With the Cal Football season ending Wednesday night from a MLB baseball stadium that is
Bank One Ball Park Chase Field for the Cheez-It Bowl, it’s almost time for us to switch some focus to Cal Baseball. This is not quite that preview post, mainly because I have no idea who will be pitching for the Golden Bears outside of Jared Horn (and I guess Rogelio Reyes). I am intrigued by whether transfer OF/QB/RB? Brandon McIlwain (where was him on Wednesday night?) will be more of an asset in the baseball diamond than on the football field though.
No, this post is all about reminding you (particularly the more casual Cal fans) that Cal Baseball will have the reigning Golden Spikes (Baseball’s version of the Heisman Trophy - even though that football award is actually won by a future baseball player this year in A’s draftee Kyler Murray) winner in 1st baseman, junior Andrew Vaughn for another season when the college baseball season starts in mid-February.
Although plenty of Cal fans just left Phoenix, Cal Baseball will coincidentally open the year from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim’s spring training home in Tempe, Arizona...right next to Phoenix on February 15th, 2019 for the Angels College Classic.
What. A. Day.— Cal Baseball (@CalBaseball) October 14, 2018
Thank you so much to @USABaseball, @USAGoldenSpikes and our whole #CalFamily for celebrating @andrewvaughn37. We can't wait to see what's to come. #GoBears #EarnIt pic.twitter.com/eeBE1aoRtL
Released within the past month, MLB Pipeline has Andrew Vaughn 3rd overall in their updated 2019 Prospect list. While that’s probably the highest that any publication has Vaughn listed thus far (Vaughn is a consensus 1st round/supplementary round AKA 1st day pick), baseball scouts agree that Vaughn is one of the more ready college bat in this upcoming draft.
Vaughn can technically opt to return for his senior year...but will likely just use that threat to get an even bigger signing bonus.
MLB Pipeline have the following to say about Vaughn:
Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 60 | Run: 30 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 60
Relatively unheralded out of high school, Vaughn put himself on the map as a freshman by tying for the Cal lead in home runs and winning PAC-12 Freshman of the Year honors. He made that season look pedestrian by hitting .402 with 23 home runs in 2018 and became one of the few underclassmen to win the Golden Spikes Award.
The argument can be made that Vaughn is the best all-around hitter in this Draft class. He has a very advanced approach at the plate, one that has allowed him to walk much more than he has struck out over his first two years at Cal, with a knack for barreling up the baseball. He doesn’t sacrifice power as a result, showing the ability to hit the ball out to all fields, profiling as a true middle-of-the-order run producer in the future. He’s a first baseman only, but should be fine there, with decent hands and a solid arm that allowed him to pitch as a freshman.
Vaughn had a somewhat pedestrian summer with USA Baseball, but that’s not something that concerns anyone in the scouting industry. He should be in conversation at the very top of the Draft as a college hitter who should be able to move quickly through a system.
For those not familiar with the scouting grades, they are on a 20 to 80 scale, where 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Vaughn is one of 3 prospects getting the overall 60 grade right now. The two players ahead of Vaughn are Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman and high school short stop Bobby Witt. Jr.
It’s an understatement to say that Andrew Vaughn really boosted his draft stock with his brilliant 2018 season. This is in spite of Vaughn winning the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honor and co-leading the Golden Bears in homers in 2017. Shockingly, Vaughn was not a highly heralded recruit out of high school in Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa, CA. In fact, the now slugger only had one home run in high school, coming from his final game. At Cal, Andrew Vaughn has quickly blossomed into one of the best hitter to ever come through the program.
In case you missed it, Andrew Vaughn won the Golden Spikes due to his video game-esque slash line of 0.402 batting average, 0.531 on-base average, and 0.819 slugging percentage to go with 23 homers (and 63 RBI for those who cares about that stats). For those who still believe that College Baseball numbers are inflated due to the metal bats, the NCAA implemented in 2011 a new rule in restricting the bats used in college baseball. The BBCOR (Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution) are by design not as springy and immediately caused a drop by 40% in home runs hit in college.
