Baseball’s bloodlines are booming

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

I’ve used this blog in the past to publicize the prevalence of major-league players with family ties in the sport.  Within the last two weeks that situation has never been more evident, and it has included some of baseball’s biggest names.

The promotion to the big leagues of a young player who has relatives in the game brings up the age-old debate of whether the player has benefitted from having good genes or being the product of a baseball environment in which they grew up.  In my book Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, I quoted Phil Pote, a scout for the Seattle Mariners, who probably summed up the situation the best, “I think genes give the potential and the environment sets how close to the potential you might reach.  A kid could be in Afghanistan and have great genes; I mean great quickness, the hand-eye coordination, balance, and agility, whatever.  But if he doesn’t have the environment no one would ever know, including him.”

Several of the players from strong baseball backgrounds involving multiple family relationships recently received big-league promotions.

Mike Yastrzemski made his major-league debut on May 25 for the San Francisco Giants.  The outfielder is the third generation of his family in the sport.  His grandfather, Carl, is one of the most recognizable names in Boston Red Sox history and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame after 23 major-league seasons.  Mike’s father, also named Mike, played five seasons in the minors, reaching the Triple-A level in the Chicago White Sox organization.

Cavan Biggio made his debut on May 24 for the Toronto Blue Jays.  He made history when he and Blue Jays teammate Vlad Guerrero Jr. became the first pair of major-league teammates to have fathers in the Hall of Fame.  The second baseman recorded his first big-league home run in his third major-league game.  Cavan’s father, Craig, was a seven-time all-star in his 20 seasons for Houston Astros.  He collected over 3,000 hits and 600 doubles during his career.   Cavan’s brother, Conor, was selected by the Houston Astros in the 34th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, but did not sign.

Arizona Diamondback first baseman Kevin Cron made his debut on May 24.  He had 21 home runs and 62 RBI in the minors this season before his call-up.  Kevin’s father, Chris, played briefly in the majors in 1991 and 1992 for the California Angels and Chicago White Sox.  Chris is in his 20th season as a minor-league manager and was managing Kevin with the Reno Aces at the time of his call-up.  Kevin’s brother, C. J., is currently a major-leaguer with the Minnesota Twins.  Kevin is in his sixth big-league season after being a first-round draft selection of the Los Angeles Angels.

In only his third pro season, pitcher Zach Plesac made his major-league debut with the Cleveland Indians on May 28.  Zach is the nephew of former major-league pitcher Dan Plesac, who played 18 seasons for six different clubs.  Zach’s father, Joe, played six seasons in the San Diego Padres organization following his second-round draft selection in 1982.

Two other recent big-league promotions involved players with brothers in pro baseball.

On May 24, Canadian-born Josh Naylor made his debut with the San Diego Padres.  He was the first-round pick of the Florida Marlins in 2015.  He is the brother of Bo Naylor, who was the first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians last year.

Mitch Keller made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 27.  He struck out seven batters in four innings pitched, but took the loss against the Cincinnati Reds.  He is the brother of Jon Keller, who pitched for five seasons the Baltimore Orioles minor-league system.

Earlier this year, Vlad Guerrero Jr. had the most anticipated major-league debut since Bryce Harper.  Guerrero had been the Minor League Player of the Year in 2018 as a 19-year-old.  He got his promotion on April 26 with the Toronto Blue Jays and has since showed his potential with six home runs.  Guerrero Jr. is the son of recently elected Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr., the nephew of former major-leaguer Wilton Guerrero, and the cousin of 2018 major-leaguer Gabriel Guerrero.

Other players with family ties who made their MLB debuts earlier this season include:

Fernando Tatis Jr., shortstop with the San Diego Padres, is the son of 11-year veteran Fernando Tatis Sr., who hit 34 HRs and 107 RBIs in 1999.

Cal Quantrill, pitcher with the San Diego Padres, is the son of former major-league pitcher Paul Quantrill, a 14-year veteran who led the American League in appearances for four consecutive years

Josh Fuentes, infielder with the Colorado Rockies, made his debut in a game in which his cousin, all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado, also played.

Carter Kieboom, shortstop with the Washington Nationals, is the brother of major-league Spencer Kieboom, who also plays in the Nationals system.

Kyle Zimmer, pitcher with the Kansas City Royals, is the brother of major-leaguer Bradley Zimmer, who made his MLB debut in 2017.

Nate Lowe, first baseman with the Tampa Bay Rays, is the brother of minor-leaguer Josh Lowe, who also plays in the Rays organization and projects to be a future major-leaguer.

The Toronto Blue Jays have a potentially interesting situation developing in their organization.  Already with three players with family ties on their big-league roster (Guerrero Jr., Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.), the Blue Jays also have Bo Bichette at the Triple-A level in their minor league system.  Bichette is the son of Dante Bichette, former four-time all-star and 1995 National League MVP runner-up.  When the younger Bichette is called up, the foursome will form a complete Blue Jays infield of players with baseball bloodlines.

