Andrew Vaughn is showing that even though he’s a newly-minted millionaire and one of the top picks in this past June’s Major League Baseball Draft, he’s just one of the guys in the clubhouse for the Winston-Salem Dash.
After all, Vaughn, who played at the University of California-Berkeley, was the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft and signed for a slot value of $7.2 million.
Vaughn, a 21-year-old from Santa Rosa, Calif., has already climbed three levels of the White Sox minor-league system − Rookie League Arizona, Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.
“It’s definitely a little jump every time,” Vaughn said. “Going to the AZL, seeing guys that were a little sporadic and didn’t have much location going for them. I got hit in the head my second at-bat. Then going to Kannapolis and playing, it’s the same game.
“It just gets a little better. Guys throw a little harder and a little bit better, and you’ve just got to compete with them.”
The reason for the rise − his bat skills. He hit 15 home runs and had 50 RBIs at Cal this year, and since turning pro, he’s batting .293 with four homers and 24 RBIs in 36 games. He played all of three games at Arizona and went 9 for 15. In 23 games with the Intimidators in Kannapolis he was 21 for 83 with two homers and 11 RBIs.
“You could say my body’s a little tired, but I’ve been taking care of it,” Vaughn said. “Just getting after it every day. It’s a grind.”
He joined the Dash on July 31 and immediately made an impact. In 11 games he’s batting 9 for 37 with a homer and nine RBIs. Vaughn went as far as comparing High-A ball to playing in college.
“You can see the transition a little bit,” he said. “I’d say Friday night games in the Pac-12 kind of transitioned to these levels up here just because you’re seeing a really good arm every Friday night. These guys in A ball definitely throw it a little bit harder.”
One person who has seen the impact that Vaughn has made on the field, as well as the way he prepares as a professional designated hitter and first baseman, is manager Justin Jirschele of the Dash.
“He’s just a true professional,” Jirschele said. “I haven’t seen a ton in the short window that we’ve had him here, but the little bit that we have seen of him, he’s going to give you a professional at-bat four or five times a night.
“He’s got a great idea of the strike zone. Very advanced professional hitter, and makes the plays at first base and has shown some good defensive skills over there. Just everything that he brings to the table, he’s a game-changer in different ways.”
Jirschele has seen some talented players come through while managing both Kannapolis and Winston-Salem the last couple years.
“It’s special,” Jirschele said of Vaughn’s bat skills. “It really is. The bat-to-ball skills are there. Like I said, he’s got a great idea of the strike zone. He’s just all-around a professional hitter.”
Vaughn’s passion for the game is noticeable to his teammates and coaching staff.
“He’s a hard worker on both sides of the ball,” Jirschele said. “He asks a lot of good questions, willing to learn, very coachable over there at first base. He gets his work in every day and you can see him really trying to get better over there at first base.”
One difference from his transition from Cal to Arizona and now in two stops in North Carolina is the different weather.
“It’s humid,” Vaughn said. “It’s not California anymore. It’s a great stadium here, great playing surface, great team, I love it.”
He’s even living the life of a normal minor-leaguer.
“It’s really been pretty smooth to be honest,” Vaughn said. “Just go from place to place, stay at a hotel, try to find yourself a little apartment to stay at. Stay with some guys. Everybody’s been so great, just open arms, let me stay on their couch or on a bed or what not.”
The question is just how long Vaughn will be playing minor-league baseball, let alone High-A ball in Winston-Salem.
“I think his work ethic carries him to what he’s going to be,” Jirschele said. “That’s going to stay strong. I see it staying strong throughout his entire career. He’s a very humble kid. But he goes up there and he competes and he fights for his teammates and for the club.”
No matter how long he’s a minor-league player, Vaughn is just happy to be a part of the renaissance the White Sox are having.
“It’s not really a whole lot of talk. It’s just they’re letting me go out and do my thing,” he said. “Nothing’s ever set in stone. We’re just playing baseball every day.”