Friday, May 24, 2024

Andrew Vaughn Getting Sent Down Might Be Necessary

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The extent of Andrew Vaughn’s early season struggles has caused some White Sox fans to consider extreme measures to get him back on track. Some have suggested moving him down in the lineup, others have suggested benching him, and a few have even suggested sending him to AAA for a hard reset. On the surface, sending a 26-year-old former third overall pick in his fourth MLB season down to AAA seems harsh. But given Vaughn’s circumstances and immense struggles, it makes more sense than one would think. 

Vaughn’s Tough Development Path

The White Sox did not do Vaughn any favors regarding his development as a young player. Let’s not get that twisted. After being selected with the third overall pick in the 2019 draft, Vaughn played just 55 minor league games before getting promoted to the majors. To make matters more difficult for him, none of those 55 games were above the High-A level. He also did not play during the 2020 COVID season, which could have impacted his development.

The makeup of the White Sox roster at the time also forced Vaughn to simultaneously learn a new defensive position. José Abreu was locked in at first base, so Vaughn had to play in the outfield to crack the lineup. His lack of minor-league development and having to learn a new defensive position as a rookie are less-than-ideal circumstances for any young player to endure.

Vaughn’s Terrible 2024

However, all those excuses one could have made for Vaughn early in his career are now gone. Abreu departed for Houston after the 2022 season, and Vaughn now has parts of four MLB seasons and over 1,700 career MLB plate appearances to his name. He has also been playing his natural position of first base since the start of the 2023 season. And yet, Vaughn has been worse this season than ever before. While it is a small sample size, he is hitting .167 with three extra-base hits in 72 plate appearances this season. Vaughn is 68% worse than league average offensively per OPS+ and a below-average player in every category across the board, per Baseball Savant.

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Taking a deeper dive into the numbers, Vaughn is currently producing career lows in several offensive categories in key areas such as barrel %, exit velocity, hard hit %, and pull %, all while striking out at a higher rate than ever. In simple terms, Vaughn is just not hitting the ball as consistently hard as he has in the past.

2024 is the worst Vaughn has looked at the MLB level since making his debut. That is simply a fact. He is now at the peak of his career and should be getting better, but the opposite has happened. His struggles are further amplified by the fact that he consistently hits at the top of the White Sox lineup.

Reset Is Needed

Vaughn might just be who he is at this point. He is not particularly young anymore, and he only has two years of team control remaining after this season. It is not like one can continue arguing that he is inexperienced at the MLB level because he is not. But continuing to trot him out daily in the majors is not accomplishing anything. He simply is not performing, and his immense struggles could kill whatever confidence he has left. Sending him back to AAA for a hard reset might be what he needs to get back on track.

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