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Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball: Cleveland Indians

Compiled by Richard Cuicchi

This is the eighth in a series of reviews that will take a look at family relationships in each of the thirty major-league organizations.

Baseball has more family relationships than any other professional sport. They existed in the earliest days of the sport in the 1870s, and they are abundant in today’s game, perhaps more so than ever before.  Baseball has been called a “generational” sport for several reasons.  One of them is that multiple generations of families have been active in the game–grandfathers, fathers, sons, and brothers.  And now even some great-grandsons are starting to show up on rosters.  Uncles, nephews, cousins and in-laws are part of the extended family of baseball relatives, too.

Baseball bloodlines aren’t limited to just the players. Family trees with a baseball background have commonly included managers, coaches, scouts, owners, executives, front office personnel, umpires, and broadcasters, as well.

The Cleveland Indians were filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:

Buddy Bell was a five-time all-star and six-time Gold Glove Award winner as a third baseman during his 18 major-league seasons, including seven with the Indians.  Buddy also managed three major league teams and is currently an executive with the Chicago White Sox.  Bell is part of one of only a handful of three-generation players in the history of major-league baseball.  His son, David, is the current bench coach of the Cardinals.  During David’s major-league playing career that spanned from 1995 to 2006 with six different major-league clubs, he was a career .257 hitter. Buddy’s father, Gus, was a four-time all-star during his nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.  Overall, Gus played 15 seasons, ending in 1964.  Buddy’s son, Mike, played briefly with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 and now currently works in the front office of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Ray Boone was a major league infielder from 1948 to 1960, including all-star seasons in 1954 and 1956.  The infielder played for the Indians from 1948 to 1953.  His family is also a three-generation major-league baseball family.  His son, Bob, is a senior advisor to the Washington Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo.  Bob was a major-league catcher for nineteen years (1972-1990), including four all-star and seven Gold Glove Award seasons.  Bob also managed in the majors for six seasons, splitting his time between the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds.  Two of Ray’s grandsons, Bret and Aaron, had lengthy major league careers as infielders, both of whom had all-star seasons, while another son, Matt, played seven seasons in the minors.

Larry Doby Sr. was the first African-American player in the American League, making his major-league debut for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947, barely three months after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the major leagues.  The outfielder went on to have a Hall of Fame career that included seven all-star selections and the runner-up spot in the 1954 American League MVP voting.  His son, Larry Jr., played three minor-league seasons in Class A.

Oscar Grimes played nine years in the majors, including his first five with the Cleveland Indians.  The infielder was a career .256 hitter between 1938 and 1946.  His father, Ray, was a career .329 hitter during his six major-league seasons from 1920 to 1926.  His uncle, Roy, played only 26 games in his only major-league season with the New York Giants in 1920.  Ray and Roy were one of only eight sets of twins to ever play in the major leagues.

Jim Hegan played fourteen of his seventeen major-league seasons with the Cleveland Indians, earning five all-star selections.  The catcher played in the World Series with the Indians in 1948 and 1954.  He later became a coach for the New York Yankees.  His son, Mike, signed after one year in college at Holy Cross with the Yankees and made his major-league debut with them in 1964, while his father was still coaching.  Mike went on to play twelve major-league seasons, including an all-star selection with the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, their only year of existence.  Mike later became a broadcaster for the Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians.

Orestes “Minnie” Minoso began his major-league career with the Cleveland Indians in 1949.  However, it was with the Chicago White Sox that he made most of his impact.  The speedy outfielder was runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 1951 and was selected an American League all-star in seven seasons.  He returned to the Indians in 1958 and 1959.  In four different seasons, he finished fourth in the voting for league’s MVP.  Altogether, he posted a .298 career batting average, collecting over 1,950 hits.  His son, Orestes Jr., played in five minor-league seasons with the Kansas City Royals and White Sox organizations.  His grandson, Sam Macias, played in the rookie league for the White Sox farm system in 2013 and 2014.

Ray Narleski pitched for five seasons with the Cleveland Indians, both as a starter and reliever, during 1954 to 1958.  He posted a career record of 43-33, with 28 saves and a 3.60 ERA.  He is part of a three-generation baseball family.  His father, William E. “Bill”, played two seasons for the Boston Red Sox in 1929 and 1930, while his son, Steve, pitched in the Indians’ farm system from 1976 to 1983.  Ray’s two brothers, Bill Jr. and Theodore, and his uncle, William L., had minor-league careers.

Russ Nixon was a catcher for twelve major-league seasons, including four with the Cleveland Indians during 1957 and 1960.  He managed the Cincinnati Reds from 1982 to 1983 and the Atlanta Braves from 1988 to 1990.  His twin brother, Roy, was a first baseman in the Indians farm system from 1953 to 1957.

Fast-forwarding to more recent times, below are some highlights of baseball relatives in the Indians organization during 2016.

Michael Brantley was in his eighth year with the Indians last year, when his season was cut short by injury.  The outfielder’s best year was in 2014 when he finished 3rd in the voting for MVP.  He is the son of Mickey Brantley, an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners from 1986 to 1989.

