Cal Baseball: How Andrew Vaughn's Long Debut Season Impressed the White Sox

Photo by Tom Borowski

Jeff Faraudo

By the end of his first professional baseball season late last summer, Andrew Vaughn was out of gas.

“Hey, I need a day off,” he recalls telling Justin Jirschele, his manager with the Class A Winston-Salem Dash. “I never thought I’d say this.”

But Vaughn crunched a couple lifetimes into 2019. He opened his Cal schedule on Feb. 15 and played the season finale with the Dash on Sept. 2.

“My body was just tired,” he said. “I was kind of ready for the off-season to start, which wasn’t how I wanted to do it. . . . I definitely felt it.”

Jirschele said Vaughn’s experience was normal.

“There’s no question he was getting to the end there. His body was tired physically, but mentally just as much,” Jirschele said an interview last fall. “He had a long college season, did great there. Then the draft process. A little bit of everything. It takes its toll.

“They’re learning new names, faces, parts of the country they’ve never seen before,” he said of the minor-league season. “All grind and late nights and long bus trips. It’s not even between the baseball lines - everything can be taxing on their minds and bodies.”

But Jirschele also said Vaughn fought through it impressively. The national college player of the year in 2018 at Cal, Vaughn was drafted No. 3 overall last June by the Chicago White Sox.

He spent just a few days with the club’s rookie league team in Arizona, then was promoted twice in the White Sox minor-league system as the summer unfolded.

“I thought he handled it like a true professional,” Jirschele said. “He’s obviously extremely talented. The bat speaks for itself. The ceiling is very, very high for him obviously as an offensive player.”

It’s Vaughn’s skill at the plate that convinced the White Sox to take him. Jirschele said Vaughn is advanced as a hitter for a 23-year-old with just one season of professional ball under his belt.

“He’s never out of an at-bat,” Jirschele said. “He can see two pitches that aren't necessarily good pitches to handle, even for him, get himself in a hole early, and he’s still going to give you a professional at-bat. More times than not get the bat on the ball.

"It’s just a professional approach when he gets in there. At any point, he’s got ability to do some serious damage to all fields.”

Andrew Vaughn waits for a pitch while playing for the Annapolis Intimidators
Photo by Tiffany Wintz

Before the unexpected COVID-19 interruption, Jirschele was looking forward to seeing what well-rested Vaughn could do after an off-season.

“We’re going to see a 100 percent battery life, a full Andrew Vaughn.” Jirschele said. “I’m excited to see him with his feet more underneath him, per se. Really ready to go from the start, rather than at the end of a long, gruesome season.”

*** Vaughn doesn't know what lies ahead this summer

Before the coronavirus shut down spring training in mid-March, Vaughn was continuing to turn heads, batting .304 in Arizona.

“It was super humbling to be in major-league camp for my first spring training. I took full advantage of it,” Vaughn said. “I just told myself I wanted to go in there and keep playing ball the way I always knew how.”

Brett Ballantini covers the White Sox for Sports Illustrated’s South Side Hit Pen, and he concedes he wasn’t initially sure about Vaughn’s credentials.

“I am the first to admit I wasn’t over the moon with Vaughn as last year’s No. 3 pick. But he is a VERY impressive player,” Ballantini said. “His humility in interviews was refreshing, but more so as a student of hitting, Vaughn really impresses.

“He could easily have slumped his way to minor-league (spring training) camp quickly, and did not. He was getting significant plate appearances in games, perhaps as a primer to a more serious opportunity for him in 2021 camp, and took advantage. He had late-game, pressure at-bats.

“And he just damages the ball. Small sample size, but I’m sold.”

*** A video interview with Vaughn from January, courtesy of White Sox TV

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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