Rocco Baldelli Named New Twins Manager

Rocco Baldelli grew up in the Tampa Bay Rays organization as a player, coach, and front office administrator.  He also played one season for the Boston Red Sox.  He was recently named the new manager of the Minnesota Twins for the 2019 season, replacing Paul Molitor.

Baldelli’s brother, Dante, was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 39th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, but did not sign.  Dante played collegiately for Boston College.  Rocco’s brother Nick played for Trinity College, while brother Minh Pham played for the University of Rhode Island.

For more information about Rocco’s appointments as new Twins manager, follow the link below:

https://www.minnpost.com/sports/2018/10/in-hiring-rocco-baldelli-the-twins-get-a-prototype-for-the-modern-major-league-manager/

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Heisman Trophy Winner Kyler Murray has Baseball in his Bloodlines

University of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray captured the Heisman Trophy Award this year, after one of the best statistical seasons ever for a college quarterback. 

Murray was the first-round selection (9th overall) of the Oakland A’s in this year’s MLB Draft.  He had a productive season with the Sooners in 2018 as an outfielder, batting .296 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI.  He signed with the A’s for a $4.66 million bonus.

Murray is the nephew of former major leaguer Calvin Murray, who played in five major-league seasons with the Giants, Rangers, and Cubs.  Kyler’s father, Kevin Murray, played one season in the Brewers organization in 1982.

The big question is whether Murray will stick with his original baseball plans or pursue a career in the NFL, or both.

Follow the links below for additional information about Kyler Murray:

https://www.sfgate.com/athletics/article/Kyler-Murray-s-agent-A-s-pick-will-fulfill-13447657.php?src=hp_totn

Next-Gen MLB Family Ties

I just completed my annual compilation of active major-league and minor-league players and non-players (managers, coaches, scouts, executives, etc.) who have relatives in baseball. The number of family ties in baseball appears to be more prevalent than ever.

Former pro players, especially those who only played in minors and never attained a major-league salary, see opportunities for their sons to excel through personal coaching and today’s competitive environment of club and travel baseball. The prospect of attaining current-day salaries from major-league contracts is a real incentive to push their sons toward pro baseball.

Major-league scouts and front office personnel are sending their sons in larger numbers to the pro ranks as players. Even if they never played at the pro level themselves, they frequently use their professional insight as a competitive edge to help their sons achieve success at amateur, collegiate, and ultimately professional levels.

Even the MLB Home Run Derby contests during the annual All-Star Game festivities provide another indication of the influence family ties have in the game. A number of the recent major-league contestants have used family members to pitch to them, including Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Todd Frazier, Robinson Cano, and Javy Lopez. It’s apparent it’s not the first time these family combos have been in batting practice situations together.

The 2019 baseball season portends to produce another bumper crop of players with major-league bloodlines, who will be making their own major-league debut. There are some very familiar names among the potential first-year players: Bichette, Guerrero, Mazzilli, Biggio, and Yastrzemski. Additionally, there are other players who are likely part of the next generation of MLB players with family ties.

The most notable of the potential rookies is Vlad Guerrero Jr., Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2018. He is the son of Vladimir Guererro who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame last year. Vlad Jr. played in his third pro season at age 19 in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. He split the season at the Double-A and Triple-A levels where he posted a combined slash line of .381/.437/.636. The third baseman hit 20 HR and 78 RBI in a total of 95 games. He is expected to make the big-league roster coming out of spring training next year.

Two of Guerrero’s minor-league teammates in 2018 were also sons of major leaguers: infielder Bo Bichette, son of four-time all-star Dante Bichette, and infielder Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. They had banner offensive seasons in 2018 as well. They won’t likely make the big-league club right away in 2019, but don’t be surprised if they get call-ups during the season, as the Blue Jays start settling their roster for the next few years.

Mike Yastrzemski, who plays in the Orioles organization, is the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski. The former 14th-round pick played his third season at the Triple-A level last year. The O’s have started a complete makeover of their roster, and Yastrzemski could likely find himself as one of their new candidates for an outfield spot. His father Mike formerly played at the Triple-A level in the White Sox organization, falling short of a major-league appearance.

L.J. Mazzilli is the son of former big-league player and manager Lee Mazzilli. Like his father, he started out in the Mets organization, but was traded to the New York Yankees early last spring and played for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He could eventually claim a big-league spot due to his versatility as an infielder and outfielder.

