MLB

Prospects with famous relatives

We’re in a well-documented renaissance of Major League fathers and sons. Fernando Tatis Jr. Ke’Bryan Hayes. Cody Bellinger. Heck, the Blue Jays boast three alone in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. It’s a sign of how multi-generational the game is and how well this current batch of stars is carrying the baton passed to them by their famous parents.

Expand that out a little, and you can see the trend isn’t just dads and kids. When looking at the entire Minor Leagues, there are ample prospects with famous bloodlines — some of which you know, some of which may surprise you.

Here’s one prospect from every organization with a famous or noteworthy relative:

Blue Jays: Irv Carter, RHP (No. 15)
When Carter first announced he was committing to the University of Miami all the way back in 2017, a certain famous cousin of his quote-tweeted him with a celebration that ended with “need you on them #Yankees”. That cousin was J.R. Smith, who retired in 2020 after 16 seasons and two championships in the NBA. Smith was partly right. Carter is opening his career in the AL East, albeit with the Jays as a 2020 fifth-round pick. Carter’s fastball-slider mix and 6-foot-4 size make him an enticing prospect in the Toronto system.

Orioles: Jahmai Jones, 2B/OF (No. 18)
Football was the family business in the Jones house. Jahmai’s late father, Andre, played in the NFL, while his brothers, T.J. and Malachi, also played football professionally. But Jahmai went the baseball route in high school and made it to the big leagues in 2020 with the Angels and again last year with the Orioles — going to Baltimore in the Alex Cobb trade.

Rays: Josh Lowe, OF (No. 4, MLB No. 73)
When the Rays took Lowe 13th overall as a prep player in the 2016 Draft, they selected his brother Nathaniel out of Mississippi State 12 rounds later. The two are very different players. Nathaniel is a traditional slugging first baseman, while Josh is a speedy center fielder with good pop himself. The older Lowe beat the younger to the Majors, arriving with the Rays in April 2019, and was dealt to the Rangers in December 2020 as part of a six-player deal. Josh joined his brother as a Major Leaguer for a brief spell last season and should make much more significant contributions in 2022. (No, they are not related to Rays slugger Brandon Lowe.)

Red Sox: Matthew Lugo, SS (No. 12)
Not only is Lugo the nephew of nine-time All-Star and potential 2023 Hall of Famer Carlos Beltrán, he also trained at his uncle’s baseball academy in Puerto Rico before the Red Sox made him a second-round pick in 2019. He batted .270/.338/.364 with four homers and 15 steals in 105 Low-A games during his full-season debut and possibly could develop average or better tools across the board.

Yankees: Brendan Beck, RHP (No. 14)
Like his older brother Tristan, a right-hander in the Giants system, Beck was the No. 1 starter at Stanford before turning pro. The 2021 Pacific-12 Conference Pitcher of the Year, he was a fourth-round pick last July, shows the ability to command four pitches and elicits some loose comparisons to Shane Bieber at the same stage.

Guardians: Bo Naylor, C (No. 6)
The only Canadian siblings both drafted in the first round, Josh (No. 12 overall in 2015 by the Marlins) and Bo Naylor (No. 29 in 2018) were reunited in the Guardians organization when Cleveland acquired Josh in the 2020 Mike Clevinger trade with the Padres. Though scouts considered him one of the best high school bats in the 2018 crop, Bo struggled mightily in Double-A last year, hitting .188/.280/.332 with 10 homers and as many steals in 87 games.

Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (No. 1, MLB No. 3)
Be honest. This was the name that popped up in your head when you saw the category. As a candidate for the top prospect in baseball, Witt should be the next torchbearer in MLB’s Junior movement. His father of the same name pitched for 16 years in the Majors, 11 of which came with the Rangers, and won a World Series ring with the D-backs in 2001. Witt Jr. is a true five-tool talent at shortstop and could be Kansas City’s instant face of the franchise when he likely arrives in The Show early this season.

Tigers: Kody Clemens, 2B/OF (No. 18)
Roger Clemens famously gave all four of his children K names because of the strikeout connection. Koby and Kacy previously had dalliances in the Minors — the latter played independent ball in 2021 — but it looks like Kody has the best chance to follow his father and see the game’s top level. The 2018 third-rounder out of Texas was added to Detroit’s 40-man roster in November after hitting .247/.312/.466 with 18 homers in 97 games at Triple-A Toledo.

Twins: Noah Miller, SS (No. 13)
When Miller, who ended being the No. 36 overall pick last year, was preparing for the Draft, he knew exactly what to expect. That’s because his older brother Owen had gone through it three years prior, albeit as a college product out of Illinois State. Owen went in the third round, so Noah has Draft spot bragging rights, but older bro made it to the big leagues with Cleveland last year.