"To see him recognized as the best amateur player in America speaks volumes about who he is, both on and off the field, and speaks to the incredible support he gets from a family that has been behind him every step of the way." - @MikeNeuCal on @andrewvaughn37. #GoBears pic.twitter.com/sbHW20JIgU— Cal Baseball (@CalBaseball) June 29, 2018
As the MLB Pipeline scouting report mentioned above, Andrew Vaughn backed up his brilliant year for the Golden Bears with a strongish showing in the Cape Cod league and with USA baseball - both of those leagues used the wooden bats. While Vaughn’s hitting may have hit a wall by the end of the summer, his easy power with the wooden bat was clearly present through the summer to boost his draft stock.
The main thing holding Vaughn back in his potential draft position is that he is a 1st baseman. Another selective right handed power bat with a compact swing in the MLB that is a good comparison for Andrew Vaughn is Paul Goldschmidt, who has just been traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks (the usual inhabitants of Chase Field, tying back to the opening paragraph) to the St. Louis Cardinals. Goldschmidt put up impressive numbers, including power numbers, for a much smaller baseball conference in college (Southland Conference), but he was only selected in the 8th round. Between playing in the tough Pac-12 AND the national attention from being the Golden Spikes winner, Andrew Vaughn is not going to be as much of a bargain for a MLB team comes the draft.
Former Oakland A’s MVP and now Atlanta Braves slugger Josh Donaldson is another comparison for Andrew Vaughn. Donadson was drafted as a catcher out of Auburns, however; he was selected toward the end of the first round.
In fact, Andrew Vaughn has a legit shot at challenging current Chicago Cubs reliever Brandon Morrow for the distinction of being the highest Cal Baseball draft pick in the MLB Draft. Morrow as selected 5th overall by the Seattle Mariners in the 2006 MLB Draft just ahead of Andrew Miller and a some guy named Clayton Kershaw (I wonder what happened to that dude?) is the earliest Golden Bear to hear his name called in the MLB draft history.
The list of Golden Spikes winner is essentially a who’s who in the MLB right now. Here are the the list of winners since 2006 (since I just mentioned that draft).
2006 - RHP Tim Lincecum
2007 - LHP David Price
2008 - C Buster Posey
2009 - RHP Stephen Strasburg
2010 - C/OF Bryce Harper
2011 - RHP Trevor Bauer
2012 - C Mike Zunino
2013 - 3B Kris Bryant
2014 - 1B/P A.J. Reed
2015 - OF Andrew Benintendi
2016 - OF Kyle Lewis
2017 - 1B/P Brendan McKay
While it’s too early to grade the the pro careers of McKay, Lewis, and Reed, the rest of that list consists of several household names for baseball fans. Other than Mike Zunino (who was recently traded to the Rays, so somebody still believes in him), everyone else on that list has been an impact big leaguer and often within two years of winning the award. From this, being a potential MVP candidate is the projected lofty ceiling here for Andrew Vaughn, especially with him winning the award as a sophomore.
Obviously, a lot more of his potential 2019 MLB draft position will be dependent on if Andrew Vaughn can duplicate, if not somehow surpass, his impressive numbers from 2017 and 2018. Vaughn’s protections from 2018 in CF/P Tanner Dodson and LF Jonah Davis were both drafted last summer and spent the summer thriving in the Tampa Bay Rays and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations, respectively. Nonetheless, head coach Mike Neu should have no trouble formulating a solid lineup with an Andrew Vaughn inked in that 3rd spot (even if newer Sabremetrics studies indicate that the 2nd spot in the lineup is the ideal place to bat your best hitter now).
Before getting to follow Andrew Vaughn’s promising career in MiLB and hopefully MLB soon, Cal fans should rejoice in knowing that we have this special player for another year. This spring, you should bring your friends and family to Evans Diamond to see in person the guy that current Pac-12 Network commentator and former Big Leaguer Eric Byrnes referred to as a “unicorn” (a nickname that dates back to Vaughn’s freshman season).
Still not convinced? Remember that “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” and the very best player at hitting dingers in all of college baseball is a California Golden Bear for the 2019 season.