On Thursday Andrew Vaughn hit his 20th home run of the season. His two-run blast off Kenta Maeda in the bottom of the seventh inning gave Vaughn his 75th RBI of the season and the White Sox their only runs of the game in a 10-2 loss. But it also allowed Vaughn to check off a personal accomplishment.
On the surface, 20 home runs may not seem like a big deal. As of September 15th 74 other players in the MLB have hit 20-plus home runs. But when you are 35 games under .500 these small milestones carry some added importance as the White Sox try to build momentum into next season.
The only two other players on the White Sox have reached the 20-home run plateau in 2023. He joins Luis Robert Jr., who is ranked second in the American League with 35, and Jake Burger, who hit 25 before being traded to Miami.
“It’s definitely pretty cool. Getting to that benchmark, but that’s all it has to be: a benchmark. Got to keep going,” Vaughn told reporters after the game. “Sometimes, certain things will stick out like 20, that’s pretty cool.
“But when the season is over you look at the stats. Look at them address them and make some adjustments.”
White Sox fans have been spoiled by two decades of Paul Konerko and Jose Abreu at first base. While Vaughn may not be the 30 home run 100 RBI guy that Abreu was, the stats will show he has quietly put together a very solid season.
The 25-year-old is slashing .258/.315/.438 with 50 extra-base hits. His average exit velocity on the year is 90.9 mph which places him in the top 75th percentile in the MLB. His 75 RBIs are also tied with Luis Robert for the team lead.
He will not be making any All-Star teams with those numbers but it is easy to forget that Vaughn is still developing as a hitter. After getting drafted third overall in 2019, Vaughn played just 55 minor-league games before the 2020 minor-league season got canceled.
The next time he would see the field was in 2021 when he played 127 games in his first major league season. During that time Vaughn was asked to learn an entirely new position, which stunted some of his development as a hitter.
As an outfielder, Vaughn was on his feet much more than he was used to all while playing the most games he ever had in a single season. Fatigue began to creep up on him in the back half of the season. He finished the year 4 for 42 with no extra-base hits in his final 12 games of the season.
He avoided a sophomore slump in 2022 by leading the White Sox with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs. The White Sox first baseman also ranked second on the team with 138 hits, 28 doubles, and 46 extra-base hits. Vaughn is on pace to surpass each of those totals this season.
Finishing the year strong is a point of emphasis for Vaughn. Last season the California native hit .200 with a .580 OPS in September and October.
His two-run shot on Thursday raised his 2023 September average to .353. In his last nine September starts Vaughn has three home runs, three doubles seven runs scored, and six RBIs.
Definitely feeling better. The last two years, I learned a lot about myself and tried to prepare for this,” Vaughn said. “Nothing huge. Just adding stuff in the weight room. I need to go in the training room, don’t be so stubborn. Get it done.”
This season may not be the breakout year fans were expecting when the 2019 Golden Spikes winner first joined the organization. But it does mark progress. Vaughn has steadily improved in each of his three seasons. Even with 20 bombs and 75 driven in there is still plenty of room to grow.
“I like what he’s done, and I like that he hasn’t tapped into his full potential yet he’s having a pretty good year,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “There’s a lot more in the tank. I think he’s going to turn out to be a pretty good baseball player for us for a long time.”
When Vaughn first joined the MLB his biggest issue was hitting right-handed pitching. During his rookie year, he slashed .269/.383/.555 against lefties while being limited to .221/.277/.332 against righties. After making adjustments during the offseason, Vaughn raised his slash line against right-handers to .260/.309/.444 in 2022.
“Every year, you see him get a little better and better, and throughout the year this year, I’ve seen him get better and better,” Grifol said. “He’s had some really good months and he’s had some months where he’s battled a little bit of adversity but it’s good to see him get that 20th. … We need him moving forward.”
This offseason his focus will be on raising his batting average. Just don’t expect him to have a specific number in mind.
“Personally, if I set those goals for myself, it’s like if I’m not getting there, it’s end-all, be-all, Vaughn explained. “At the end of the day, I want to go out and do the best I can. If I get to those numbers, that’s phenomenal, but I want to strive to be the best to get to those numbers.”
While stats and personal accolades are nice, Vaughn just wants to help the White Sox get back to the top of the AL Central standings next season.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Vaughn said. “Win as many games as we can and give ourselves a chance to be in that postseason.”