Saturday, December 3, 2022

Jimenez And Vaughn: Baseball’s Next Great Teammate Duo


When you think of baseball’s best duos, names like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Johnny Bench and Pete Rose, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews come to mind. The White Sox haven’t had one of these powerhouse pairings since Minnie Minoso and Nellie Fox. That is until now. Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn are no Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. While they may not be nearly as flashy, they could be the White Sox ticket to success in the middle of the lineup.

Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn are polar opposites on the surface. Vaughn was born in Santa Rosa, California, while Jimenez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Jimenez has a fun-loving, goofy personality. His shoutouts to his mom after every game have taken on a life of their own. Vaughn is more even-keeled; you must do some serious digging to find any memorable soundbite. One has a great smile on the jumbotron, the other looks like they have seen a ghost.

But despite the differences, Eloy Jimenez and Andrew Vaughn will always be joined at the hip. Both were highly touted prospects. Vaughn was selected with the third overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Jimenez signed with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent before getting traded for Jose Quintana.

Both occupy left field despite not being natural outfielders. Vaughn came up as a first baseman, while Jimenez should never be out there in the first place. Despite the baseball card saying Jimenez is an outfielder, his film says otherwise. An injury Jimenez suffered while trying to rob an uncatchable home run thrust Vaughn into the position in the first place.

Both are natural hitters. Jimenez hit 31 homers during his rookie campaign and took home a Silver Slugger after batting .296 with 14 home runs, 41 RBIs, and a .559 slugging percentage in 2020. He became the youngest White Sox player to ever win the award.

Vaughn was regarded as the best hitter in the country coming out of college. He set a Cal record for slugging percentage in 2018 and was named the USA Baseball Golden Spikes winner. In his rookie season, he hit .269 with 15 home runs despite not seeing game action since 2019 due to the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020.

Most importantly, both are in the White Sox’s long-term plans.

Jimenez is putting up numbers at an MVP-caliber rate, leaving fans to wonder what could have been if he had only stayed healthy. In his last 15 games, he is hitting .357 with a .750 slugging percentage. In 249 at-bats this season, he is hitting .313 with 14 home runs, 49 RBIs, and a whopping .901 OPS.

Meanwhile, Vaughn has been the model of consistency, leading the team with 17 home runs and 71 RBIs. He is slashing .288/.339/.461. These numbers should be even higher. Vaughn has a hard-hit percentage that ranks in the top nine percentile of all MLB hitters. His average exit velocity ranks in the 85th percentile.

The two player’s talent was on full display this weekend. Jimenez and Vaughn slammed their way to a series victory in Detroit on Sunday. After Jimenez and Gavin Sheets each drew a two-out walk to bring across the go-ahead run, Andrew Vaughn stepped into the box with a chance to blow the game wide open.

Tigers manager AJ Hinch countered by bringing in reliever Jason Foley to face the 24-year-old. It didn’t phase Vaughn. Neither did falling behind 1-2 in the count. On the next pitch, Foley hung a slider that Vaughn sent 418 feet to left field for a grand slam.

In the seventh inning, Jimenez provided the White Sox with more insurance by blasting a changeup to deep left-center field for a two-run homer. For a closing act, Jimenez sent a ball caroming off the right field wall for an RBI double in the eighth inning.

Vaughn and Jimenez accounted for seven of the White Sox’s runs during their 11-4 victory over the Tigers. It is the type of production Rick Hahn envisioned when he assembled the roster.

They have a long way to go to become one of the game’s best. Vaughn needs to further his development, and Jimenez needs to remain healthy, which is a big “if.” But if these two can continue on this upward trajectory, they could be a staple of the middle of the White Sox lineup for years to come.

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