CHICAGO -- Strikeouts, errors and even double-play grounders might raise Andrew Vaughn’s ire from time to time, though those less-than-desirable individual outcomes certainly are expected over the course of 162 games.
But losing as a team is detested by the White Sox first baseman more than anything else, with Chicago losing 101 times last year. It was a disappointing 2023 campaign that Vaughn wants to study, then never repeat.
“There’s a lot of things to learn that happened last season,” Vaughn told me during an interview Monday. “That’s the biggest thing, see what happens in a losing season like that.
“It’s never fun to lose. That’s the No. 1 thing I dislike in this game. Losing sucks. The biggest thing going into next year is [to] set our goals, put our minds to it and play 162 as hard as we can.”
Vaughn, who is seemingly a seasoned veteran at age 25, is doing his part toward White Sox improvement in 2024. He won’t hit until the start of December, but Vaughn already is focused on getting stronger, faster and more agile through physical training.
Those areas have been stressed by the White Sox, with general manager Chris Getz and assistant general manager Josh Barfield looking for “dynamic” talent as they construct the 2024 roster. They want to win games through means beyond hitting a bunch of home runs -- which of course remain a crucial part of the game.
“Maybe get that extra step on a ground ball,” Vaughn said. “Little things like that to help the team. That’s the biggest thing. I want to be more agile. I want to be the best defender I can [be]. I want to be able to take that extra base.
“I’ve been working out pretty much since the season ended. Definitely want to do even better than I did last offseason. Get stronger, get faster. Do whatever I can, train every day if I need to, to be the best me once the season rolls around.”
Getz readily admits a great deal has been asked of Vaughn in his three big league seasons. He debuted in the Majors in 2021 with only 254 Minor League plate appearances after being selected third overall in the ‘19 MLB Draft.
Vaughn’s career began primarily as a left fielder, a position he had one week to prepare for during Spring Training when Eloy Jiménez suffered a left pectoral injury. And when he moved full time to first base in 2023, Vaughn joined the lineage of Dick Allen, Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko and José Abreu at the organization’s historic position.
“He’s a guy that you look at -- whether it be his underlying metrics or just his surface-level production -- there’s a lot to like there,” Getz said. “He's got pretty strong zone awareness. He has the ability to put together quality at-bats. He has to get back to being the middle of the lineup type hitter that he can be, and I say that in the sense of being patient with how pitchers are attacking him and taking advantage of pitches that he can drive.”
“The biggest thing is still the same -- I’ve just got to be me,” Vaughn said. “I can’t try to be Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko or Pito [Abreu]. Everybody knows who those guys are. I have to go out and make a name for myself and do the best I can every single day I get on that field.”
Vaughn set single-season highs in 2023 with 21 home runs, 80 RBIs, 30 doubles, 146 hits and 67 runs scored. Talking to scouts, broadcasters and teammates alike -- they believe this sort of production is just the start for Vaughn.
Playing in 152 games, though, was Vaughn’s biggest achievement. There’s no way to help the team win and turn things around if you aren’t on the field.
“I’m still learning about myself,” Vaughn said. “Facing pitchers, getting to face them again. Learning how I need to go about a scouting report. How I need to go about being in the weight room to stay healthy for the whole season.
“I made progress in some categories and might have regressed in some categories. The biggest thing is building off of that. I saw progress from Year 1 to Year 2 and Year 2 to Year 3. Now I want to see more progress for me personally.”