White Sox: Yoelqui Céspedes, OF (No. 2)
Yoelqui was the most famous player in the 2020-21 international class, in large part because his older brother Yoenis is a two-time All-Star and Home Run Derby champion. Signed for $2.05 million last January, the Cuban displayed well above-average raw power and arm strength while hitting .285/.350/.463 with eight homers and 18 steals in 72 games between High-A and Double-A.

A’s: Tyler Soderstrom, C (No. 1, MLB No. 42)
Back in 1990, Soderstrom’s father, Steve, was a 15th round pick of the Mets out of Turlock High School in northern California. Three years later, he was the No. 6 overall pick in the 1993 Draft, going to the hometown Giants out of Fresno State. Tyler didn’t go as high in the first round in 2020, going No. 26 overall, also out of Turlock HS, but the 2021 Futures Gamer has every chance to have a better career than his dad, who touched the big leagues as a right-handed pitcher in 1996.

Angels: Cooper Criswell, RHP (No. 28)
Tim Criswell both pitched and caught in the Minor Leagues with the Dodgers (pitched) and Braves (caught) over five Minor League seasons. He then went on to coach high school basketball at his alma mater in Georgia for more than three decades. His son Cooper went from that high school (Carrollton) to junior college to the University of North Carolina, getting drafted by the Angels in Round 13 of the 2018 Draft and making his big league debut in 2021.

Astros: Grae Kessinger, INF (No. 23)
Jeremy Peña (son of seven-year big leaguer Gerónimo) may be the Astros’ top prospect and possible replacement for Carlos Correa, but he can’t match the bloodlines of fellow middle-infield prospect Kessinger. Kessinger’s grandfather Don was a six-time All-Star with the Cubs who also managed in the Majors, and his uncle Keith played briefly with the 1993 Reds. Known for his high baseball IQ, Kessinger hit .209/.287/.330 with nine homers and 12 steals in 86 Double-A games.

Mariners: Kaden Polcovich, INF (No. 19)
The fact that Polcovich, the Mariners’ third-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2020, is a hard-nosed utility type shouldn’t surprised anyone who saw his dad Kevin play 10 years of pro ball, including parts of two seasons in the big leagues with the Pirates. Kaden made it to Double-A in his first full pro season and played four positions in the process, with the chance to have a little more thump in his bat than his dad did.

Rangers: Jack Leiter, RHP (No. 1, MLB No. 12)
Al Leiter won 162 games in a 19-year big league career that included a pair of World Series rings and All-Star Game nods — and his son Jack is a better prospect at the same stage. He no-hit South Carolina in his first Southeastern Conference start, matched teammate Kumar Rocker for the NCAA Division I strikeout lead with 179 in 110 innings and led Vanderbilt to the College World Series finals en route to becoming the No. 2 overall choice in the 2021 Draft. The owner of an elite fastball and three solid or better secondary pitches, he signed for $7,922,000, a franchise record and the fourth-highest bonus in Draft history.

Braves: Nolan Kingham, RHP
Kingham was a decent prospect from the Nevada high school ranks who opted to head to the University of Texas rather than contemplate signing with the Brewers as a 39th-round pick in 2015. The Braves took him in Round 12 of the 2018 Draft and he reached Triple-A in 2021 thanks to his very strong feel for the strike zone. It’s a slightly different route than the one taken by his brother Nick, a fourth-rounder out of high school who got an over-slot deal from the Pirates in 2010, pitched briefly in the big leagues with Pittsburgh and Toronto and is coming off a really strong 2021 season in Korea.

Marlins: Griffin Conine, OF (No. 20)
Jeff Conine became known as “Mr. Marlin” after winning two World Series and making two All-Star teams with the franchise, which acquired his son in the 2020 Jonathan Villar trade with the Blue Jays. A 2018 second-rounder out of Duke who fits the right-field profile, Griffin tied for second in the Minors with 36 homers last year while batting .218/.330/.530 between High-A and Double-A.

Mets: Gregory Guerrero, INF

You might be able to guess the familial connection quite easily here. The Mets infield prospect is the nephew of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero and, therefore, the cousin of Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. This member of the Guerrero family tree signed with New York for $1.5 million in July 2015, when he was ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 21 international prospect. However, he hasn’t panned out as planned. The 23-year-old has yet to play above complex ball, and he hit .220/.284/.370 over 35 games in the Florida Complex League last season.

Nationals: Darren Baker, 2B

Baker was famous in his own way back in the 2002 World Series when J.T. Snow pulled him (then a three-year-old Giants batboy) away from a potential home-plate collision. Twenty years later, the son of Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. is about to enter his first full pro season after getting picked in the 10th round of last year’s Draft. A .303 hitter at Cal, the younger Baker thrives on making contact (albeit with little power), steals bags with plus speed and shows enough glove to stick up the middle.

A later-round (18th) pick out of Oklahoma State in the 2018 Draft, Kroon reached Double-A for the first time in 2021, hitting .301/.361/.466 in 45 games with Reading. Perhaps he got prepared for the pro game by facing his dad, Marc, a second-round pick of the Mets back in 1991 who made big league stops with the Padres, Reds and Rockies before taking his triple-digit fastball to Japan and saving 177 games there.

