Deep Dive: Winston-Salem and Kannapolis first basemen
Top notch: Andrew Vaughn is the third-ranked White Sox prospect, and 21st overall, according to MLB Pipeline. (@WSDashBaseball)
“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- Free agent options at that position
This article delves into the first basemen who finished the year with Winston-Salem and Kannapolis. While Andrew Vaughn is the obvious headliner, there are several interesting bats here, including Corey Zangari and Tyler Osik.
(age as of April 1, 2020)
Vaughn enjoyed a spectacular three-year run with the University of California. As a freshman, all he did was slash .349/.414/.555 with 12 homers, 50 RBIs, 19 walks and 24 strikeouts. The next year saw him have arguably his best production (and a Golden Spikes Award as the NCAA's best player), as he slashed .402/.531/.819 with 14 doubles, 23 homers, 63 RBIs, 44 walks and just 18 strikeouts in 54 games. While his junior season wasn't quite up to his sophomore standards, it was still sensational as he slashed .374/.539/.704 in 52 games with 14 doubles, 15 homers, 50 RBIs, 60 walks and 33 strikeouts. Thus, in a total of 160 college games — equating to a full major league season, Vaughn slashed .374/.495/.688 with 35 doubles, one triple, 50 homers, 163 RBIs, 123 walks (16.5%) and 75 strikeouts (10.1%). Amazing stuff! As a result of his hitting prowess, Vaughn was selected with the third overall pick by the White Sox in this year's MLB draft.
After obliterating the AZL in a three-game stretch to start his pro career, Vaughn finished the season with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. His numbers weren't overly impressive for the year, but this was by far the longest season of his life and likely suffered through a bit of fatigue. In 205 at-bats with three teams, he combined to slash .278/.384/.449 with 17 doubles, six homers, 36 RBIs, 30 walks (12.2%) and 38 strikeouts (15.5%).
Vaughn currently ranks third among all White Sox prospects, and 21st overall among all prospects per MLB Pipeline. His hitting and power are both graded 60 by MLB, arm and field 50, and running at 40. According to Baseball America, "Vaughn’s advanced feel to hit, power and plate discipline should allow him to become an impact hitter in the middle of a major league lineup, while also allowing him to rise through the minors quickly." While Vaughn advanced quickly through the system's lower levels in 2019, expect him to only receive promotions from here on out once he's proven he's ready for advancement. Expect him to begin the season in Birmingham, with a likely promotion to Charlotte if all goes well.
Other positions played: Left field
During Fisher's college days with Southeastern Louisiana University, he was considered one of the premier college hitters in the country. The big question was where to play him. He was a catcher during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he tore his labrum, which cost him the entire 2015 season. Fisher returned in 2016 to play first base and left field, but no matter where he played, his bat was his ultimate card-carrying tool. In that junior season, he slashed .424/.558/.692 in 61 games by producing 16 doubles, two triples, 11 homers, 66 RBIs, 54 walks (19.6%) and 31 strikeouts (11.2%). As a result of his efforts, the White Sox selected him in the fourth round of that year's MLB draft.
With Great Falls in 2016, Fisher proved every bit the hitter he was expected to be as he slashed .342/.436/.487 in 50 games with 13 doubles, a triple, four homers, 25 RBIs, 27 walks (12.3%) and 43 strikeouts (19.6%). The 2017 season saw Fisher split time with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem with decent but unspectacular numbers: .245/.342/.402 in 124 games with 30 doubles, six triples, 10 homers, 68 RBIs, 58 walks (10.8%) and 114 strikeouts (21.3%). Last year saw him completely overmatched with Birmingham in 97 games as he produced a .216/.321/.321 slash line with 11 doubles, two triples, six homers, 24 RBIs, 44 walks (11.9%) and 113 strikeouts (30.5%).
Fisher was demoted to Winston-Salem for the 2019 season, and although his numbers received a bit of an uptick, they weren't enough for him to earn a return trip to Birmingham. In 127 games for the Dash this year, he slashed .242/.343/.375 with 30 doubles, two triples, nine homers, 72 walks (13.3%) and 130 strikeouts (23.9%). Although Fisher had a respectable year defensively at first base, his value is with the bat. He will turn 26 during this offseason, and will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft. If Fisher returns, it could be simply as organizational depth at either left field or first base.
Other positions played: Left field
Osik, son of former Pittsburgh Pirate Keith Osik, took a circuitous route through college. After spending his freshman year with Division II Coker College, Osik spent his sophomore campaign with Chipola Junior College (Fla.). He then transferred to the University of Central Florida for his junior and senior years. Of his two seasons with the Knights, Osik enjoyed his better year during his senior campaign in 2019 as he slashed .325/.410/.542 in 52 games with 14 doubles, 10 homers, 39 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 26 walks (11.1%) and 50 strikeouts (21.3%). As a culmination of his efforts, the White Sox selected him in the 27th round of this year's MLB draft.
While Osik did reasonably well with the AZL White Sox to start his professional career (.271/.346/.373 with 10 doubles in 31 games), he began hitting for power upon his promotion to Kannapolis on August 3. In 26 games totaling 97 at-bats for the Intimidators, he slashed .278/.352/.557 with 10 doubles, a triple, five homers, 19 RBIs, 10 walks (9.3%) and 30 strikeouts (27.8%). Osik likely will return to Kannapolis to begin the 2020 season, but it's easy to envision an early promotion to Winston-Salem if he gets off to a great start.
When playing for Carl Albert H.S. in Midwest City, Oklahoma, Zangari could do it all. As a pitcher, he lit up the radar gun at 95 mph though he had difficulty throwing strikes due to not finding a consistent release point; he also caught, though it was apparent with his size that he'd be better suited as a first baseman. He also hit 19 homers during his senior season, including two in the state's 5-A semi-final game. The White Sox coveted Zangari's power-wielding bat and selected him in the sixth round of the 2015 draft, paying a significant over-slot bonus to pry him from his commitment with Oklahoma State University. Zangari later played for the AZL White Sox and Great Falls that year, as he combined to slash .316/.358/.481 in 54 games with 15 doubles, a triple, six homers, 41 RBIs, 14 walks (6.1%) and 52 strikeouts (22.6%).
The 2016 season was difficult for Zangari, as he began with Kannapolis but struggled terribly with a .166/.247/.314 slash line with 20 walks (8.1%) and 106 strikeouts (42.7%) in just 57 games. Though he did right the ship somewhat after a demotion to Great Falls, he finished the year with a combined .209/.287/.367 line in 110 games with 15 homers, 51 RBIs, 41 walks (8.7%) and 176 strikeouts (37.2%). Zangari then underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2017, which forced him to miss that entire season. After missing a part of the 2018 season due to injury, he literally destroyed the Pioneer League in 17 games as he slashed .262/.324/.723 with nine homers, 22 RBIs, six walks (8.1%) and just 16 strikeouts (21.6%). After earning a call-up to Kannapolis after a three-homer game with the Voyagers, Zangari got hit on the wrist on just his second at-bat and had to miss the rest of the season.
Zangari, in part due to missing so much playing time during the past couple years, struggled in his year-long stint with Kannapolis in 2019. In 85 games totaling 290 at-bats with the Intimidators, he slashed just .203/.314/.428 with 18 doubles, one triple, 15 homers, 38 RBIs, 44 walks (12.8%) and 115 strikeouts (33.4%). The power's still there, but he won't be able to tap into it fully unless he can can consistently get that strikeout rate below 30%. Zangari was just a tad older than league competition this year, so a promotion to a more favorable hitting park like Winston-Salem's certainly isn't out of the question for 2020. Though he will be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, it's unlikely he'll be selected.