited about drafting a first baseman at #3 overall could seem disingenuous at the surface, given that there is far less potential for added value from a first baseman relative to a middle infielder, center fielder, or catcher, for instance. For that reason, I tried talking myself into liking C.J. Abrams at #3 this year, and believed that the White Sox would select him in the weeks leading up to the draft, but he never really grew on me. I am glad he did not, because there is no reason that I should have looked for reasons to not like Andrew Vaughn. Reducing him to just a first baseman is what would be disingenuous.

I could list a bunch of Vaughn’s college statistics here, but they don’t really matter. Practically every first round college draftee puts up otherworldly numbers and maintains an incredible strikeout to walk ratio. What I trust is the common belief that Vaughn is one of the best college hitters ever, as well as an endorsement I heard from someone whose opinion I value. This person is a financial data analyst who has modeled the basketball market professionally. He is also a former Division 1 college baseball player who has modeled the sport as well. He has run regressions that have suggested that Vaughn, as is, would produce a .248/.365/.510 slash line in MLB, which would give him an .875 OPS and make him one of the best first basemen in the league. Here is a quote from him that I have slightly tweaked to put in simpler terms:

Data-driven people within the industry who ran Vaughn’s projections based on loosely built college regression, that (.248/.365/.510) is around what they would have had as well. His body of work, age of performance, and strength of competition, paired with his outcomes and zone command, showed a + MLB hitter today. Andrew Vaughn broke projections. Pretty cool if you ask me.

He stressed to me that there is a considerable margin of error in predicting future statistics for college players, but it is still telling that holistic projections which factor in Vaughn’s competition and overall body of work suggest that he is already polished enough to excel as an MLB hitter today. These projections are not supposed to reflect a borderline elite hitter, given that developmental time in the minor leagues is an inevitability. This is why he said that Vaughn “broke” the projections.

Of course, Vaughn will spend about a year in the minor leagues in order to develop, but when he arrives, I believe that Vaughn will have a Rhys Hoskins or Pete Alonso kind of impact for the White Sox. Those are two sluggers who have proven via advanced statistics that it is certainly possible for first basemen to provide substantial surplus value. If Vaughn is that type of player, he would be well worth the #3 overall selection. As fans, all we can do now is hope that he does not suddenly forget how to hit. I have a good feeling that he won’t.

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Aaron Sapoznik

Andrew Vaughn will be a stud MLB hitter, probably making his White Sox debut late next season or by early 2021 with good health. I like the recent trend over the last three White Sox June Drafts when they selected advanced college bats who control the strike zone with their top selections. Unfortunately, Jake Burger from 2017 has been hamstrung (pun intended) with an assortment of leg injuries that have kept him off of the diamond for the past two seasons. Fortunately, 2018 first round pick Nick Madrigal has had much better luck with his health and is raking at… Read more »

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