Next-Gen MLB Family Ties

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

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.

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Family Ties Flourishing in Baseball – St. Louis Cardinals

Contributed by Richard Cuicchi

This is the fifth 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.

Cardinals history is filled with examples of players and non-players that had relatives in baseball. Some of the more noteworthy ones include:

Ken Boyer had an MVP season with the Cardinals in 1964, when they won the National League pennant and defeated the New York Yankees in seven games in the World Series.  Altogether he played seven seasons with the Cardinals, which included seven all-star selections.  He later managed the Cardinals for one full season and portions of two others during 1978 to 1980.  Ken had six brothers who played professional baseball, including Clete and Cloyd who reached the major leagues.  Clete played for the Yankees and opposed his brother in the 1964 World Series, in which they both homered in Game 7.  Cloyd pitched in five major league seasons during 1949 to 1955.  He later coached and scouted for several major league teams.  Ken’s son, David, played five minor league seasons in the Cardinals organization.

Jose Cruz was one of three brothers who played for the Cardinals in the 1970s.  Jose was the best of the three outfielders, putting in 19 major league seasons and recording a .284 career batting average and 1,077 career RBI.  He spent 13 of his seasons with the Houston Astros, where he had two all-star selections.  Jose’s brother, Hector, spent four seasons with the Cardinals as part of a 9-year career, mostly as a reserve outfielder.  Jose’s brother, Cirilo (Tommy), appeared in only three Cardinals games in 1973, and practically all of his pro career was spent in the minors and in Japan.  Hector and Jose once hit home runs while on opposing teams on May 4, 1981.  Jose’s son, Jose Jr., played twelve major league seasons, mostly with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Jose Jr. was runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year in 1997.  Jose had another son, J. E., who played five seasons in the minors.

Chick Hafey played for the Cardinals from 1924 to 1931, contributing to four National League pennant-winning teams.  They won the World Series in 1926 and 1931.  Over his 13-year major-league career, he compiled a .317 batting average and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971 by the Veterans Committee.  Chick’s brother, Albert (also nicknamed Chick), pitched for one minor league season in 1913.  Chick had two cousins, Bud and Tom, who played briefly in the majors, and a third cousin, Will, who played in the minors in the 1940s and 1950s.

Lindy McDaniel was one of the top relief pitchers of his era after beginning his career with the Cardinals as a starter in 1955.  Overall, he spent 21 years in the big leagues, including eight with the Cardinals, in which he won 141 games and saved another 174.  Lindy’s brother, Von, only weeks out of high school, joined Lindy at the major-league level with the Cardinals in 1957 and was outstanding pitching prospect.  However, Von he developed a sore arm the next year from which he never recovered.  Von spent the remainder of his nine-year minor-league career as a third baseman and outfielder, but never returned to the majors.  Lindy and Von had a third brother, Butch, who signed with the Cardinals out of high school, but only managed to play three seasons in the minors.

Red Schoendienst has had one of the longest tenures of any Cardinal in history, first as a player, then as a coach and manager.  At age 94, he is still retained by the Cardinals as a special assistant to the Cardinals’ front office.  He played for 19 years in the majors, including 15 with the Cardinals.  He was a 10-time all-star, compiling a .289 career batting average.  He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 by the Veterans Committee.  Schoendienst managed the Cardinals for twelve consecutive seasons, earning a World Series ring in 1967 and other NL pennant in 1968.  He served as an interim manager of the Cardinals in 1980 and 1990, while he was coach for the team.  Red’s son, Kevin, played in the minors for the Cubs organization in 1980 and 1981.  Red had four brothers who played in the minors during the 1940s.

Harry Walker began his 11-year major-league career with the Cardinals in 1940 and had an all-star year before going into military service in 1944 and 1945.  He was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1947, when he recorded another all-star year leading the National League in batting average (.363) and on-base percentage (.436).  During his last season as a player with the Cardinals in 1955, he replaced Eddie Stanky as manager for the final 118 games.  He later managed the Pittsburgh Pirates for three seasons and the Houston Astros for five seasons.  Harry was the son of Dixie Walker, who pitched for the Washington Senators during 1909 to 1912.  Harry’s brother, also named Dixie, had an 18-year career as an outfielder for five teams, including the Brooklyn Dodgers where he was an all-star in four seasons.  Harry and Dixie are the only brothers to both win major league batting titles.  Harry’s uncle, Ernie Walker, played in the outfield with the St. Louis Browns from 1913 to 1915.

