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2019 MLB Draft: White Sox take Andrew Vaughn in the first round (3rd overall)

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The California 1B may well be the best hitter in this year’s draft

Alas: We didn’t get the catcher (Adley Rutschman) in this picture. Andrew Vaughn, seen here with the bat, is a nice consolation prize.
@CalAthletics

After some late intrigue involving the Baltimore Orioles going loco and bypassing both Adley Rutschman and Bobby Witt Jr. with the first pick ... pick No. 3 went as anticipated, with the Chicago White Sox selecting first baseman Andrew Vaughn from the University of California-Berkeley.

Here’s a deep dive into our first baseman of the future.


Andrew Vaughn
California
First Baseman
Age 21
Bats Right
Throws Right

Rankings

Baseball America 3
MLB 3
FanGraphs 3

Vaughn once was a relatively unheralded second base/third base recruit from Santa Rosa, Calif.. However, consider him unheralded no longer. After winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2017, he won the Golden Spikes Award last year as NCAA’s best collegiate player. Vaughn’s stats haven’t dropped one iota in 2019, despite the fact that he rarely gets good pitches to hit. Here are his college stats for his three years with Cal:

2017 54 G, 218 AB, .349/.414/.555, 7 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 50 RBIs, 1-of-3 SB, 19 BB, 24 Ks
2018 54 G, 199 AB, .402/.531/.819, 14 2B, 0 3B, 23 HR, 63 RBIs, 4-of-8 SB, 44 BB, 18 Ks
2019 48 G, 169 AB, .385/.539/.728, 13 2B, 0 3B, 15 HR, 49 RBIs, 2-of-2 SB, 53 BB, 30 Ks

These stats don’t include his numbers from the wooden-bat Cape Cod League in 2018, where he slashed .308/.368/.654 with five homers in just 52 at-bats. He’s also been hit by pitches 23 times during his college career, which is an indicator that he stands pretty close to the plate. His numbers this year fall squarely between his outstanding freshman and sophomore campaigns, but that’s OK. It would’ve been hard to match last year’s numbers, considering he gets so relatively few pitches to hit. Plus, the Pac-12 Conference has been arguably the best conference when it comes to pitching this year—perhaps even better than the highly vaunted SEC. These are his compiled collegiate stats to date, which are essentially the equivalent of a full Major League season (imagine if he could put up these kinds of yearly stats in the Bigs):

156 G, 586 AB, .377/.495/.695, 34 2B, 1 3B, 50 HR, 162 RBIs, 7-of-13 SB, 116 BB, 72 K.

Obviously, there’s a lot to like in Vaughn. He hits for a high average and to all fields, walks twice as much as he strikes out (his career K-rate sits at 9.89%), and has enjoyed consistent results throughout his career as a result. In fact, due to his highly advanced approach at the dish, Baseball America rated Vaughn as their preseason pick for best hitter eligible for this year’s MLB draft. To go a step further, they also said of him, “Vaughn has an idyllic righthanded swing with the requisite bat speed and strength needed to allow scouts to peg him as a plus hitter with 80-grade raw power. He takes a professional approach to batting practice and works the ball to all fields before games, rather than simply pulling the ball and trying to hit home runs as often as possible. In games, however, Vaughn has no issues going over the fence to the right-center field gap or turning on pitches inside with easy impact.” He’s also decent defensively, with a solid arm; he’s actually pitched in 11 games for the Golden Bears.

The only negatives about his game are things Vaughn has no control over. First basemen often fall in the draft in order to make way for more athletic players who play more advanced defensive positions. Also, right-handed first basemen usually are overlooked in favor of lefties. Also, Vaughn doesn’t have the Frank Thomas build going for him, at a relatively modest 6´0´´ and 215 pounds. Vaughn’s consistently spectacular results make those issues relatively moot, however. Vaughn’s power and hitting are both graded 60 by MLB Pipeline, while his defense and arm are both graded 50. Those grades, especially the offensive ones, may actually be a bit on the light side.

Vaughn is considered by many to be among the three prospects in this year’s draft. The White Sox have several players who could eventually play first base in the future, including Zack Collins, Gavin Sheets, Jake Burger and Eloy Jimenez, among others; it’s possible the Sox could have selected a more athletic player like shortstop C.J. Abrams, or even outfielders Hunter Bishop or J.J. Bleday. However, the team opted for the can’t miss (or shouldn’t miss) bat. Scouting director Nick Hostetler loves college hitters with tremendous plate discipline, and Vaughn is arguably better than any chosen thus far under his watch (including Collins, Burger, and Nick Madrigal). While it would have understandable if the Sox decided to go elsewhere due to their plethora of first base candidates, the White Sox opted for Vaughn. After all, consistently awesome hitters are hard to come by as this year’s squad of Birmingham Barons can attest.

