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.

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L. J. Mazzilli Acquired by Yankees

If L. J. Mazzilli’s last name sounds familiar, yes, he is the son of former major-leaguer Lee Mazzilli.

L. J. was recently acquired by the New York Yankees organization from the New York Mets.  Interestingly, his father also played for both organizations, too.

L. J. is in his sixth professional season after having been selected out of the University of Connecticut by the Mets in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB Draft.   Most recently, the infielder had played for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Mets organization.  His career slash line is .268/.338/.378.

The elder Mazzilli played 14 seasons in the majors, primarily with the Mets, but including a partial season with the Yankees in 1982.  He also managed the Baltimore Orioles in 2004-2005.

For more information about L. J. Mazzilli, follow the link below from the Hartford Courant:

http://www.courant.com/sports/baseball/hc-sp-mazzilli-yankees-20180410-story.html

 

L. J. Mazzilli Looks to Father for Help with Second Chance

L. J. Mazzilli is a top prospect in the New York Mets organization, but his career took a setback last season when he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for drug abuse.

L. J. is the son of Lee Mazzilli, a fourteen-year major league player and player and manager of the Baltimore Orioles for two seasons.

After his suspension, L. J. turned to his father for advice and support in pursuing his goal to make the majors.  Lee likes his son’s work ethnic and believes it will pay off into eventual major league promotion.

Read more about L. J. Mazzilli at the link below from the New York Post:

http://nypost.com/2016/02/16/mets-prospects-redemption-starts-with-some-fatherly-advice/

 

Young Mazzilli Wears Same Mets Number As His Father

L. J. Mazzilli is in the New York Mets minor league camp for spring training, and he was assigned uniform number 13, one of his father’s old numbers with the Mets. L. J. is still a work-in-progress as a second baseman, but his lively bat may his ticket to the big leagues. Father Lee Mazzilli played ten seasons with the Mets in two different stints.

See related story about L. J. at the New York Times link below:

Fathers Enjoying Their Son’s Success

Former New York Mets player, Lee Mazzilli, was labelled a “phenom” at age 18, being drafted directly out of a Brooklyn high school as a first-round pick in 1973. Three years later, he made his Major League debut with the Mets and made the National League All-Star team within four seasons. Fast forward forty years and Lee’s son, L. J., joined the professional ranks this season as the fourth-round pick of his father’s former team. The Mazzillis are just one example of many incidences of former Major League fathers seeing their sons follow in their footsteps, start to enjoy some success, and pursue making their own name in the sport.

The younger Mazzilli played his first professional season in his father’s home town of Brooklyn for the Mets’ Class-A affiliate. He is playing in ballparks where his father previously coached and managed at the minor league level before becoming manager of the Baltimore Orioles for two seasons. As his career progresses, L. J. will have the advantage of advice from a father who knows what it’s like to play in New York City, as well as having hung around the stadium environment while growing up.

Eric Young Jr. was headed to Villanova on a football scholarship when, after some heart-to-heart discussions with his father, he decided he would make baseball his career profession. Eric Sr. was an experienced advisor, since he was a 15-year veteran of the Major Leagues. Eric Jr. reached the big leagues himself in 2009 with the Colorado Rockies, but got a change in scenery this season, being picked up as a free agent by the New York Mets, where he broke into an everyday outfielder role.

Eric Jr. wound up leading the National League in stolen bases this season and is expected to be a part of the Mets’ rebuilding. His father, who also had a stint with the Rockies, was a similar type of player, excelling on the base paths, accumulating 465 stolen bases over his career. Now a baseball analyst for the Houston Astros’ broadcasts, Eric Sr. relishes the idea of being able to work in games in which his son plays.

After ten Major League seasons as journeyman middle reliever, 36-year-old Jason Grilli had a breakout year in 2013, as he was entrusted with the closer role for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He responded with a league-leading 29 saves and 1.99 ERA by the All-Star break, before suffering an injury that sidelined him for almost six weeks. Jason was a big component of the Pirates’ resurgence as a playoff team in 2013.

Jason’s father, Steve, had also been a Major League pitcher in the 1970’s, but appeared in only 70 games during his four-year career. Hence, he never achieved the success of his son, so he was indeed a proud papa when Jason pitched the final inning for the National League in the All-Star Game in New York this season.

Wanting to give his son Jacob every chance to succeed in professional ball, Lee May Jr. taught him to switch-hit while he was playing at the college level. It paid off, as Jacob was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the third-round of the June 2013 draft. Lee Jr. had also been a high draft pick in 1986, the 21st overall selection by the New York Mets, and he wound up playing in the minors from 1986-1993. Their bloodlines also include Jacob’s grandfather, Lee Sr., who was a three-time All-Star during his eighteen-year Major League career from 1965-1982. With Jacob’s switch-hitting plus his speed, he projects to be a player more like his father than his grandfather, a power hitter who slugged 354 career home runs in the big league.