Dizzy Dean was one of the most colorful figures in the history of the game.  He made his mark with the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the Gas House Gang from 1932 to 1937, when he won 134 games.  1934 was his best season, winning 30 games and leading the league in strikeouts on his way to an MVP Award.  The Cardinals, led by Dean’s two victories, captured the World Series title that year.  Dean’s career was impacted by hurting his arm in 1937, as a result of altering his pitching mechanics following a broken toe injury.  Despite his shortened career, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953.  After his playing career, he became a popular radio and TV broadcaster.  Dean’s brother, Paul, also pitched for the Cardinals, winning 19 games in each of the 1934 and 1935 seasons.  For those years, they formed one of the best brother-teammates combos in the history of the game.  In a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 21, 1934, Dizzy pitched a no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader, while Paul hurled a one-hitter in the second game.

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

Matt Carpenter completed his sixth season with the Cardinals in 2016, which included his third all-star selection.  2013 has been his best season to date, as he compiled a .319 batting average and led the National League in hits and runs.  Matt’s brother, Tyler, was a catcher in the Mets farm system during 2011 and 212.

Greg Garcia, a Cardinals infielder, had the best season of his three-year career on 2016.  He had been a 10th-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2010 MLB Draft.  His brother, Drew, spent eight minor-league seasons in the Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies organizations.  Greg’s grandfather, Dave, was a major-league manager from 1977 to 1982 in the California Angels and Cleveland Indians organizations.  Dave played third base in the minors from 1939 to 1957, followed by stints as a minor-league manager and a major-league coach.

Matt Holliday had been a mainstay in the lineup for the Cardinals for seven seasons, although his 2015 and 2016 seasons were marred by injuries.  During his time with the Cards, he compiled a .293 average, 156 HR and 616 RBI, and appeared in two World Series.  With Colorado in 2007, he led the National league in batting average, hits, doubles, and RBI.  Matt is the son of Tom Holliday, who played one season with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 1975.  Tom later became head coach and pitching coach at several high-profile colleges.  Matt’s brother, Josh, played two seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system before following his father in the coaching ranks.  He is now the head coach at Oklahoma State, where his father previously held the same job.  Matt’s uncle, Dave Holliday, is currently a scout in the Atlanta Braves organization.  Matt was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees over the winter.

Jose Martinez made his major league debut with the Cardinals in 2016.  The outfielder/first baseman began his professional career in 2006 at age 17 in the Venezuelan Summer League.  His father is Carlos Martinez, a native Venezuelan who played outfielder/third baseman in the majors during 1988 – 1995.  Jose’s brother, Teodoro, was an outfielder for seven minor-leagues seasons during 2009 to 2015.

Yadier Molina is likely on his way to a Hall of Fame election, having been one of the top catchers of his era.  The 33-year-old began his major league career with the Cardinals in 2004.  Thirteen years later, he has compiled a .284 average, collecting over 1,500 hits and 700 RBI.  Yadier has won eight Gold Glove Awards.  In 89 post-season games, including four World Series, he has hit .289.  Yadier is one of three brothers to have played catcher in the major leagues.  Bengie won a World Series with the Anaheim Angles in 2002.  Jose won World Series titles with the Angels in 2002 and the Yankees in 2009.

Steven Piscotty, a product of the highly-rated Cardinals farm system, played his first full major-league season in 2016.  In 153 games he posted 22 HR, 85 RBI and a .273 average.  Steven had been a first-round draft pick out of Stanford University by the Cardinals in 2012.  His brother, Nick, was selected in the 32nd round by the Kansas City Royals in the 2011 MLB Draft, but did not sign.

Michael Wacha, only one season out of college, gained national attention with the Cardinals in the 2013 post-season, as he won four of five starts.  However, a shoulder injury incurred in 2014 has affected his number of innings in the last four seasons.  His career won-loss record is 33-21 with a 3.74 ERA.  Michael’s uncle, Dusty Rogers, was a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in the January 1984 and went on to pitch five seasons in the minors.

