Winston-Salem isn’t currently home to the sheer volume of top prospects as it was last year, but there are three players currently with the team who seem primed to succeed potentially all the way to the major leagues.
Vaughn was this year’s number one draft pick for the Sox (number three overall) and is likely the team's power-hitting first baseman of the future.
At this point, Vaughn was getting ready to play in just his fourth game with the Dash, but had already hit a home run out of the stadium and completed a triple play with an out at first base.
“I’ve never seen one of those,” he said about the triple play. “Never seen one in person.”
Not even in high school. He said it didn’t sink in until the umpire called the runner out.
“I was like, this really happened!” Vaughn said.
The home run, still his only one at the level, was such a smash that Trackman didn’t pick up the distance on it.
“That one felt really good,” Vaughn said with a laugh. “I hit one this year in Cal that was close to feeling like that, but that one was special.”
He said it’s harder to hit a ball out of the park at the University of California, which has buildings in the outfield as barriers to baseballs with thoughts of freedom.
“Mark McGwire hit one almost over, but I couldn’t quite catch him,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn’s been having a whirlwind year, first getting drafted, then playing in the AZL, a quick promotion to Kannapolis, and two weeks later in Winston. He’s had the chance to see pitchers at different levels in quick succession. At this level, he says, pitchers have a little more control over their stuff.
“They’re able to throw pitches in different counts that guys in the other level couldn’t just because they couldn’t locate it,” he said.
He does not seem concerned by this, both in demeanor and in batting line, which after 14 games is now .265/.377/.449.
— Julie Brady (@DestroyBaseball) August 3, 2019
As a number three overall draft pick, Vaughn is, of course, aware of the expectations of him. As a newcomer to the rebuild, he knows all about how hopeful Sox fans are about what he’ll add to the South Side.
“It’s truly humbling, honestly," Vaughn said. "The day of the draft, to hear my name called, I just knew what I was coming into, being part of the rebuild. I talked to Nick Hostetler about it when he came and met with me and it’s a special feeling. I mean, we’ve got guys like Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, I mean, LuBob’s going off. He turns 22 today [August 3, the day of the interview]. I’m almost 22. It’s crazy to think about how special he could be.”
He’s also no stranger to the pro experience, although he’s very much enjoying adding pro teammates to the mix.
“Everybody’s a professional out here and it’s great to see and just show up and be around that group of guys," Vaughn said.
In college, he played under David Esquer, who played some pro ball and coached Cal for 18 seasons. Esquer was then replaced by Mike Neu, who used to close for the Athletics — “I’ve had the pro experience throughout,” he said. He shouts out Mike Gellinger, the White Sox minor league hitting coordinator, who has been helping him realize the importance of routine and following his strengths.
A pitcher in high school, Vaughn says with a smile he’s ready to jump back on the mound.
"If we’re in, like last night’s Sox game [the 4-3 White Sox victory over the Phillies in 15 innings], if we’re in the 14th inning and I gotta pitch, I’ll for sure get up there. But I’ll be hitting my spots, I won’t be blowing guys away up there,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn has been playing baseball this season basically since January, between college and pro ball; he says he doesn’t yet know whether he’ll be participating in Arizona Fall League play. He says he’s looking forward to the offseason to take time to himself and reconnect with the people he loves after such an action-packed year.
“I’ve never really had an offseason per se, so that’ll be nice," Vaughn said.
Vaughn doesn’t ask for his exit velocity numbers. “I’m just trying to put a good swing on it,” he says. “Hit it hard and see what happens.”