Sox keep raving about Andrew Vaughn: ‘The full package'


The general rule of thumb is you should never use more words when fewer will do.

Tony La Russa's opinion on Andrew Vaughn could've been limited to the two words that ended his answer:

"Very impressive."

But the many words that came before provided the latest illustration of why the White Sox think Vaughn, who's the favorite to land the team's starting DH job despite never playing a game above A-ball, is ready for primetime.

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"I'd say (I've seen from Vaughn) probably the three most important things a hitter has to have," La Russa said Tuesday. "First of all, if it's in a cage or if 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 hitter-ish attitude.

"Second, he's got no fear. And third, he works left-center, right-center, which is what high-average hitters do, produce a lot of RBIs, a lot of home runs, they start a lot of rallies.

"In other words, what I'm saying is, very impressive."

Questions are going to follow Vaughn all the way to Opening Day, should he be part of the 26-man group the White Sox take to Anaheim for the season-opener. His professional game experience is limited to 55 games between Winston-Salem, Kannapolis and rookie ball in 2019. Like all other minor leaguers, he didn't play a single contest during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season. Now it's possible he'll make the jump to not only the major league roster but the everyday DH spot on a team with World Series aspirations.

The questions are valid.

But the White Sox have never been shy about dolling out rave reviews for Vaughn, whose bat they touted as advanced the night they spent the No. 3 pick in the draft on him in 2019. They chose him there with the hope he'd fly through the system, much like Nick Madrigal did after being chosen with a similar pick a year earlier.

Vaughn didn't get to face Double-A or Triple-A competition in 2020, but he saw plenty of pitches out the hands of upper level pitchers, including major leaguers, first in spring training, then in "Summer Camp" and then at the White Sox alternate training site in Schaumburg. That combination of experiences might not have been the same thing as a season's worth of game action, but White Sox people and Vaughn himself insist it was beneficial, nonetheless.

"Getting to see that pitching was a huge benefit to just get to see that level that those guys bring," Vaughn said Tuesday. "Everybody throws hard these days. And the guys at the major league level, they can pinpoint. You have to be within yourself. Get my pitches, take my at-bats, take every pitch very seriously, and it helped me a lot."

Indeed, he's impressed more than just the guys whose job it is to evaluate him. Pitching against Vaughn during "Summer Camp" last year, White Sox staff ace Lucas Giolito called him "a pain in my ass" for the quality of at-bat he was putting together against one of the majors' top arms.

Giolito's still impressed.

"He hasn’t played above High-A, but he has a major league approach and he has a major league swing," Giolito told Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "He’s got power. He’s got plate discipline. It’s the full package. I think that he’s going to be an offensive force for many years. I’m happy that he’s on our team and that I don’t have to face him.

"He has the mindset for it, as well. Very good clubhouse presence. Very, very even keeled. I just think that he has the makeup on that side and obviously the physical ability. I don’t see why he couldn't help our team this year."

The White Sox seem ready to count on him to help a lot.

La Russa isn't ready to talk about Vaughn as a lock for the Opening Day roster — including Vaughn in the "in pencil" group rather than the "in ink" one — but the alternative candidates for the DH job that he listed Tuesday, Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger, didn't strike as super realistic, even if they are much discussed White Sox prospects in their own right. Vaughn, meanwhile, has been ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in baseball.

That big question, though, is still searching for an answer: Will he be able to contribute as much as an everyday DH should to a championship-caliber team?

The White Sox could have brought in a more dependable veteran, though they did that in each of the last two offseasons, and we all know how the Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnación experiments turned out. Instead, they seem intent on letting Vaughn prove he deserves to be thrown into the deep end of the pool.

"It’s a battle every day. You have to go out there and take it one day at a time, one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time, just progress and learn from mistakes and learn from things you did," Vaughn said. "It’s a challenge.

"You have to go out there and know you put in the work and put in the work with the guys and everybody else pushing each other. It’s different because I’ve never played that many consecutive games, but you take the challenge and play your best and help the team win. I think it will work out good."

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