The White Sox have had extension talks with top prospect Andrew Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick from the 2019 draft, but they’re willing to carry him on the Opening Day roster even without a long-term deal in place, writes USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. White Sox vice president Kenny Williams wouldn’t directly confirm that Vaughn is likely to make the Opening Day roster, though he certainly implied that could be in the works.
“We’d like to have that message coming from the manager,” Williams tells Nightengale, “and not me through USA Today.” Sox skipper Tony La Russa tells Nightengale that Vaughn “hasn’t made the club yet” but has made a “very good impression” to this point in camp.
That’s probably understating the matter. Vaughn has never played a game at the Double-A level, but he’s nevertheless tattooed Cactus League pitching at a .289/.396/.489 clip through 53 plate appearances. He’s fanned just nine times against an impressive seven walks, adding a pair of homers, a double and a triple to the mix.
While many clubs around the game would keep Vaughn down at the alternate training site for three weeks to buy an extra year of service time, Williams indicates that the team won’t sacrifice immediate wins even for benefit down the line.
“…[O]ur feeling is that when you’re ready to help the major-league club, there’s a spot for you,” says Williams. “…I think there is a residual effect if you play those type of service-time games. As a former player, maybe I’m a little more sensitive to it than others. If you do that, the player and the agent don’t forget any time soon.”
Last offseason, the White Sox inked veteran slugger Edwin Encarnacion to serve as their primary designated hitter, but they’ve made no efforts to bring in a full-time DH this time around. The South Siders quickly brought Adam Eaton back to serve as their right fielder early in the offseason, but he’s been the lone bat added to a lineup composed largely of impressive young players.
Vaughn, one of the sport’s most promising young hitters, would only further the ChiSox’ youth movement. The former Cal star raked at a .374/.495/.688 clip in 745 NCAA plate appearances, launching 50 homers and drawing 123 walks against just 75 strikeouts along the way. He played in 55 pro games after being drafted in ’19 and put together a strong .278/.384/.449 slash through 245 plate appearances. Because the 2020 minor league season was canceled, that’s the only pro experience to date for Vaughn, though the young slugger tells Nightengale he feels he learned quite a bit while taking as many as seven to eight plate appearances daily against high-end pitching at the Sox’ alternate training site last summer.
If Vaughn were to break camp with the White Sox and never be sent back to the minors, he’d be controlled via arbitration through the 2026 season, reaching arbitration eligibility after the 2023 campaign. Leaving him in the minors for just three weeks would push that free-agent trajectory back to the 2027-28 offseason, but Williams’ comments and the White Sox’ past actions strongly suggest that’s not a priority for them. And even if Vaughn does break camp without first agreeing to a contract extension, the two sides could always continue talks about a long-term pact — be they early in the spring or next offseason.