What was once a general consensus on the top four picks in the upcoming 2019 MLB draft has turned into something of a mess. Athletic, well-rounded talents like J.J. Bleday and C.J. Abrams are drawing more attention at the top of the draft, leaving others — Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn, in particular — in limbo. This was one of the themes in FanGraphs’ latest mock draft, which projects that Vaughn will fall to the Detroit Tigers at No. 5 overall.
If you are interested in a deep dive on Vaughn, you’re in luck; we published an in-depth profile on the 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner earlier this week. Those looking for the CliffNotes version just need to know this: dude can hit. He put up a ridiculous .402/.531/.819 line — yes, that’s BA/OBP/SLG — as a sophomore in 2018, and became the first non-draft eligible Golden Spikes winner in over 30 years. He has followed that up with a similarly bonkers 1.242 OPS through 46 games in 2019. He has significantly more walks (113) than strikeouts (70) in a Cal uniform, and is widely regarded as the best hitter in this year’s draft class.
So good, in fact, that many suggest he should stick at first base at the pro level. Defensively, scouts think he is athletic enough to potentially handle third base or left field, but have cautioned against the move simply because it will slow down what should be a rapid ascent through the minor league ranks.
Here’s what FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel had to say about the Tigers’ pick.
Here is where things get really interesting. The Tigers have been locked in on Riley Greene all spring, and many expect him to be the pick here regardless of who else is on the board. But with the recent development that Vaughn could possibly get to their pick, it’s unclear where Detroit stands on him. They had personnel with an Edgertronic camera at Cal’s recent road series at Arizona, so they didn’t just assume he’d be gone by this point. He would at least get a long look here.
They continued on after, noting that Vaughn could potentially tumble if the Tigers pass on him at No. 5. This isn’t anything to do with his skill set or character, but rather that there are a slew of National League clubs lined up to pick after Detroit, many of whom have long-term starters entrenched at first base already. Though everyone says “don’t draft for need,” Vaughn’s lack of positional versatility — not to mention some bloated contracts — could ultimately hurt him on draft night.
Personally, I would love to see the Tigers nab Vaughn if he drops to them. He is much more advanced at this point than supposed target Riley Greene, and there is no guarantee that the prep outfielder’s defense is all that much better.
With nearly a full month remaining until the draft, there will still be plenty of changes and rumors to follow, so stay tuned.