Though not much of a surprise, Rick Hahn made official what had been guessed at for some time during the offseason: Andrew Vaughn could very well be on the White Sox roster come Opening Day.
Not often does the general manager need to confirm that the leading candidate to take over as the everyday starter at designated hitter could make the team out of spring training. But Vaughn hasn't played a game above A-ball, leading to perfectly valid questions about how much he can be counted on in a season where the White Sox have legitimate World Series expectations.
But the White Sox opted to not chase a bat to plug into the DH spot during the winter, showing their faith in the guy they took with the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft.
"Andrew Vaughn is very much in the mix to make this club," Hahn said Wednesday. "I know that may strike some people as a little non-traditional, given that he has not had ABs over the course of his career just yet.
"I think that a lot of things would have been different had there been a minor league season last year. But I think one of the most prominent things is, had there been a season last year, I don’t think there would have been any question in anyone’s mind that Andrew Vaughn was prepared to contribute at the big league level over the course of the 2021 season.
"So based on what we’ve seen and know of the kid, he’s very much in this mix, and we’ll see what the next six weeks hold. But everyone here who knows Andrew and knows what he’s capable of doing is taking his bid for this club seriously."
Certainly they'd have to, because there doesn't appear to be much in the way of an alternative option for that DH role. Perhaps the only possibilities outside of Vaughn are catchers Zack Collins and Yermín Mercedes, two guys fighting for the backup spot behind Yasmani Grandal. For those suggesting Eloy Jiménez be moved out of the outfield, Hahn definitively said Wednesday that Jiménez is the team's left fielder.
So Vaughn remains the clear frontrunner. While the questions about his readiness to be thrown into an everyday major league job are warranted, the White Sox attitude toward the 22-year-old is not at all without reason. They've spoken of Vaughn's advanced bat since the night they drafted him, choosing him with such a high pick for that very reason. Much like Nick Madrigal, the team's first-round pick the year prior, flew through the system, Vaughn was likely ticketed for a similarly rapid rise. But the cancellation of the minor league season in 2020 kept his career minor league at-bat total at 205.
Still, Vaughn was impressing his big league teammates last summer, when he was hitting the ball hard enough off established major league pitchers in "Summer Camp" that staff ace Lucas Giolito called him "a pain in my ass."
That won't be enough to answer the questions, of course, nor is even an excellent performance this spring likely to do away with all of them. But Vaughn appears the lead man for the DH job as the White Sox chase a championship in 2021.