Andrew Vaughn and other White Sox replacements for Eloy Jiménez

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Vinnie Duber
·4 min read
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Vaughn and other Sox options for replacing Eloy originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Eloy Jiménez will be out for months. He could miss the entire 2021 season.

But the show will go on without him.

"It's not going to be an open spot," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Thursday, "somebody's going to play there."

RELATED: Eloy Jiménez to miss months with ruptured pectoral tendon

Yeah, but who?

The White Sox had a gigantic hole blasted in the middle of their batting order with the announcement that Jiménez tore his pectoral tendon while trying to rob a home run in Wednesday's exhibition game. They lose not only one of their best hitters but their starting left fielder, thrusting someone into an everyday spot they weren't expecting to have when the sun came up Wednesday.

There are obvious choices among the team's reserve unit. Utility man Leury García is perfectly capable of playing left field. Adam Engel could be elevated from the team's fourth outfielder to regular appearances in left once he recovers from his hamstring strain. Players with ample big league experience, like Billy Hamilton and Nick Williams, are still part of White Sox camp, and Hamilton, especially, looks destined to make the Opening Day roster as a speed threat.

Surprisingly, though, the White Sox might end up going with someone who's never played there before.

General manager Rick Hahn listed Andrew Vaughn as an option to replace Jiménez, and La Russa said the organization's top prospect will get a shot in left field as spring training winds down.

"We've had some conversations about the potential of Andrew Vaughn playing some left field, as well," Hahn said. "He did get some experience doing that in Schaumburg last year during the alternate-site process. He has been ... getting a little experience on the backfields in some early work and drills.

"It's a possibility. It's not one I would necessarily etch in stone, but with talking about the internal options, his name potentially belongs on that list, as well."

Vaughn, the team's first-round draft pick in 2019, was already facing big questions coming into 2021. The White Sox were impressed enough with his advanced bat — the reason they spent the No. 3 overall selection on him — that they looked ready to make him their everyday DH, even though he's never played a pro game above A-ball. Vaughn has done well this spring to calm fears that he wouldn't be able to be counted on in a season with championship aspirations.

But now there's a pretty huge new variable: He might need to show it while playing a brand new position.

Why are the White Sox saying that's OK? They've been working Vaughn out in the outfield for a while now, dating back to his time at the team's alternate training site in Schaumburg last summer, as Hahn mentioned. He's shown flashes of athleticism this spring at the position he was drafted to play, first base. Now he's got a new challenge, with just a week until Opening Day.

But the White Sox seem to think he can handle it, with La Russa saying he plans on starting Vaughn in left in Friday's spring game and put him there as much as possible in the final few exhibition contests.

"They worked him out (at the alternate site), so he's not starting from scratch," La Russa said. "When you're an infielder, it's easier for an infielder to move to the outfield. You get used to dealing with jumps, reading the ball off the bat. You go back in the outfield, you have more time to react.

"I'm not saying it’s easy to play the outfield, but he has all those things working for him. Plus, he's a tough guy. There's an opportunity for him to get at-bats, so I feel real good about his chances to be very productive."

And that could end up the biggest part of this whole idea: production.

The White Sox need to replace Jiménez in left, yes, but they need to replace his bat, too. Vaughn has the potential to be a big bopper, and though he was ticketed for an everyday role already, finding another bat with power potential — more so than García and Engel, anyway — could help stem any negative run-producing effects from Jiménez's absence. That could mean Zack Collins finally getting a regular shot, though as more of a DH, with Vaughn in left field, than as a catcher.

That's conjecture, of course, until the White Sox finalize their Opening Day roster. It's possible, too, that it's just fill-in by committee for a while, with García and Engel getting plenty of starts but Vaughn getting occasional days out there, too, when he's not DH'ing.

It's not an envious position for the White Sox to be in. But with winning a World Series still on their minds, they look ready to put even more faith in Vaughn.

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