Besides Guerrero, one of the most talked about minor leaguers in 2018 was Fernando Tatis, Jr. He figures to be one of the new stars for a San Diego Padres franchise starving for a new face of the team. Tatis is the son of Fernando Tatis, who played in the big leagues for five teams during 1997 and 2010. The 19-year-old shortstop hit 16 HR and 43 RBI in 88 games for San Antonio, before missing most of the second half of the season due to injury. He plays at an advanced level for his age, and the Padres will likely take advantage of that situation next year.

Kevin Cron, corner infielder in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, put up big number in 2018 at the Triple-A level that included a .309/.368/.654 slash line, 22 HR, and 97 RBI. He is the brother of current major-leaguer C. J. Cron and the son of former big-leaguer Chris Cron. As the D’backs ponder the potential trade of its all-star first-baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Cron would be at the top of the list as his likely replacement.

Left-handed pitcher Brandon Leibrandt had an impressive season with the Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A club, posting a 1.42 ERA and .868 WHIP in 20 appearances. His father, Charlie Leibrandt, was a major-league pitcher for 14 seasons, amassing 140 career wins and a 3.71 ERA and making World Series appearances with the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves.

Cal Quantrill was a first-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2016 and has progressed rapidly in their system. He made a total of 28 starts in 2018 split between Double-A and Triple-A levels, compiling a 9-6 record and 4.80 ERA. His father is Paul Quantrill, a major-league relief pitcher for 14 seasons who led the National League in appearances for four consecutive seasons.

Austin Nola is the brother of Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola. Formerly an infielder who converted to the catcher position in 2017, he hit .279 last year for the Miami Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate New Orleans. If the Marlins’ major-league catcher J. T. Realmuto winds up getting traded during the off-season, Nola could find himself in a backup role with the Marlins in 2019.

Kean Wong is an infielder/outfielder in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. A fourth-round pick out of high school in 2013, he is the brother of St. Louis Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong. At Triple-A Durham last year, Kean posted a slash line of .282/.345/.406, 9 HR, and 50 RBI. He could see a promotion as a utility player in 2019.

2018 Family Ties Update

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Ever since I wrote Family Ties in 2012, I have been maintaining a database of information about current and past players and non-players. Non-players include managers, coaches, scouts, executives, owners, broadcasters, umpires and other roles.

I completed my compilation of major-league and minor-league players and non-players active in 2018 who have relatives in pro baseball, and I have posted several sorts of the information (in various PDF files) on this website under the page labeled 2018 Family Ties Season.

This year had 684 active major and minor league players, representing 976 family relationships (fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, grandfathers, grandsons, cousins, etc.)

There were 872 non-players active in 2018, representing 1,565 family relationships.

23 players that made their major-league debut in 2018 had relatives in pro baseball.

54 players that were drafted in 2018 had relatives.

341 active players and non-players had an additional 439 relationships in other sports (football, basketball, volleyball, softball, etc.) or other levels (amateur, college, professional, foreign leagues, Olympics, etc.)

Click here to retrieve the 2018 Family Ties lists.

Trio of Franco Brothers Playing for Rare Place in History

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

Picture this: on the baseball highlights show one evening, the sports anchor mentions that Wander Franco hit a game-winning home run for his team.  Well, which Wander Franco was it?

Initially that may sound like a foolish question, but it turns out to be a legitimate one, since there’s actually a trio of current professional baseball brothers with the same first and last name, Wander Franco. The Dominican Republic-born brothers are still in their early careers, but if they ever get to the big leagues at the same time, they would likely cause a fair amount of confusion for baseball followers who will be challenged to keep them differentiated.

The pick of the litter of the ball-playing Franco brothers is the youngest, Wander Samuel, who at age 17 is already projected to be the next teen phenom in the majors. He was the Number 1 overall international pick of 2017 by the Tampa Bay Rays and proved in his debut season in 2018 that the Rays were correct in their assessment of his potential.  The switch-hitting shortstop recorded a slash line of .351/.418/.587 at the rookie-league level, while posting 11 HR and 57 RBI in 61 games.  He was named Player of the Year in the Appalachian League.  The Rays’ investment of $3.85 million to sign Franco looks like it may turn out to be a sound one.

22-year-old Wander Alexander played in the San Francisco Giants organization last season at the Single-A level. He is also a switch-hitter that plays both corner infield positions.  His numbers weren’t too shabby either, as his slash line consisted of .314/.351/.519.  He was originally signed by the Houston Astros as a teenager and spent four seasons in the low minors before being dealt to the Giants.

