Like Nick Madrigal before him, Andrew Vaughn made his formal introduction at a White Sox game after his first pro season, not before.
Also like Madrigal, Vaughn ended up in Winston-Salem at the end of his first pro season, and his numbers similarly didn’t jump off the page for a top-five pick. Vaughn and Chris Getz sounded more or less pleased with his debut, citing the long season and the adjustments in establishing an everyday routine against a more consistent level of competition.
Vaughn was the only second-half reinforcement the Dash received on the position-player side of the roster, due to the challenges experienced by the young hitters at Kannapolis and the prep-heavy draft class. He didn’t quite make up for losing Madrigal and Luis Robert, and only Steele Walker jumps off the page among the guys who finished the year in Winston-Salem.
The 2019 Winston-Salem Dash did finish the year with the organization’s best winning percentage at 72-61. The offense was more or less reinforced by older organizational players like Jameson Fisher, Cohoes’ Zach Remillard and Craig Dedelow, which at least gave the White Sox an affiliate without a strike zone problem ….
The pitching also benefited from the college pitching taken over the previous two drafts.
Collegiate pitchers like Lincoln Henzman, John Parke and Codi Heuer all finished the year in Birmingham, but Winston-Salem still had a decent staff by the end of the year.
As for the key prospects who finished the season with the Dash, let’s run through ’em.
Andrew Vaughn: Those hoping the third-overall pick would lay waste to the low-minors landscape will come away from Vaughn’s pro debut disappointed, but he fared decently considering the long season. He hit .278/.384/.449 across three levels, including a .252/.349/.411 performance at Winston-Salem. His plate discipline is the biggest triumph, as his strikeout column (17) barely beat out his walk column (16), resulting in above-average rates in both departments over 245 plate appearances. The unifying line from scouts and writers who rely on them noted how hard he made pitchers work, and that’s a skill the Sox sorely need. I’m guessing he’ll be on the Madrigal plan next year, where he’ll start the Winston-Salem, and his talent will dictate the rest. Until service-time concerns do, of course.
Steele Walker: Walker probably shouldn’t have played 100 games in Winston-Salem, but all the spots in Birmingham’s outfield were taken. He ended up playing May through August with the Dash after spending April with the Intimidators, and finished with a combined line of .284/.361/.451, or .269/.346/.451 in High-A. He controlled the strike zone well (50 walks, 78 strikeouts over 528 plate appearances), ran OK and made all of his starts in center field. The offensive output tended to run hot and cold, and part of me wonders if he got bored, given his need to entertain. The cluster failure at Birmingham should allow him to break through and make his own timetable from here. He turned 23 in July.
Carlos Perez: The catcher had been on my radar since he struck out just five times over 191 plate appearances in the DSL in 2015, but contact alone hadn’t propelled him up the ladder in the states. He progressed in some areas this year. He entered his age-22 season with 12 walks over 532 stateside plate appearances, then drew 24 over 342 in Winston-Salem, all while cutting his strikeout rate in High-A to a measly 7.6 percent. He also showed signs of improvement on the other side of the ball, reducing the passed balls and increasing his caught-stealing rate. Alas, he’s still a catcher with a .316 OPS and a .327 slugging percentage in the Carolina League, so he still has a lot of work cut out for him.
Jonathan Stiever: Last year’s fifth-round pick became the most ascendant White Sox prospect this year, putting himself on the map during a year where most other notable arms were injured. He posted a 3.48 ERA across 26 starts, and his 154 strikeouts, 27 walks and 145 were all evenly divided between between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. In terms of run-prevention, his performance with the latter was superior. He yielded just a 2.15 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP with the Dash, and he didn’t even allow an unearned run. Homers are his only flaw — he gave up 17 of them — and that might be due to working up in the zone for the first time in his career.
Konnor Pilkington: Stiever outpaced the guy drafted two rouns ahead of him, as Pilkington spent the majority of his season scuffling in Winston-Salem. He got promoted ahead of Stiever to the Dash after overwhelming Sally League hitters, but the Carolina League was more prepared for his lack of power. He allowed a 4.99 ERA, 99 hits on top of 39 walks over 95⅔ innings. He did strike out 96 batters, which is probably a reflection of an arsenal that can reach four pitches when everything’s working. He fared much better than August, finishing his year with a 2.90 ERA over his final six starts, and with better peripherals. He just turned 22, so he’s still got time on his side, although the 88-92 mph velocity has been an issue since his draft year.
Kade McClure: The sixth-round pick from 2017 bounced back nicely from knee surgery that truncated last season, and gives everybody hope that Zack Burdi can rebound from his patellar tendon repair. He posted a 3.25 ERA over 121⅔ innings, making 12 of his 22 starts in Winston-Salem. The walks are great (29), but the strikeouts are a concern (95) for projecting his profile up a level. He developed a curveball this year in order to take advantage of the leverage his 6-foot-6-inch frame provides, and establishing that as a true secondary pitch is probably his key to being more than a high-minors rotation filler.
It’ll be interesting to see if Stiever receives top 100 consideration over the winter. He’s gotten a lot of good reviews from outside the organization.
When Vaughn was on with Jason and Stone, he was as interesting as an unpainted wall.”Zero Charisma”
I had the opposite impression. He sounded fairly comfortable for a recent draft pick.
He seemed pretty cool when he was interviewed on MLBN right after he got drafted.
It’s a good thing he wasn’t drafted to be Stone’s replacement then.
You dont know that. They like to promote in house