Yan Gomes was in his fourth season with the Indians, when he also was injured after 74 games.  He was the Silver Slugger Award winner as a catcher in 2014.  His brother, Juan, played briefly in the Indians and Miami Marlins organizations last year.  Yan is the brother-in-law of Atlee Hammaker, a former major-league pitcher for twelve seasons, including an all-star year in 1983 when led the National League with a 2.25 ERA.

Jeff Manship was in his second season with the Indians last year as a middle relief pitcher.  He made his major-league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2009 after being drafted out of Notre Dame in 2006.  Jeff’s brother, Matt, played one minor-league season in the Oakland A’s organization in 2006.

Zach McAllister was in his second season as a converted relief pitcher last year, posting a 3.44 ERA.  He began his major-league career with the Indians in 2011, after being a 3rd-round selection of the New York Yankees in 2006.  Zach’s father, Steve, was a scout in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization last year, after having previously served in the same capacity for the Milwaukee Brewers, California Angels, and Boston Red Sox.

The Indians’ pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives played professionally, several of them with famous last names in baseball.

Conner Capel was the 5th-round draft choice of the Indians in 2016.  He made his professional debut in the Arizona Rookie League.  He is the son of Mike Capel, who pitched parts of three major-league seasons during 1988 to 1991.

Joe Sever completed his fifth season as a first baseman in the Indians organization last year, after being drafted in the 21st round in 2012.  With Double-A Akron last, he hit .251 with 4 HR and 35 RBI.  He is the nephew of John Elway, NFL Hall of Fame player, an outfielder in the New York Yankees organization in 1982.

Luke Wakamatsu was drafted out of high school in the 20th round of the 2015 MLB Draft and finished his second pro season at the Class A level last year.  The infielder is the son of Don Wakamatsu, who played part of one major-league season with the Indians in 1991 and was manager of the Seattle Mariners in 2009-2010.

Bradley Zimmer was a first-round draft pick of the Indians in 2014 and has progressed through the Indians farm system, including 37 games with Triple-A Columbus last season.  The outfielder is the brother of Kyle Zimmer, a first-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2012, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery in October 2014.

 

The 2016 Indians had their share of baseball relatives in the dugout and front office, too.

Sandy Alomar Jr. was the first-base coach for the Indians last year.  He was Rookie of the Year for the Indians in 1990 and was selected to six all-star teams with them.  He was a career .273 hitter in twenty major-league seasons.  His brother, Roberto, was a Hall of Fame second baseman during 1988 to 2004.  Their father, Sandy Sr., was a major-league infielder from 1964 to 1978 for six different clubs.  He had an all-star season with the California Angels in 1970.

Terry Francona, the manager of the Indians, led the team to their first World Series since 1995.  He previously won two Series titles as manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.  Francona also had a ten-year playing career as a first baseman and outfielder.  His father, Tito, was a major-leaguer player from 1956 to 1970, including six seasons with the Indians.  He was an all-star selection in 1961 with the Indians.

Tom Hamilton is a broadcaster for the Indians.  His son, Nick, was a minor-league infielder in the Indians organization from 2012 to 2014.

Steve McCatty was a pitching coach in the Indians minor-league system last year, after serving as the pitching coach for the Washington Nationals from 2009 to 2015.  He had formerly pitched for the Oakland A’s from 1977 to 1985.  His son, Shane, was a pitcher in the Nationals organization from 2009 to 2012.

Brad Mills was the bench coach for the Indians last year, having also served in that capacity with Francona at Boston.  He managed the Houston Astros from 2010 to 2012 and was an infielder for the Montreal Expos from 1980 to 1983.  His son, Beau, was the first-round pick of the Indians in 2007 and played six minor-league seasons with the organization as a first baseman.

Mike Seghi worked in the Indians front office as director of team travel last year.  He is the son of Phil Seghi, the former general manager of the Indians from 1973 to 1985.

Robby Thompson served as a special assistant for the Indians last season.  He played second base for the San Francisco Giants from 1986 to 1996, which included two all-star seasons.  He was a coach for the Giants, Indians and Seattle Mariners.  He had twin sons who also played baseball.  Tyler was drafted out of the University of Florida, his father’s alma mater, by the Washington Nationals in the 46th round in 2011.  Logan was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2010 and played one minor-league season with them.

 

Baseball’s Relatives Website

The entire list of 2016 active major and minor league players and non-players can be retrieved at:

https://baseballrelatives.wordpress.com/2016-family-ties/

 

Bradley Zimmer Has Much In Common With His Brother

Bradley Zimmer played college baseball at the University of San Francisco. So did his brother Kyle. Bradley was a first-round selection of the Cleveland Indians this year. Kyle was a first-rounder in the 2012 MLB Draft, picked fifth overall by the Kansas City Royals. Both are very athletic.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, Bradley and Kyle may face each other in a big league game. Kyle is a pitcher, while Bradley is an outfielder.

See related story about the Zimmer brothers at the link below from sfgate.com:
http://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Like-brother-Kyle-USF-s-Bradley-Zimmer-a-top-5526393.php