Andrew Vaughn arrived at Chicago White Sox spring training hoping to make the major league roster.
Now the 23-year-old rookie from Cal has visions of doing something memorable in the fall.
The White Sox were 58-37 entering play Wednesday, the best record in the American League and good for a 9 1/2-game lead on Cleveland in the Central Division.
A World Series doesn’t seem far-fetched.
“That’s the goal from the start of spring training. That’s what we talked about,” Vaughn says in the video above. “We’ve got that winning attitude. I think that’s going to help us hopefully get into October and play maybe all the way to November. That would be pretty special.”
Vaughn has been right in the middle of things. He was on base Monday night when fellow-rookie Gavin Sheets delivered a walk-off three-run homer against Minnesota and he contributed an RBI single and a run to the five-eighth inning to produced a 9-5 come-from-behind win over the Twins on Tuesday night.
“It’s been amazing,” Vaughn says. “We have such a good club, such good guys, and we’re playing good baseball. Winning is fun. We’ve just got to keep it rolling.”
Vaughn, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 MLB draft, has played in 85 games, assembling a solid statistical line: a .243 batting average with 18 doubles, 10 home runs, 40 runs scored and 27 RBI.
Like most young players, he hasn’t found a straight line to success. In 12 games before the recent All-Star break, he was batting .395. He enjoyed his first two-homer game in the finale before the time off.
After four days off, that hot bat cooled and Vaughn went 1-for-15 over the next four games. He is learning to deal with those turns in the road.
This isn’t college, where he batted .402 with 23 home runs in 56 gams as a Cal sophomore in 2018 and was voted national player of the year.
“It’s a different animal up here at the Big League level,” he says. There’s a lot of ups and downs and you’ve got to figure out how to ride the highs and how to get up from the lows.”
What he’s come to realize is each at-bat is its own challenge, and what happened last inning or last week — good or bad — doesn’t impact that.
“Every day’s a new day for me . . . every at-bat, every pitch. You’ve just got to think of it that way,” he says. “You can’t look in the past and think, `Oh, I did this. I’m hitting .400. It don’t matter. That next pitch is the most important pitch.”
The adjustment to the majors came with one other significant challenge — learning a new position. A serious spring training injury to starting left fielder Eloy Jimenez prompted the White Sox to give Vaughn a shot at the job.
He’d already shown enough with his bat during the spring to secure a roster spot. A career first baseman, he was expected to be the White Sox regular designated hitter.
Instead, he runs out to left every game.
Asked to identify what aspect of his game he’s been most pleased with so far, Vaughn doesn’t hesitate.
“I would say definitely the outfield stuff . . . never doing it in a game my whole life really until those last three days of spring training and then into the season. I’ve been pleased with that, just trying to get better every day at it,” he says.
Through 74 games in the outfield — 72 of them in left —Vaughn has played errorless baseball.
“It’s been a progression . . . just catch the ones I can catch. That’s the biggest thing. Take the best jumps I can get,” he explains.
Vaughn spends batting practice in left, working on getting live reads on the ball coming off the bat. “Guys at the major league level can back-spin it on you pretty well so it’ll carry on you.” he says. “You’ve just got to get used to that.”
Day by day, Vaughn is getting used to everything about being in the major leagues.
“I’ve worked hard my whole life and getting to be here is super humbling,” he says. “It’s one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Cover photo of Andrew Vaughn by David Banks, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo