Cory Vaughn: he possesses the deadly combination of speed, power, and a smile that can light up a room. He is always interacting and having fun with fans via outlets like Twitter. Vaughn, the Mets’ fourth round pick in the 2010 draft, seemed destined to be one of the future faces of the Mets.
Growing up as a young boy, I watched Cory’s father, Greg Vaughn, smashing homeruns on ESPN Sportscenter highlights every morning before school. The pedigree is there. Standing 6-foot-3 and 225-pounds, Vaughn is a physical specimen, and has a body frame that baseball scouts and executives drool over.
In 2010, his first taste of professional baseball, Vaughn slugged .557, got on base at nearly a 40% clip, and created 166 runs. After the 2010 season, expectations were high. Maybe a little too high. Vaughn has been suffering from the hangover of that 2010 season for the past three seasons. Mix in a few injuries, and Vaughn has become the perfect example of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind prospect.
Vaughn is healthy again, and got a chance to hone his skills in the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2013. Vaughn played against some of the game’s top talent. The good news is, Vaughn held his own, but he also understands that he has to keep getting better and become a more consistent offensive player. If anyone understands what it takes to be a big league ball player, it’s the son of a major leaguer. In this quote from MLB.com, Vaughn puts things in perspective:
“This is the toughest sport to play in the world. There is so much failure. As much as I want to go out and square balls up every single at-bat, it’s not going to happen. I’m going to strike out, I’m going to chase bad pitches. I’m going to pop balls up. But the more I can try to be consistent and stay solid with my approach, the better chance I will have for success, and that’s really what I’ve been trying to do out here.”
The biggest knock on Vaughn seems to be his strikeout rate. Rightly so, as he has climbed through the organization, his strikeout rate has also climbed—all the way up to 26.8% in 2013 (against Double-A pitching). Vaughn also tries to quite those that say he strikes out too much:
“I know a lot of people panic and trip off and say I strike out too much, but it is just the nature of the beast. I am not a slap hitter who is going to go out there and put the ball on the ground and just try to go from base to base. I’m trying to hit some stuff in the gaps, because when I go up there, I like to think to myself that I am always dangerous. After one swing, we could have one run on the board. I try to base my game off that.”
I love that Vaughn knows what his strengths are and builds his game around that. But Vaughn also has to understand that he has to change his hitting approach based on the count in the batter’s box. If a hitter has two strikes on him, he has to tighten up that swing and become more of a slap-hitter. That’s not saying that he can’t smack a ball in the gap with that approach, but it would naturally boost his batting average while cutting down the strike outs. It would give him that consistency that he is looking for, and make him a more complete hitter.
Everyone knows Vaughn has game-changing power. He can alter the game with one swing. The Mets know this. He has nothing more to prove on that front. Now the Mets are looking for him to do the other things to show he is a major league hitter. Other things, like knowing when to slap the ball to right field, and when to drive it into the left-centerfield gap.
Vaughn has to do what he can with what the pitcher gives him and then capitalize on the mistakes the pitchers’ make. As he moves up, pitchers make less and less mistakes. They know he has power, so they will pitch him more carefully. He has to adjust his approach, start taking what the pitcher gives him and go with the pitches. That means slapping that ball out the outside half to right field, and hammering that mistake over the wall.
Vaughn has more in his toolbox than power. He can do as much damage using his speed on the base paths as he can by hitting a homerun when nobody is on base.
When the baseball gods create players, they create guys like Cory Vaughn. He has all the intangibles to be a successful major league player. He has the kind of magnetic personality that attract the fans and get them rooting for him.
2014 is an important year for Vaughn. With prospects like Cesar Puello and Dustin Lawley making waves in the organization, Vaughn almost finds himself in the position of being an underdog in the Mets’ organization. Who doesn’t love an underdog?
(Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)