Image credit: (Photo by Brady Klain/Cronkite News)
GLENDALE, Ariz.—February marked a new milestone for Andrew Vaughn—his first time in a spring training clubhouse.
The No. 2 prospect in the White Sox system, the 21-year-old Vaughn is among the youngest players at Chicago’s major league camp. As a result, he didn’t know most of his teammates upon entering the team’s Cactus League facility at Camelback Ranch.
But one person stood out: former Oregon State star Nick Madrigal.
Vaughn’s relationship with Madrigal spans long before his arrival to spring training. The infield prospects became acquainted with each other when Vaughn’s California Bears faced off against Madrigal’s Beavers in the Pac-12.
Their first contest was in May 2017, and both players were stars of their respective squads. Oregon State swept the series, led by Madrigal’s 8-for-14 performance at the plate.
“(My) first impression was the guy couldn’t get out,” Vaughn said.
Then a freshman, Vaughn had already found his footing at the collegiate level. He finished his first season at Cal batting .349 with 12 home runs.
Despite Vaughn’s prolific freshman campaign, the Golden Bears struggled that year, finishing 25-29. But Oregon State didn’t overlook Cal’s budding star just because of his first-year status, Madrigal said.
“Basically the whole scouting report was for him not to beat us,” Madrigal said. “He’s a dangerous player to play against.”
Just over a month after that series ended, the two met again. But this time, they worse the same uniform. Madrigal and Vaughn were both selected to play for the USA Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2017.
At that point, Madrigal and Vaughn had no clue they’d eventually join forces in the White Sox organization. But they had already begun forming a chemistry from playing on the same side of the infield, with Madrigal at second base and Vaughn at first.
“We kind of instantly had that friendship, and he is an easy guy to talk to,” Madrigal said. “Just getting to know him, talk hitting a little bit. That was a fun summer.”
After that, Vaughn and Madrigal faced off once more in college in 2018, before Madrigal was taken fourth overall by the White Sox in the 2018 draft. A year later, Vaughn was selected one spot higher by the same organization.
The 22-year-old Madrigal has already reached Triple-A in under two years in the professional ranks and will likely make his major league debut in 2020. Vaughn, meanwhile, posted a .278/.384/.449 in three different levels during his first few months in the minors.
With Vaughn and Madrigal ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in Baseball America’s White Sox prospect rankings, they’re expected to become the faces of Chicago’s right half of the infield in the near future.
In their first weeks together in Glendale, Madrigal and Vaughn have already worked to sharpen their chemistry on the field.
“We got the chance to take some ground balls,” Madrigal said. “We work well together. Maybe not this year or next year, but I’m looking forward to maybe in the future being on the same side of the infield together.”
In addition to their potential chemistry on the field, they both bring different qualities to the plate.
Throughout each level of the minors, Madrigal has posted a low strikeout rate while reaching base efficiently. Rather than swinging for the fences, he opts for contact, which helped him post a stellar .398 on-base percentage with Triple-A Charlotte in 2019.
Vaughn takes a different approach. He’s known for his power, posting 50 home runs in college and six in 205 minor league at-bats last year.
The versatility of those two bats could create a deadly punch in Chicago’s lineup down the road.
“It’s always good to have different types of hitters in the lineup, get guys on,” Vaughn said. “You never know how it’s going to work out. Get guys on, get them in, score some runs. That’s the main goal.”
Madrigal agreed with his former opponent.
“You need that balance in a lineup,” Madrigal said. “The great teams have guys that get on base and guys that bring them in, and I think that we would make a pretty good combo.”
With neither Madrigal nor Vaughn reaching the majors yet, it’s hard for White Sox manager Rick Renteria to fully evaluate the prospects’ major league readiness. But Renteria admitted that he’s eager to see them compete alongside big leaguers this spring.
“The most exciting thing is that we’ll be able to put them in games and be able to see some of their talents,” Renteria said. “Obviously, watching them work and getting to know them more, and see how they will ultimately evolve to becoming major league players.”
With both less than two years out of college, Madrigal and Vaughn will be two of the youngest players in White Sox camp this spring. It’s another opportunity for the prospects to showcase their abilities against some of baseball’s toughest competition.
And Madrigal hopes he and Vaughn use this opportunity as a way to develop their skill sets.
“Hopefully we get a chance to play together this spring, and I know he’s excited,” Madrigal said. “Trying to teach him some stuff, tell him some things on the side, but he already has a lot of things.”