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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Andrew Vaughn will not be stopped. Not even by the White Sox

The Chicago White Sox were hoping to lock up prized prospect Andrew Vaughn to a long-term contract before he makes his major-league debut.

Talks have cooled.

The affection and enthusiasm for the first baseman/DH has not.

The White Sox refuse to follow many other teams and play the service-time manipulation game by keeping Vaughn in the minors. Now barring injury, Vaughn is expected to be on their opening-day roster as the primary DH.

Vaughn, 22, who has never played above Class A, has dazzled the White Sox all spring, and so it seems the only uncertainty remaining is the exact day the White Sox tell him he’s made the team.

“We’d like to have that message coming from the manager,’’ White Sox vice president Ken Williams says, “and not me through USA TODAY.’’

Tony La Russa, who made his major-league managerial debut with the White Sox 19 years before Vaughn was born, heard nothing but praise from the front office to the clubhouse attendants about Vaughn since the day he returned to the White Sox.

“They all raved him about him,’’ La Russa said, “and now I’m raving about him. I know he’s never played higher than whatever it is (high Class A Winston-Salem), but boy he takes great at-bats, makes great adjustments. He’s got all of the qualities.

“He does things that really good hitters do. He can handle pitches, he really competes, never throws an at-bat away, uses the whole field. And he’s got thump.”

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 10:13 AM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: andrew vaughn, white sox

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   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 10:45 AM (#6009836)
It's weird to have a 23 y.o. debut as a DH. I'm always skeptical of guys who aren't athletic enough to play even 1B or LF at that age.
   2. Ron J Posted: March 24, 2021 at 10:57 AM (#6009840)
Doesn't mean anything more than that they like the current options in left and first. Best example I can think of off the top of my head is Jim Rice. He was a perfectly acceptable outfield. The Red Sox had better.

EDIT: Or Eddie Murray, who debuted as a primary DH even though everybody agreed he was a better defensive player than Lee May. Weaver just thought it would be helpful if he could just concentrate on the offensive side in his rookie year.
   3. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: March 24, 2021 at 11:02 AM (#6009843)
I'm with you but while I know nothing much of Vaughn the White Sox aren't exactly loaded with holes needing to be filled. Abreu is the reigning MVP and Jimenez in left may not be a great fielder but there is probably something to keeping the young player comfortable. Vaughn never seems to have played the outfield either in college or the minors either so "hey, adjust to MLB pitching and learn a new position. You'll be fine" may not be the wisest approach with him.

Having said all that the bigger issue for me is, like so many others that have been talked about this spring it seems, he hasn't really proven himself yet. He was very good but not incredible in single A in 2019 and even this spring he's hit well but not great against A-AA caliber pitching (assuming the BBRef quality tracker is accurate).

It's really interesting to me, not just Vaughn but in general. I think this can be a fun year kind of evaluating how players progress and evolve.
   4. Howie Menckel Posted: March 24, 2021 at 11:19 AM (#6009844)
La Russa made his MLB debut - for the Kansas City Athletics - 10 years before the DH debuted in MLB, and ended his dismal playing career (53 OPS+ in 203 PA spread over six seasons) the year that the DH launched.
   5. bfan Posted: March 24, 2021 at 12:05 PM (#6009855)
La Russa made his MLB debut - for the Kansas City Athletics - 10 years before the DH debuted in MLB, and ended his dismal playing career (53 OPS+ in 203 PA spread over six seasons) the year that the DH launched.


I guess we are safe in saying the DH was not created to allow Tony La Russa to keep hitting.
   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 12:16 PM (#6009857)
Doesn't mean anything more than that they like the current options in left and first. Best example I can think of off the top of my head is Jim Rice. He was a perfectly acceptable outfield. The Red Sox had better.

EDIT: Or Eddie Murray, who debuted as a primary DH even though everybody agreed he was a better defensive player than Lee May. Weaver just thought it would be helpful if he could just concentrate on the offensive side in his rookie year.


Isn't it generally thought eh DH-ing makes it harder to hit, rather than easier? At least some people claim that when it's said the DH position adjustment should be more negative (it's only 5 runs more than 1B).
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 12:17 PM (#6009858)
I'm with you but while I know nothing much of Vaughn the White Sox aren't exactly loaded with holes needing to be filled. Abreu is the reigning MVP and Jimenez in left may not be a great fielder but there is probably something to keeping the young player comfortable. Vaughn never seems to have played the outfield either in college or the minors either so "hey, adjust to MLB pitching and learn a new position. You'll be fine" may not be the wisest approach with him.

Having said all that the bigger issue for me is, like so many others that have been talked about this spring it seems, he hasn't really proven himself yet. He was very good but not incredible in single A in 2019 and even this spring he's hit well but not great against A-AA caliber pitching (assuming the BBRef quality tracker is accurate).