Wander Javier is the “old man” of the bunch at 23 years old. The third baseman also currently plays in the Giants organization, after starting his career with the Kansas City Royals.  Playing at the Single-A level in 2018, he showed a tendency to strike out a lot, but also knocked in 65 runs while posting a .271 average.  He was named Offensive Player of the Year for his team.

Reportedly the brothers’ father (yes, his first name is also Wander) had a brief stint in the Chicago White Sox minor league system, although that isn’t substantiated in Baseball-Reference.com. In any case, he taught them the fundamentals of the game, and they were also influenced by uncles Erick and Willy Aybar, both of whom had major-league careers.

If the three Franco brothers wind up in the majors at the same time, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Altogether there have been only 20 sets of brothers in baseball history that were comprised of three or more major-leaguers. Perhaps the most famous trio of brothers were the DiMaggios (Joe, Vince, and Dominic), who played at the same time in the late 1940s.  Each of them attained all-star status during their respective careers.

There were the Boyer brothers (Cloyd, Ken, and Clete) in 1955, and the Cruz brothers (Jose, Tommy, and Hector) played in the 1970s. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Delahanty, Mansell, and O’Neill brothers were among the first families with three or more siblings to play in the majors at the same time.

More recently, the Molina brothers (Bengie, Jose, and Yadier) played simultaneously during the 2004-2010 timeframe. Among the three brothers, all of whom were catchers, they have played a total of 43 seasons, with Yadier still active.  Each of them has at least one World Series ring.

However, the rarest occurrence of three brothers playing at the same time happened when the Alou brothers (Felipe, Jesus, and Matty) actually appeared in the same game on September 10, 1963, for the San Francisco Giants. In that game, they made all three outs in the 8th inning, with Matty and Jesus making pinch-hitting appearances.  On September 15, the three Alous manned all three outfield positions late in the game.

But there have been countless sets of multiple brothers who didn’t make it.

So it’s still a bit early to predict whether all three Franco brothers will reach The Show, since they have yet to prove themselves beyond the low minors. Based on history though, the odds are against them; but don’t count them out just yet.

 

Mesa Brothers Sign Pro Contracts With the Marlins

Brothers Victor Mesa Jr. and Victor Victor Mesa (no, that’s not a misspelling) recently signed contracts with the Miami Marlins as international players from Cuba.  They are the sons of Cuban baseball legend Victor Mesa Sr.  22-year-old Victor Victor and 17-year-old Victor Jr. are both outfielders.

Their acquisition comes as the Marlins’ first major splash in signing new players since the new ownership took over in late 2017.

The Mesa brothers follow in the footsteps of another major signing of Cuban brothers in 2016, when Yulieski Gurriel signed with the Houston Astros and his Lourdes Gurriel Jr. inked with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Their father was also a legendary player and manager from Cuba.

For more information about the signing of the Mesa brothers, follow the links below from the Miami Herald:

https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mlb/miami-marlins/article220373645.html

https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/mlb/miami-marlins/article219400930.html

David Bell Joins Ranks of Father-Son Managerial Combos

David Bell was recently named manager of the Cincinnati Reds, taking over for Jim Riggleman who was named interim manager during the 2018 season.

It’s Bell’s first job as a big-league manager.  He had previously been in the front office of the San Francisco Giants, while also having served as a minor-league manager in the Reds system.

Bell is part of one of the rare three-generation players in major-league history.  His grandfather, Gus, played with the Reds from 1953 to 1961, while his father, Buddy, played with them from 1985-1988.

With David’s appointment with the Reds, he and his father now become one of only a handful of father-son combos to both manage in the big leagues.  Buddy had three stints as a major-league manager during 1996 and 2007, including Detroit, Colorado, and Kansas City.

Other father-sons to manage at the major-league level include: Bob and Aaron Boone, Connie and Earle Mack, George and Dick Sisler, and Bob and Joel Skinner.

For more information about David Bell, follow the links below:

http://kdhnews.com/sports/baseball/family-affair-rebuilding-reds-pick-david-bell-to-lead-them/article_3b53c7e1-ad72-5904-86c5-83d0bd98b51f.html

https://www.tampabay.com/ap/sports/family-affair-rebuilding-reds-pick-david-bell-to-lead-them-ap_sports87ea2c54c635406a85f08fe7d98d245d