2019 MLB Draft Profile: Andrew Vaughn

California first baseman Andrew Vaughn (20) during a college baseball game against Arizona State on Friday, May 25, 2018, in Phoenix. (Rick Scuteri/AP Images)

Background

After winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2017, Andrew Vaughn arrived on the scene possessing a power bat that MLB teams are attracted to like moths to a porchlight. Hitting .349/.414/.555 with 12 home runs and 50 RBI, and 9.8 K% to 7.8 BB%. That summer, Vaughn was selected for Team USA playing alongside White Sox prospects Nick Madrigal, Steele Walker, and Konnor Pilkington. Appearing in 19 games with 18 starts, Vaughn hit .242/.320/.364 with a five extra-base hits, and 16 strikeouts to seven walks.

Vaughn’s Sophomore season was exceptional. Significant increases across the board hitting .402/.531/.819 with 23 home runs and 63 RBI, and 17.19 BB% to 7.0 K%. That monster season helped Vaughn win the Golden Spikes award over the 2018 number one overall pick, Casey Mize. Playing for Team USA again in the summer, Vaughn in 10 games hit .224/.316/.367 with four doubles and a home run.

There was much chatter from the industry about Vaughn potentially reaching 30+ home runs in 2019. Putting up numbers last seen from Chicago Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant, when he hit 31 home runs in 2013. Instead, Vaughn’s numbers have dropped in his Junior season. As of April 23, Vaughn is hitting .364/.525/.694 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI, but increases in strikeout and walk rate have been noticeable (22.8 BB%, 16.0 K%).

Vaughn hasn’t played in any postseason games with Cal, but both Baseball American and D1Baseball are projecting that the Bears will make it to the Regional round as a #3 seed. The Pac-12 does not have a conference tournament.

Grades (20-80 scale)

  • MLBPipeline
    Hit: 60 Power: 60 Run: 30 Arm: 50 Field: 50
  • Fangraphs (Current/Future)
    Hit: 45/65 Power: 45/60 Run: 35 Arm: 50 Field: 50

Hitting

Vaughn has a short, flat swing that produces many line drives. Featuring a leg kick that helps with timing and hip torque, Vaughn generates a lot of power through the zone. I’m not sure why any pitcher throws fastballs to Vaughn because I haven’t seen any issues handling velocity (95 mph) and he does a great job getting the barrel on the ball. Vaughn has plus vision at the plate recognizing breaking pitches early and typically doesn’t chase out of the zone. The power grades are real, and this is a hitter who can consistently hit 25+ home runs a season in the majors.

One of the issues I’ve seen from Vaughn watching a dozen of his games is what happens when a pitcher can throw the breaking pitches in the zone. Vaughn like most hitters is sitting fastball but can keep his hands back in case of a changeup. The problem is Vaughn has a tough time making good contact on curves and sliders this year, and I think that’s why his strikeout rate is more than twice as high from last year. Against LSU, the Tigers pitching staff would stay away from Vaughn with fastballs, or when they did attack him, it was just curves and sliders in the zone. That weekend Vaughn went 1-for-10 with two strikeouts and two walks.

As Vaughn progresses in his professional career, the ability to hit breaking pitches will need to be improved upon if he’s going to produce like a 60-grade hitter (.280+ batting average).

Fielding

Even though some will say he’s undersized for a first baseman (5’11”), Vaughn looks like a natural at the position. Good hands help him with scoops on low throws, even with below average speed Vaughn shows good range and has a strong arm. In 2017 and 2018, Vaughn pitched for Cal, and some believe that if he were just a little bit more athletic, you could put him in a corner outfield spot.

Conclusion

Vaughn is the best power bat in this draft and second overall best offensive player behind Adley Rutschman. If Vaughn was draft eligible last year, I think we could have seen him selected third overall instead of Alec Bohm. Comparing Vaughn to Nick Madrigal is apples and oranges because they have two completely different profiles.

We can compare Vaughn to Jake Burger and Zack Collins, the previous power bat first round picks by the White Sox.

There might be a chance that Burger and Collins can stick at their original positions at third base and catcher. However, there have been many analysts thinking that Burger and Collins might be better suited at first base in the future. If the White Sox draft Vaughn, it’d be another option for the White Sox to choose from to replace Jose Abreu. We also can’t forget 2017 second round pick, Gavin Sheets, who is a natural first baseman.

There would be a logjam, but I see very little competition as Vaughn would have more potential than any of them. If anything, the selection of Vaughn would spell bad news for players like Burger and Sheets long-term future with the White Sox organization. Both players could be afforded to be involved in future trades to help improve other areas on the field as the White Sox would have enough depth.

