Fresh Apples: Cory Vaughn
In order to build a champion, a team needs to develop talent from within. Over the past few years, many have lamented the Mets farm system, and there has been a noticeable lack of talent coming through the system as of late. However, the farm system has improved and there are talented players working their way to Flushing. In this ongoing series, Fresh Kauffy will look at some of the Mets minor league talent. This particular Fresh Apples will look at outfielder, Cory Vaughn.
Although he finished last season on a down note at St. Lucie, Cory Vaughn is one of the more intriguing prospects in the Mets farm system. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Vaughn lit up Brooklyn that season, posting a .307/.396/.557 line with 14 homers. The son of former Major Leaguer Greg Vaughn (who launched 355 long balls during his career), Cory also attended San Diego State, playing for Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Coming into the 2011 season, expectations were high.
Unfortunately, Vaughn did not live up to those expectations, but to me, he still has the potential to become a solid, everyday player. Vaughn began the year at Savannah and hit well; in 297 plate appearances, Vaughn batted .286/.405/.408 with four homers. His success earned him a promotion to St. Lucie, where Vaughn struggled mightily. In 241 PA, the outfielder hit just .219/.308/.395 with nine dingers. Between the two clubs, Vaughn posted a .255/.362/.402 line with 13 homers. So despite these unimpressive numbers, why does Vaughn still have potential?
First, Vaughn has power, as evidenced by the 14 home runs he launched as a member of the Cyclones, and the 13 he smacked this past season. He oddly lacked power at Savannah, but that could partially be explained by the fact that Grayson Stadium, home of the Sand Gnats, has traditionally favored pitchers. Vaughn’s home run power resurfaced at St. Lucie, despite the low slugging percentage, which is a good sign. However, Vaughn’s batting average and on-base percentage dropped dramatically after the promotion. This decline can at least partially be explained by two factors: an unusually low BABIP at St. Lucie (.247) and a nagging heel injury. Of course, part of his success at Savannah could be explained by an unusually high BABIP (.365). Odds are his batting average will finish somewhere in between those two extremes.
Despite the fluctuations in batting average, Vaughn has demonstrated the ability to draw walks, a desirable quality in a power hitter. He managed a 12.1% walk rate at Savannah and a 9.5% walk rate at St. Lucie, an 11.0% clip overall. On the flip side, he also strikes out at a decent rate (21.7% in 2011), but being able to draw walks will help Vaughn push through the minor leagues.
Defensively, Vaughn has played all three outfield positions in the minors, but projects as a right fielder. In 96 games in right this past season, Vaughn recorded 11 outfield assists, tacking on another two during 15 games in left field. Prior to this season, Toby Hyde of MetsMinorLeagueBlogwrote of Vaughn, “He’s an average runner, with a strong arm, who can be an asset defensively in right.”
Vaughn’s struggles at St. Lucie have clouded his path to the big leagues, but he should by no means written off as legitimate prospect (MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo listed Vaughn as the organization’s sixth best prospect). Vaughn still has tools-power, some speed and the ability to draw walks-which could turn him into a quality Major League player. But to continue advancing up the ladder, Vaughn will need to get off to a fast start this season and keep hitting for power in order to make himself a viable option as a corner outfielder. Despite the fact that he will be twenty-three in May, it’s difficult to imagine Vaughn beginning the year at Binghamton, given his struggles at St. Lucie. That being said, Vaughn will hopefully spend no more than a month at high-A ball before advancing to double-A, where he could spend the rest of the season, or even advance to triple-A if things went really well. This time frame would put Vaughn on track to arrive in the Queens sometime in 2013 (coincidentally, the final guaranteed year of Jason Bay‘s contract). But first, Vaughn will have to prove that last year’s second-half struggles were an aberration.