In that case, why not send him to AAA? This is like the opposite of service time manipulation; a contender forcing a player who may or may not be ready into the lineup.
   8. Ron J Posted: March 24, 2021 at 12:44 PM (#6009865)
#6 I think it's more like some people find it tough to DH (and some very tough). And then there are general rules and specific applications. Weaver was concerned about a young player who he perceived as a worrier. He was concerned that the inevitable mistakes that anybody will make would get into Murray's head while he was trying to establish himself.

Weaver believed that most players should be handled carefully in their first year in the majors. See also his preference for sticking first year pitchers into long relief to give them a chance to come to terms with major league hitters in a relatively stress free environment.

And yeah, he broke his own rules when he felt he had to. But tried to make it as stress free as possible in their first year.
   9. Rough Carrigan Posted: March 24, 2021 at 12:46 PM (#6009869)
I'm not a LaRussa fan and I think it was kind of crazy for the White Sox to hire him. But one of the worries about hiring the guy was that you'd get an old man set in his ways who couldn't adjust to younger players. Being willing to consider a guy who didn't play above A ball as part of your opening day roster is a good sign of flexibility on LaRussa's part.
   10. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: March 24, 2021 at 01:28 PM (#6009881)
In that case, why not send him to AAA? This is like the opposite of service time manipulation; a contender forcing a player who may or may not be ready into the lineup.


That's what I'd be doing if I was the White Sox. I say that recognizing that I don't have all the information the White Sox have (alternate site performance, non game situation workouts, etc...). It seems like they are forcing him.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 01:37 PM (#6009885)
That's what I'd be doing if I was the White Sox. I say that recognizing that I don't have all the information the White Sox have (alternate site performance, non game situation workouts, etc...). It seems like they are forcing him.

Sure. It's just really weird behavior for a contending team.
   12. Stevis Posted: March 24, 2021 at 02:35 PM (#6009895)
I guess we are safe in saying the DH was not created to allow Tony La Russa to keep hitting.


The Designated Driver may have been created with him in mind
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: March 24, 2021 at 02:44 PM (#6009897)
Nice.
   14. tonywagner Posted: March 24, 2021 at 05:55 PM (#6009923)
In that case, why not send him to AAA?

A complicating factor is that the minors don't start this season until May.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: March 24, 2021 at 06:30 PM (#6009926)
Murray did pick up 42 starts at 1B and 3 in LF in that rookie year and then in 78 he and May switched positions.

On DH in general: (1) for its entire history, most teams have filled it via rotation. Some of those guys are rehabbing from injury. I'd love somebody to calculate it but I'd think about 70-80% of all DH PAs in history have been from guys who got fewer than 100 starts in the role that year. We know PHing is hard (not sure we know why) and "players don't hit as well when they DH 2 days a week" is a much different claim than "DHs suffer a penalty."

(2) Most full-time DHs have been guys at the end of the line. Their teams are just hoping there's a bit of life left and usually there's not. Maybe they hit even worse at 37 than projected but, since teams know more than we do, that's quite likely selection bias ... they know his skills have deteriorated even mmore than expected, that's why he's being stuck at DH.

(3) For actual full-time DHs, i.e. guys who fill the role year after year, the reason they've been moved are often fragility. Even if they suffer a small hitting penalty, we need to estimate how much of a playing time benefit they've received -- we generally don't project playing time "officially." These guys probably don't suffer the penalty anyway -- the other side of selection bias because the team won't let you DH every day unless you can really hit. It's likely true Edgar would have been a solid 1B but it's also likely true he'd have missed an extra 10-15 games a year and/or worn down two years earlier than he did.

It's nearly a moot point. In the nearly 50-year history of the DH, only 23 players have made it to even 600 games there (per stathead). I'd say at least 9 of them ended up there either via age or other body breakdowns. Of those 23, only 2 made it to 600 games before age 30 -- Ortiz and Billy Butler.

There have been just 101 seasons with at least 130 games at DH. Of those, just 9 have been by players under 30, 46 have been by players 36 or older. So either guys old enough we worry about them ing-div at any moment or (mostly) oversized thumpers in their early 30s who we worry about cliff-diving at any moment. Especially for the latter group, a move from field to DH suggests their team knows the cliff is approaching.

Boog Powell made it into the early DH period yet only had 4 starts there. Nevertheless despite regularly posting 125 OPS+ and even a 154 in more of a platoon role at 33, he dropped to a 90 at 34 then worse in a brief age 35 season. We might not have expected that but it's happened often enough we wouldn't be surprised. Meanwhile Mike Easler had one of the best years of his career when he moved to DH at 33 but then had a poor year at 34 but bounced back to a 121 OPS+ at 35 (career average) ... then went off a cliff at 36. Ken Singleton was quite different than Boog but he transitioned to DH at 35 and had a poor year ... but then bounced back to a career-average 131 OPS+ at 36 then was toastier than Alomar at 37. So neither of those is very surprising and, who knows, the move to DH might have pushed the cliff back a year or two for Easler and Singleton.