Below is a list of Vaughn’s accomplishments from just his first two years alone:

AS A SOPHOMORE (2018)

  • Recipient of the 2018 Golden Spikes Award, presented by USA Baseball and the Rod Dedeaux Foundation, as the best amateur baseball player in the country.
  • Enjoyed one of the greatest offensive seasons in Cal history in 2018 and became the first Golden Bear ever to earn National Player of the Year honors (Perfect Game/Rawlings) as well as the first Cal player to win the Golden Spikes.
  • Named co-National Position Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) along with Texas’ Kody Clemens.
  • Also became the sixth Pac-12 Player of the Year in Cal history, and first since Brett Cumberland in 2016.
  • Became the first Golden Bear to be named a finalist for the prestigious Golden Spikes Award which is given to the top amateur baseball player in the country. Was one of four players to make the final list.
  • Consensus All-American earned first team honors from Baseball America, Perfect Game, D1Baseball.com, ABCA and the NCBWA while garnering second team honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
  • Started all 54 games at first base and hit .402, a mark that ranked third in Cal single season history.
  • Hit 23 home runs to equal the Cal single season record set by Xavier Nady in 1999. Finished the regular season second in the country in the category.
  • Set a Cal single season record with an .819 slugging percentage.
  • Also had 63 RBIs, 44 walks, 12 HBP and struck out only 18 times.
  • Ranked fourth in the nation in on-base percentage (.531) at the conclusion of the regular season.
  • Reached base safely in each of the final 35 games of the season and only failed to reach base in two of Cal’s 54 games.
  • Also a premier defender at first base, Vaughn earned Pac-12 All-Defensive team honors with a .992 fielding percentage.
  • Earned National Player of the Week honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper for the second time in his career after a week in which he went 11 for 17 (.647) with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs, six runs scored and two walks against Santa Clara and eventual College World Series participant Washington.
  • Named Pac-12 Player of the Week three times.
  • Hit multiple home runs in a game three times, accomplishing the feat against San Diego, Cal State Bakersfield and Xavier.
  • Also drove in five runs in a game three times (Xavier, Brown, UCLA).
  • Named to the 2018 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team as one of the first four players selected.

AS A FRESHMAN (2017)

  • Named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in a vote of conference coaches.
  • Also named a first team Freshman All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), Baseball America and Perfect Game/Rawlings while also earning Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
  • Emerged immediately as one of the Pac-12’s top hitters and started all 54 games at first base in a historic first collegiate season.
  • Hit 12 home runs and finished in a tie for the Pac-12 lead with teammate Denis Karas. Also hit .349 with 76 hits, seven doubles, one triple, 36 runs, 50 RBI, 19 walks to only 24 strikeouts, a slugging percentage of .555, an on-base percentage of .414 and 121 total bases.
  • Ranked second in the Pac-12 in total bases, third in slugging and hits, fifth in RBI and seventh in batting average. Led all Pac-12 freshmen in each of those categories.
  • Led all Cal hitters with 24 multiple-hit games, 12 multiple-RBI games, a 14-game hitting streak and a 27-game reached base streak.
  • Earned National Player of the Week honors from multiple publications as well as Pac-12 Player of the Week for the week of April 17-23 after an incredible stretch of play that included a pair of walk-off home runs against USC. He went 7 for 15 in four games, hit three home runs and drove in 12 runs during a week that included a seven-RBI performance in the series opener against the Trojans. He became the first Golden Bear to earn National POW honors since Brian Celsi and Lucas Erceg in 2015.
  • Despite shifting to first base before the season started, proved to be one of the Pac-12’s best defensively as he made just two errors in 511 chances and compiled a .996 fielding percentage.
  • Also played a part on the mound for the Bears, appearing in 10 games as a reliever and going 1-0 with 8.1 innings pitched.
  • Hit two home runs in a game twice (UCLA, USC).
  • Ended the year on a hot streak, going 9 for his final 17 in games against No. 7 TCU and No. 15 Arizona.
  • Spent the summer as a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and earned team MVP honors during the United States’ series win over Japan.

Here’s Vaughn hitting a gigantic homer against the University of San Francisco, courtesy of the Pac 12:

And courtesy of 2080 Baseball, here’s Vaughn representing the U.S. College National Baseball squad against Chinese Taipei last year:

Here’s some more Vaughn magic, courtesy of Cal Baseball’s Twitter account (@CalBaseball) and USA Golden Spikes

And finally, here’s the scene when Vaughn learned he was drafted by the White Sox with the third overall pick:


Most successful first rounder in Sox history: Frank Thomas, 1B, Auburn (1989)

Last year’s first round pick: Nick Madrigal, 2B, Oregon State