Kolten Wong completed his fourth season with the Cardinals in 2016, when his playing time decreased at second base and he began playing some games in the outfield.  His job security as the regular starter at second is likely in jeopardy for 2017.  Kolten’s brother, Kean, is currently a second baseman in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

The Cardinals pipeline of baseball relatives includes several top minor league prospects whose relatives played professionally: Tyler Bray, a relief pitcher in his third season in the Cardinals farm system, has a brother, Colin, who is an outfielder in the Diamondbacks organization; Anthony Garcia, who split time between the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year, is the son of former major leaguer Leo Garcia, who is currently a minor-league coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers system; Corey Littrell, a third-generation professional who spent the 2016 season with Triple-A Memphis, is the grandson of former major leaguer Jack Littrell, while his father pitched in the minors from 1977 to 1980; C. J. McElroy, the 3rd-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2011 MLB draft, is the son of former major-league pitcher Chuck McElroy, the nephew of former major-league first baseman Cecil Cooper, and brother of Satchel McElroy, an outfielder in the Cincinnati Reds organization; Casey Turgeon, the 22nd-round pick out of the University of Florida in 2014 who advanced to Double-A last year, is the nephew of Dave Turgeon, a minor league coordinator in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

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

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

Bill DeWitt, Jr. is owner and chairman of the Cardinals.  He had previously been a part owner/investor with the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, and Texas Rangers.  Bill’s son, Bill DeWitt III, is currently president of the Cardinals.  Bill Jr.’s father, Bill DeWitt, Sr., was a part-owner and general manager of the St. Louis Browns when they won their only American League pennant in 1944.  He later owned the Cincinnati Reds and served in the front offices of the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers.  Bill Jr. was a batboy for the Browns when his father was affiliated with the team.

Marty Keough is a long-time scout in the Cardinals organization.  He had an eleven-year career as a major league outfielder with six teams without ever having a full-time job.  His brother, Joe, was also a reserve outfielder and first baseman for six major-league seasons, primarily with the Kansas City Royals.  Another brother, Thomas, had a “cup of coffee” in the Boston Red Sox organization in 1954.  Marty’s son, Matt, was a big league pitcher from 1977 to 1987, winning 16 games with the Oakland A’s in 1980.  After his playing career, he served in scouting and executive roles for several clubs.  Marty is the grandfather of Shane Keough, who played four minor league seasons in the A’s organization, and Colton Keough, who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2010, but did not sign.

Mike Matheny completed his fifth year as manager of the Cardinals in 2016.  He has three first-place and two second-place finishes during his tenure, including a National League pennant in 2013.  Matheny was a major-league catcher from 1994 to 2006, including five seasons with the Cardinals.  His son, Tate, an outfielder in the Boston Red Sox farm system, was drafted by the Red Sox in the 4th round in 2015. Mike has two other sons currently in the college ranks:  Luke plays for Oklahoma State University, while Jake plays at Indiana University.

Aaron Looper is currently a scout in the Red Sox organization.  During his 10-season pro career, he appeared in the majors in only one season in 2003 for the Seattle Mariners.  His cousin, Braden Looper, was a relief pitcher in the majors for twelve seasons and currently works in the Cardinals front office.  Aaron’s father, Benny, has been a scout and player development executive in the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies organizations.  Aaron’s brother, Jason was selected in the 31st round of the 2000 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners, but did not sign.

Derrick May is a minor league hitting instructor in the Cardinals organization.  His father, Dave, was a major-league outfielder from 1967 to 1978, compiling his best season with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1973 with 25 HR, 93 RBI and a .303 batting average.  His brother, Dave Jr., is currently a scout in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.  Derrick’s son, also named Derrick, was the 37th-round pick of the Cardinals in 2013, but did not sign.

Jose Oquendo is currently the third-base coach for the Cardinals.  His son, Eduardo, was the 32nd-round pick of the Cardinals in 2012, but did not sign.

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/

 

Kolten Wong Attributes Success to Father’s Coaching

Kolten Wong, currently with the Memphis Redbirds of the Cardinals organization, credits his father with paving the path for baseball. Kaha Wong, an undrafted player who had two minor leagues, coached his son while growing up and is optimistic Kolten will reach the Major Leagues.

Kolten’s younger brother, Kean, was a 4th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2013 MLB draft.

See attached article in downtown.wcmtv.com
http://downtown.wmctv.com/news/news/153072-kolten-wongs-path-mlb-paved-his-father-coach