Drafting a player like Vaughn would give the Sox another potential power bat that if everything goes right with development (knock on wood), Vaughn could be with the White Sox late 2021 or 2022. The lingering question would be drafting a power first baseman with the third overall pick the best move? Especially when there could be players like CJ Abrams who has many tools that can help a team in several ways, or after the stretch of pitching injuries, it might be wise to add another high-quality arm to the system.

When I speak with others who cover the draft, they agree with the most recent Fangraphs mock that Vaughn would go third to the White Sox if Baltimore and Kansas City don’t select him. The power potential is too mesmerizing to pass up, and with the uncertainty of Abreu’s future with the ballclub, Vaughn can help fill a need.

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mikeyb

It’s really interesting to me that essentially 0 analysts are concerned about his poor showings with Team USA. I haven’t seen nearly as much of him as I did Madrigal, so I’m not offering any judgment on him. Just surprised that I haven’t seen even one person concerned by those appearances. Must be a mighty impressive hitter.

PauliePaulie

Maybe his Cape Cod #’s quelled some fears?

lil jimmy

As Josh points out, while he’s having a strong year at the plate, he’s down across the board. Up in walks, but you would assume some just won’t pitch to him.
Checking the last ten years of the draft, top ten picks, I counted the First Base only players. One player. Pavin Smith. He was a catcher, but he was drafted to play first. One out of a 100 picks. I’m seeing a pattern.

karkovice squad

It’s a bit like using a top 5 pick on a RB in football. Even if they’re as good a player as you think they are, it’s leaving a lot of value on the table and reducing your margin for error.

A likely outcome for Vaughn would look something like Abreu’s 2015-2016. Those were good but not spectacular seasons because he plays 1B.

And while the Sox might need to just get more solidly projectable major league talent, that state of affairs is itself a problem. One made worse by the fact that even now we have little reason to think they can identify solidly projectable players and develop them to hit that target.

Neat_on_the_rocks

Scrolled on down to say something similar. I dont know, those team USA numbers scare me. If you’re taking a Righty locked in at 1B, you’ve got to be damn sure about his bat. Especially when two of your last 3 first round picks have been Burger and Collins…

The team USA numbers are worrisome. Also drafting another “under sized” guy.

PauliePaulie

If I were a fan of any other team, I’d be furious if he was chosen over one of the HS SS’s. However Vaughn does have an immense offensive ceiling and a much lower chance of the Sox screwing it up.

vanillablue

don’t underestimate the Sox’s ability to screw anything up.

asinwreck

I still hold out hope that the Sox will get Bobby Witt Jr. Of course, I also hoped prior to the 1989 draft that the Sox would take super-athletic outfielder Jeff Jackson instead of that lumbering 1B-only guy they got, so you know all about my scouting acumen.

PauliePaulie

MLBPipeline will be updating it’s Top 100 Draft Prospects list next week.
Did a top 3 mock.
1. Adley
2. Witt Jr.
3. Vaughn

lil jimmy

Updating? after only four and a half months? What’s the hurry?
They are the worst.
Perfect Game just Mocked all the way to pick #41.

PauliePaulie

2080Baseball is releasing one on Monday.

knoxfire30

sox taking hunter bishop at 3… hmmm

karkovice squad

It’s hard to argue with the overall results but there’s something unappealing about his swing in how he loads his hands, times the leg kick, and transfers weight when he pivots.

GrinnellSteve

Vaughn scares the hell out of me at 3. His size, those USA numbers, the trouble with breaking stuff, the first-base-only profile. I’m not a scout or a coach, but I see red flags.

patrickcroberts

Watching the Sox take him 3rd is gonna really be tough. Hard, hard, hard pass. Take Witt or an arm.

knoxfire30

Count me as someone who will forget about Gavin Sheets and his slap hitting 1st base profile.

KenWo4LiFe

Good thing the armchair GMs here weren’t picking in 1989. My goodness who wants a big slow first baseman with the number one pick!?!?

karkovice squad

He’s only big compared to Madrigal.

But you’re right, he might make Konerko seem like a speedster.

lil jimmy

maybe if we had the 7th pick, I would feel better about taking him. If we took him instead of Burger or Collins, I’d be fine with it.

mikeyb

Hell yeah, I love referencing shit that happened 30 years ago when analyzing things in 2019.

Hatchetman

Sign me up. Seems like the most idiot-proof pick.