CHICAGO -- Shortly before the first pitch of Monday’s White Sox Summer Camp intrasquad contest, the following tweet was published by MLB Pipeline: “The future is on display for the #WhiteSox today with three of the club's top four prospects -- Luis Robert, Andrew Vaughn and Nick Madrigal -- in the lineups for the intrasquad game at 2 p.m. ET.”
That talent-rich core assembled by general manager Rick Hahn and his staff stands at the heart of the team’s push from rebuild to a run at the American League Central crown in 2020. More importantly, this group should help fulfill the original rebuild mission statement of keeping this team in contention for a number of years beyond this current one.
“There’s a lot of excitement within this clubhouse right now and within this organization, and rightfully so,” said White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing, who is filling in for manager Rick Renteria after Renteria returned to California last Thursday for a family funeral. “We’re very excited, as far as position player-wise and pitcher-wise.
“These guys are getting a unique opportunity, situation, to be able to do it here in Chicago. [So that] when they come up for the first time, it’s not going to be a surprise for them. They’re already going to play with that next deck, and they’re not going to be in awe of any situation that may come their way. That first one is out of the way, which is huge.”
Robert showed off his immense ability Monday in areas other than his fall-down power. In the first inning, the No. 3 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline threw a strike home from center field on a James McCann fly ball to force Madrigal to retreat back to third. Robert also ran down a Madrigal liner into right-center, turning a difficult-looking play into a routine out, and he scored easily from first on a José Abreu double down the left-field line.
Vaughn has continued to work deep counts against Major League pitchers, just as he did during Spring Training, while looking like a veteran hitter instead of the team’s No. 2 prospect with no games played above Class A Advanced Winston-Salem. Although Vaughn has worked at third during Summer Camp, his future -- and most likely his present -- will be at first base. But Vaughn is learning from the occasional position switch, just as he’s learning from being around veteran hitters in camp.
“This camp has been phenomenal. Getting the chance to work around the field, getting to hit and know the guys on the big league club, is definitely beneficial to me,” said Vaughn during a Zoom call on Monday. “The biggest thing is mindset, having the drive to know we’re going to play, to be ready at the right time.
“I definitely feel comfortable moving around. Growing up, I played second, I played short, I played outfield and pitched. So moving around feels not too new to me. I’m excited for the challenge. Whatever they want me to do, I’m all for it.”
McEwing was asked Monday to name any player from this young core who possibly deserves more attention, and without missing a beat, McEwing said they all should be getting attention. He spoke of right-handed starters Jimmy Lambert and Dane Dunning both looking strong during camp after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. McEwing mentioned relievers Tyler Johnson, Ian Hamilton and Tayron Guerrero, who struck out Abreu and Tim Anderson on Monday and has been able to better harness his 100-mph fastball after making an adjustment under pitching coach Don Cooper and assistant pitching coach Curt Hasler.
And this is the group on the rise. Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Carlos Rodón, Dylan Cease and Aaron Bummer have already arrived, with Michael Kopech on target for a 2021 return after electing not to participate in ’20.
Giolito faced some of the White Sox future on Monday. So he knows the challenges soon to sit in front of opposing pitchers.
“Today, facing Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn, they're a pain in my [butt],” Giolito said. “You've got Nick spitting on some fastballs just out of the zone, shooting one to right field. Andrew Vaughn, when I was throwing to him in quarantine -- back when we were in California, I was throwing live bullpens, and he faced me -- he's one of the few guys I've noticed that can really see my changeup well, and he'll spit on my changeup just out of the zone.
“That makes me excited that they're on our team and I don't have to face them in the future, because they're tough outs. That's just two examples. We have a bunch of other guys here that are going to contribute in the coming years, so I'm excited.”