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.

 

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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

 

Gurriel Brothers Make History With Home Run Splurge

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. made his major-league debut in April with the Toronto Blue Jays, while his brother Yulieski is in his third major-league season with the Houston Astros.

As of September 22, they have similar slash lines, Yulieski’s .287/.321./.425 to Lourdes’ .287/.315/.455.  However, Yulieski has been a regular with the Astros the entire season, while Lourdes Jr. has appeared in 63 games so far this season.

They made history on September 21 when they both hit two home runs on the same day, the first time for MLB brothers to have multi-home outings on the same day.

The Cuban-born brothers will oppose each other for the first time on September 24, when the Astros and Blue Jays face off.  They are separated in age by almost nine years.

For more information about the Gurriel brothers, follow the links below from cbc.ca and the Toronto Sun:

https://www.cbc.ca/sports/baseball/mlb/mlb-toronto-blue-jays-houston-astros-gurriel-brothers-1.4835341

Blue Jays Gurriel living up to the family reputation

 

 

Brothers Alex and Joey Cora On Opposite Sides of the Diamond

Alex Cora can enjoy his first season as manager of the Boston Red Sox, now that he has a comfortable lead over the New York Yankees, heading into the final weeks of the season.

His older brother Joey, in his second season as a coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, admires his brother’s accomplishments and fully understand the pressures of managing for a high-profile team like the Red Sox.

Both of the brothers had major-league playing careers.  Alex played 14 seasons, primarily with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox, with whom he got a World Series ring in 2007.  Joey played  11 seasons in the big-leagues, including one all-star season with Seattle in 1997.

The brothers didn’t face each other this season, but look forward to future competitions.

To read more information about the Cora brothers, follow the link below from masslive.com:

https://www.masslive.com/redsox/index.ssf/2018/09/alex_cora_boston_red_sox_joey_cora_manager_of_year_world_series.html

Vlad Guerrero Jr. is Minor League Player of the Year

His father was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year.  Now Vlad Guerrero Jr. is making a name for himself, as he was named the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year.

Despite missing five weeks of the season due to a knee injury, Guerrero excelled at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.  He had an incredible slash line of .381/.471/.636 at all levels.

There’s a good chance the 19-year-old hitting star will be playing with the Toronto Blue Jays next spring.

For more information about Guerrero Jr.’s season, follow the link below from USA Today:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2018/09/05/vladimir-guerrero-jr-blue-jays-minor-league-player-year/1197952002/

Brandon Bonilla Following Dad’s Footsteps, But as a Pitcher

Brandon Bonilla is pursuing a professional baseball career like his all-star infielder/outfielder dad, Bobby Bonilla, but his aspirations are to be a major-league pitcher.

Bobby Bonilla played sixteen years in the majors and was selected to six all-star teams.  He was a member of the 1997 Florida Marlins that defeated the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.  His career totals included 287 home runs, 1173 RBI, and a .279 batting average.

Brandon is currently in his second year of pro ball in the Baltimore Orioles organization, after being drafted in the 13th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.  Last season he posted a 1.93 ERA in 13 games.  He is currently playing with Aberdeen.

For more information about Brandon Bonilla’s career, follow the link below from the Cecil Daily:

https://www.cecildaily.com/sports/pros/ironbirds-brandon-bonilla-carving-own-path-to-major-leagues/article_c61e26fc-25a1-50fa-9acd-d95d1b8f1fb3.html