I don't doubt that transitioning from the field to full-time DH takes some getting used to. But if you mash, you love to mash ... and if you mash but can't move anymore, you will come to love the DH. No doubt there are a few who hate it so much it affects their hitting -- maybe that was true for Reggie. But mainly we already are suspicious of the longevity of aging sluggers and most DH seasons are from these guys when their own teams have decided they are probably better off not in the field. We should probably expect them to under-perform our expectations (it's a zen thing) ... when they don't, that may mean the move to DH has helped extend their career, not harmed them.

It's a causality thing. Does the move to DH cause a decline in performance or is the move to DH an indicator that their performance is declining faster than the data suggest? For the part-timers rotating through the position, it's presumably the first one. For those moving full-time in their 30s, I consider the latter more likely.
   16. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 06:44 PM (#6009927)

A complicating factor is that the minors don't start this season until May.


Yea, if service time wasn't an issue, I bet a lot of teams would carry top prospects on rosters in April just to get them some at-bats. But what if they do well! Then they can't send them back down to game service time!
   17. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: March 24, 2021 at 07:06 PM (#6009929)
Learning to play LF, pffft, how hard can it be? Hanley Ramirez says hi....
   18. Walt Davis Posted: March 24, 2021 at 09:30 PM (#6009936)
But what if they do well! Then they can't send them back down to game service time!

Meh. With the Bryant decision, it's pretty clear teams can justify this sort of thing no matter what except maybe an email from the GM saying "the guy's perfect but I want to send him down specifically to game his service time ... that's right, I said game his service time!" You'll have somebody coming off the IL who needs a spot or the guy will need to learn a new posiiton or, if you've only been getting him a few at-bats, the good ol' "he needs to play every day and, by golly, I can't bench Albert Almora to get this kid playing time."
   19. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 09:49 PM (#6009938)
It's just really weird behavior for a contending team.


Are the White Sox actually a contending team? They have a third of a season of being okay mostly on the back of fluke seasons from veterans and also-rans.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 24, 2021 at 10:27 PM (#6009945)
Are the White Sox actually a contending team? They have a third of a season of being okay mostly on the back of fluke seasons from veterans and also-rans.

Most projections I've seen have them as the best team in the AL Central, which is a little bit like tallest midget, but still, clear contenders.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: March 24, 2021 at 11:55 PM (#6009949)
Being willing to consider a guy who didn't play above A ball as part of your opening day roster is a good sign of flexibility on LaRussa's part.

but enough about the 2001 Cardinals (outside of 15 AAA PA) in a White Sox thread
   22. chisoxcollector Posted: March 25, 2021 at 06:44 AM (#6009954)
Most projections I've seen have them as the best team in the AL Central, which is a little bit like tallest midget, but still, clear contenders.


You must be thinking of the NL Central. The White Sox and Twins are both legitimately good teams, and it seems you can never count out the Indians.
   23. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: March 25, 2021 at 07:12 AM (#6009956)
Jim Rice (...) was a perfectly acceptable outfield.


He did get kinda tired playing all three positions at once, tho.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 25, 2021 at 08:56 AM (#6009963)

You must be thinking of the NL Central. The White Sox and Twins are both legitimately good teams, and it seems you can never count out the Indians.


Fangraphs, just to pick one, has the White Sox at 89 wins, Twins at 88, and Indians at 81. That's OK, but not super impressive.
   25. flournoy Posted: March 25, 2021 at 05:10 PM (#6010158)
John Olerud started primarily as a DH. The Blue Jays made room for him at 1B when they traded Fred McGriff away the next year. Then later they had former catching prospect Carlos Delgado start off as a DH, then made room for Delgado at 1B when they traded Olerud away.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: March 26, 2021 at 01:23 AM (#6010202)
#25: Of course the 2nd one makes all the sense in the world as Olerud was a better fielder than Delgado; the first one maybe not so much. And Delgado spent most of his first 2 cups of coffee roaming LF -- if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for Vaughn.

Fangraphs, just to pick one, has the White Sox at 89 wins, Twins at 88

It's hard to project much better than that. If we're looking at the same table there's only one team in the AL projected over 90 wins (Yanks) and 3 in the NL (Mets? really?) They have the 3rd and 4th best playoff odds in the AL so clearly "contenders." They have slightly weaker strength of schedule but there's no real difference between 493, 496 (Astros) and 501 (Yanks) so they seem to be legit good teams.

Now the NL Central might enter the last weekend in a 4-way tie. The schedule might not be un-balanced enough to guarantee the winner is over 500.
   27. tonywagner Posted: March 26, 2021 at 10:49 AM (#6010228)
Fangraphs, just to pick one, has the White Sox at 89 wins, Twins at 88

Down to 85.8 for the White Sox now, with Eloy Jimenez out. Basically 0 WAR from both LF and DH, so there's some room for improvement if Vaughn or someone else can actually produce.

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