Brewers: Aaron Ashby, LHP (No. 8)
This Ashby is left-handed. His uncle, Andy, is right-handed. Other than that, the two share some similarities. Both played at Crowder (Missouri) Junior College before beginning their pro careers. Both made their Major League debuts in their age-23 seasons (the nephew’s coming last June). Both pitched primarily, for now, in the National League. Andy enjoyed a 14-year career with the Padres, Phillies, Rockies and Braves. Aaron has the promising fastball-slider-changeup mix to feature with the Brewers for the foreseeable future, as either a starter or reliever.

Cardinals: Kramer Robertson, 2B/3B/SS
“He’s so close to being on the Major League team, and if he doesn’t make it, trade for him, Magic!” Legendary women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey used part of her Hall of Fame speech last May to advocate for her son’s baseball career and maybe elbow Magic Johnson, among the Dodgers’ ownership group, into acquiring him along the way. The 27-year-old infielder hit .253/.366/.414 with 11 homers and 11 steals in 118 games at Triple-A Memphis in 2021. Previously with Baylor, Mulkey is in the midst of her first season coaching at LSU, where Robertson played for four years from 2014-17.

Cubs: Kohl Franklin, RHP (No. 6)
The son of prominent baseball agent Jay and nephew of former All-Star Ryan, Kohl has developed into one of the Cubs’ best pitching prospects since signing in the sixth round as an Oklahoma high schooler in 2018. He missed the 2021 season while dealing with oblique and shoulder injuries but backs up a 91-97 mph fastball with a quality knuckle-curve and changeup when healthy.

Pirates: Blake Sabol, C
Sabol came out of Southern California as a seventh-round pick in 2019 and is coming off a solid first full season of pro ball that saw him post a .957 OPS in 66 games, mostly in High-A. If the backstop makes it to Pittsburgh, he might get a hero’s welcome since he’s a cousin of Steelers Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu — though there’s no word if Sabol can, or wants to, grow the locks out like his cousin.

Reds: Michael Siani, OF (No. 11)
We’re not sure what the Siani family is doing in eastern Pennsylvania, but it’s clear they know how to grow professional outfielders. Michael was a fourth-rounder of the Reds in 2018, getting close to first-round money to sign and spending the 2021 season in High-A. A year later, his younger brother Sammy went No. 37 overall to the Pirates and was in Low-A in 2021. Both have a ways to go, but seeing some sibling rivalry in the NL Central would be fun.

D-backs: Alek Thomas, OF (No. 3, MLB No. 40)
Arizona’s 2018 second-rounder grew up around baseball as the son of former White Sox director of strength and conditioning Allen Thomas, who did not have his contract renewed this offseason. The elder Thomas had been with Chicago since his days as a 1996 Draft pick, and his son often tagged along as he got older, going so far as to make impressive Spring Training catches in Arizona as a high-schooler. The two crossed paths in the spring of 2019, when Thomas homered off Lucas Giolito in Cactus League play, forcing his father to stifle a smile rather than celebrate an opponent.

Dodgers: Miguel Vargas, 3B/2B/1B (No. 6)
The son of Lazaro Vargas, the DH on Cuba’s 1992 and 1996 Olympic champions, Miguel drove in the gold medal-winning run off Team USA’s Hunter Greene at the 2014 15-and-under World Cup in Mexico. He has continued to produce at the plate since signing for $300,000 in 2017, taking the Double-A Central batting title last season at .321 while hitting a combined .319/.380/.526 with 23 homers and 11 steals in 120 games between High-A and Double-A.

Giants: Will Bednar, RHP (No. 7)
The Bednar brothers will remember 2021 fondly after David posted a 2.23 ERA in his first full big league season with the Pirates and Will won a national title and College World Series MVP honors at Mississippi State before the Giants drafted him 14th overall. The latter owns a lively mid-90s fastball, a nasty slider, a solid curveball and a developing changeup.

Padres: James Wood, OF (No. 5)
The 2021 second-rounder is a popular breakout pick entering his first full season, thanks to above-average power and speed. It’s also noteworthy that basketball seems to run in his blood. His sister Sydney is team captain of the Northwestern women’s hoops team (though she is currently out injured), and his father Kenny scored a then-Long Island-record 2,613 points at East Hampton before moving on to Richmond, where he helped the Spiders beat Syracuse in 1991 for the first 15-2 upset in NCAA men’s tournament history. Kenny Wood was elected to the Richmond Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011.

Rockies: Ryan Vilade, OF (No. 5)
A 2021 Futures Gamer who made his big league debut last year, to say Vilade grew up around the game would be an understatement. The outfielder’s father, James, is a baseball lifer, who coached at Oklahoma State, helped start two college baseball programs in Texas as a head coach, coached in the Minor Leagues and has been a scout for the Rangers and, most recently, the Marlins.




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