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.