Vaughn Still Working On His Approach

Vaughn has 16 strikeouts already this season

BINGHAMTON, NY -- Binghamton Mets outfielder Cory Vaughn features some exciting tools, including already plus power and speed. Unfortunately, inconsistency and a flawed approach at the plate have thus far kept Vaughn from reaching his potentially lofty ceiling. He's hoping that 2013 will be the year that he can put it all together.

Power, speed, superior athleticism, ability to play at a premium position; Cory Vaughn has a combination of skills of which many can only dream. Nevertheless, Vaughn is just weeks away from his 24th birthday, and is yet to put together a season which truly showcases his talent.

This is not to say that Vaughn has not produced, however. In the pitcher-friendly Florida State League with the St. Lucie Mets in 2012, he pumped out 23 home runs, stole 21 bases in 25 tries, and played solid defense. So power, speed, defense – all that is missing is the hit tool.

In 2012, Vaughn hit just .243, a batting average especially low for a 23-year old in single-A. He was not much better in 2011, when he combined to hit .255 in 131 games split between Savannah and St. Lucie. Binghamton Manager Pedro Lopez believes that Vaughn can increase his hitting ability, but needs to work on his approach at the plate and his pitch recognition.

"I think he just needs to be more disciplined at the plate and try to learn his strike zone," Lopez said. "If he's able to learn his strike zone and if he's able to shrink his strike zone and try to get good pitches to hit, he's going to be okay."

Lopez was sure to differentiate the ideas of discipline and patience, noting Vaughn's ability to take a walk as a strength [Vaughn's on base percentage was a respectable .351 in 2012, more than .100 points higher than his batting average].

Lopez said that what Vaughn needed to improve was his pitch recognition. He has fallen into the trap of swinging at a borderline pitches in a hitters' count and letting some good pitches go by.

Vaughn himself agreed, and was busy in the Puerto Rican Winter League improving many areas of his game, specifically his approach at the plate.

"I was basically working on everything," Vaughn recounted, "working on when I'm up at the plate with runners in scoring position, not to panic, learning that he's the one in trouble. I'm not. [I want to] just get a good pitch, get a ball up and make more consistent contact, especially with two strikes."

This type of approach is something that Vaughn is currently working on with Binghamton Mets' hitting coach Luis Natera. Natera believes that Vaughn must learn to recognize the breaking ball better, and be more aggressive in hitters' counts and less aggressive in pitchers counts.

In addition to reiterating plate discipline, Natera asserted that Vaughn "… needs to stay through the zone. He pulls off a lot, we've been working on it. If he does that, he'll be okay."

Vaughn, according Natera, is currently in the perfect position to improve.

"He's at a good level to learn," his hitting coach added. "He's going to see those breaking balls a lot and when he's dialing up those breaking balls – he can hit the fastball – and when he starts to learn to recognize those breaking balls, especially out of the zone, he's going to be okay.

He's a strong kid. A lot of potential, definitely, and like I said, when he learns to recognize those breaking balls out of the zone, he can be special."

As with many players who struggle to put up a good average, the Mets prospect has a propensity to strike out, something which many claim is a big knock against him. Though Vaughn is not too worried about the strikeouts.

"I feel like I'm one of those guys, I'm going to hit for power, so I feel like strikeouts are always going to be there, just as long as my walks are at least two to one," Vaughn opined. "I really don't have a concern with it, like last year I almost had 70 walks and like 110 strikeouts.

"So while it would be nice if I could cut those in half with two strikeouts, but it is what it is" [the actual numbers are 64 walks and 114 strikeouts, right in line with Vaughn's claim].

Pedro Lopez, too, considers Vaughn's strikeout numbers to simply be part of his game.

"I think that guys that got a lot of power are going to strike out a lot," Lopez said. "Hopefully this year will be the year where he can manage the strike zone a little better. Maybe, he will cut down on the strikeouts a bit and hopefully his power numbers will be higher."

Vaughn struggled out of the gate, but has come around a bit recently, as he hit a three run home run on Sunday to finish of the weekend series with Portland with a potent seven runs batted in.

"I've started a little slow," Vaughn said, "it's always a work in progress; I'm not panicking at all. It's a week [or so] in so you're just getting on your feet and getting ready and you know, I'm feeling pretty confident, pretty strong about it and I think I'll be alright."

It is his first try at double-A, so that may have played a role, though Vaughn does not think so.

"The game doesn't change at all, it's the same," he said. "You go out there; they have to throw the ball over the plate. The biggest difference I've seen so far is just that the defense is a little better and the pitchers; they'll throw you any pitch regardless of what the count is, so that's the biggest adjustment I've made so far."

Lopez thinks that Vaughn has been swinging the bat well, pointing to the cold and rainy weather, as well as bad luck, as reasons why the numbers have not backed up the way he's been swinging.

Lopez added that he believes Vaughn will continue to improve as long as he's out on the field.

"I think number one is to make sure he stays healthy… and then he can go out there on a regular basis. The main thing for him is to keep him working on some of the stuff he's working on right now."

It is obvious to anyone that has seen the exciting outfielder play that Vaughn has the potential to make an impact at the big league level. Lopez and Natera both believe so, and agree that he has the work ethic and discipline to one day make it happen.

However, neither would put a timetable on a possible major league debut.

"Time will tell," Lopez said of Vaughn's chances to make an impact. "I think he's got all the tools, the main thing now is how quick he can grasp everything, number one our hitting philosophy, but also… all aspects of the game. The quicker he can get all the tools together, the quicker he'll be in the big leagues."

As for Vaughn, he's trying not to think about it.

"I really just to go out there and play the game the right way and I feel like everything else will take care of itself," Vaughn concluded.

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