Baseball runs deep in another May family. Derrick May Jr. is an outfielder drafted in 2012 by the St. Louis Cardinals, but he chose to attend college over signing. Both his father (Derrick Sr.) and grandfather (Dave) were former Major League players. If Derrick Jr. can reach also the big leagues, their family would be only the fifth three-generation combination in history.

Delino DeShields is an up and coming prospect in the Houston Astros organization. He was a first-round selection out of high school in the 2010 Major League Draft. As a kid, he got a taste of the Major League environment while accompanying his father in big league clubhouses. He got to hang around such stars as Ripken, McGwire, and Sosa, since they were teammates of his father, also named Delino, a thirteen-year veteran of the Major Leagues.

It turns out the younger Delino is a base-stealer in his father’s mold. Now the elder Delino is pulling for his son to gain some maturity on the field so that he can become an integral part of a revitalized Astros franchise.

Kevin Romine has reason to be doubly proud of his baseball family, since he has two sons, Andrew and Austin, who have reached the Major League level. He coached them from the time they played tee ball as children. Kevin had a seven-year big league career as a reserve player for the Boston Red Sox. So when he got calls from Austin, a second-year catcher with the Yankees this season, about helping him with his swing, Kevin was all too ready to provide objective advice. Andrew, who played at Arizona State University like his father, was a fourth-year big leaguer this season with the Angels.

During the 2013 season, George Frazier and his son Parker shared a common dream, more than the normal aspirations of your average father and son. They both had careers in the Colorado Rockies organization. George, a former Major League relief pitcher from 1978-1987, had been a member of the Rockies broadcast team for seventeen years. Parker, a pitcher like his father, came up through the Rockies organization reaching the Triple-A level.

Thus, George waited anxiously for the day when he could do play-by-play with his son on the field for the Rockies. However, their unique dream ended with Parker being traded to the Cincinnati Reds organization during the season. George will have to settle for calling a game with Parker on the opposing side of the Rockies, still destined to be a special moment.

In early April of the 2013 season, big league fathers of several Cleveland Indians were honored at Progressive Field with ceremonial first pitches before the game. Five current Indians, including manager Terry Francona, coach Sandy Alomar Jr., and players Nick Swisher, Michael Brantley, and Zach McAllister, caught tosses from their respective fathers who were wearing their son’s uniform.

Francona’s father, Tito, spent fifteen seasons in the majors from 1956 to 1970. Alomar’s father, Sandy Sr., was an infielder from 1964 to 1978 and then served a long-time big league coach. Swisher’s father, Steve, was a reserve catcher from 1974 to 1982. Brantley’s father, Mickey, was an outfielder for the Mariners from 1986 to 1989. McAllister’s father, Steve, was the only father of this group who did not appear in the majors. However, after a short minor league stint, Steve has been a Major League scout.

For these guys, it was like playing catch in the back yard again. It was probably hard to tell who was more proud—the fathers or the sons.

Naturally, every father wants to see his son have success in life. But it’s an especially proud feeling when the son achieves success in the same profession. Baseball fathers are no different.

These are just a few of the father-son combinations in professional baseball today. I was able to count over 150 such combinations where the son was active in 2013, either in the majors or the minors.

If this article has peeked your interest in baseball’s many family relationships, check out my book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives, which contains over 3,500 players, managers, coaches, scouts, owners, executives, umpires, and broadcasters who have a relative in professional baseball. The book can be purchased at http://thetenthinning.com/booksreviews.html.

L. J. Mazzilli Making a Name for Himself

L. J. Mazzilli is leading the New York-Penn League in hits this season and was recently selected to play in the league’s All-Star Game. His father, Lee, was a 14-year Major League veteran with the Mets, Pirates, Rangers, Yankees and Blue Jays, as well as manager of the Baltimore Orioles for two seasons.

See link below for a story about L. J. in the San Francisco Chronicle:
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/MINOR-LEAGUE-BASEBALL-Former-UConn-star-L-J-4740858.php

L. J. Mazzilli Drafted by His Father’s Former Team

Son of former Major Leaguer Lee Mazzilli, L. J. Mazzilli was selected as the 116th pick in the 2013 Major League Draft by the New York Mets, a team with whom his father played. L. J. was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the draft last year, but chose to return to UConn for his senior year. It appears the wait paid off with an improved draft selection this year.

See attached article in greenwichtime.com about L. J.:
http://www.greenwichtime.com/sports/article/Greenwich-s-LJ-Mazzilli-drafted-by-Mets-4587358.php