“Hitting with short arms” isn’t a phrase that Hawk Harrelson rode to a Frick Award, as it’s neither homerlicious nor vulgarly charming. However, he was successful enough in emphasizing the ability to get the barrel on inside pitches that I hear his voice whenever I see for myself a great piece of hitting with short arms.
Take Andrew Vaughn, who hit his first spring training homer (and second overall, corrected) by taking Kohei Arihara deep in the first inning of Tuesday’s 5-5 tie with the Texas Rangers.
Without publicly available velocity, and with Arihara being new to Major League Baseball after making his mark as an NPB star, it’s hard to know exactly what Vaughn turned around. The combination of his scouting report and the catcher’s target suggests it’s a wayward low-90s sinker.
Arihara located it poorly, but it still probably shouldn’t have ended up over the fence, even adjusting for spring training readiness and atmosphere. Get a load of the short arms on display:
I’d hoped to see Vaughn do a little damage to the pull field this spring, because the DH role requires it. Vaughn’s previous displays against MLB competition showed that he had the strike zone judgment and the ability to battle, but turning around hittable pitches is what opens the spigot on the walk column. Zack Collins is there to tell you that hitters can’t subsist on eye alone.
Here’s some of that damage for you, and maybe on a pitch the average MLB hitter couldn’t drive. He later drew a walk, giving him three of those over his first two spring games. Throw in his work during last summer, and he’s already earned José Abreu’s endorsement.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that he’s ready to play in the Majors,” Abreu said of Vaughn through interpreter Billy Russo. “I’ve been impressed with him since I saw him last summer in Summer Camp. When I saw him there, just the way that he worked, just the way that he handled himself, I was impressed. He had a lot of talent.”
Plenty of humbling opportunities remain since Cactus League play is only three games old. It’d sure be great if he could keep any struggles contained, though, because while the White Sox have no other compelling options for the plate appearances, Vaughn would have no other helpful place to play come April.
Also on Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced that the start of the Triple-A season will be delayed a month. This is ultimately good news for Triple-A organizations, because Baseball America’s reporting suggests that most minor league teams prefer a later start to a severely limited first month.
In their place, teams would restore the alternate training site setup for the first month, and perhaps beyond. The alternate training sites are superior for short-term roster patches, because they’re in close geographical proximity to teams that oversee their COVID-19 protocols.
Vaughn apparently made enough progress in Schaumburg for the White Sox to be surprisingly comfortable rolling with him in 2021, so a return assignment might not be useless, but Jeff Passan says the sites are less likely to be used for developmental purposes this time around.
The number of players at each alternate site is unclear, but sources expect the sites to house about two dozen players — a typical Triple-A roster. Last year, with a finite number of players allowed at alternate sites, teams opted for a mixture of major league-ready players and prospects whom they didn’t want to lose a year of development not playing.
This incarnation of the alt site is likelier to skew older — major league veterans and ascendant prospects who are on the cusp of the major leagues. Lower-level minor league players plan to report to spring training toward the end of March, after major league teams have vacated the facilities, and will prepare for their seasons in Arizona and Florida.
As long as Vaughn looks good for it, it’s hard to imagine he starts the season anywhere but Anaheim. And as long as the Sox keep open the option of reassigning him to Charlotte or Birmingham if MLB pitching proves to be a little too much too soon, it’s hard to argue against it. “Andrew Vaughn, White Sox DH” is apparently the best of a bunch of uninspiring options at the moment. The hope is he’ll keep flinging inside fastballs over the left field wall, which would make him an inspired choice.