Berra, Biggio, Clemens, Pettitte and Yastrzemski are among the names that may be called this week at Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft, where the sport’s bloodlines run deep.
A year after the sons of Hall of Fame infielder Cal Ripken Jr. and former Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser were among the 1,238 players drafted over 40 rounds, more relatives of current or ex-All Stars are draft eligible. This year’s three-day draft begins tonight, with the Houston Astros holding the No. 1 pick for the second year in a row.
Mike Yastrzemski is among the most notable names, the grandson of Hall of Fame outfielder Carl Yastrzemski, who won three batting titles, the 1967 American League Most Valuable Player award and was selected as an All-Star 18 times with the Boston Red Sox from 1961 to 1983. The younger Yastrzemski, also an outfielder, was drafted in the 30th round by the Seattle Mariners a year ago and passed up a $300,000 signing bonus to return to Vanderbilt University for his senior season.
Mike Yastrzemski, 22, hit .322 while starting all 64 games this season for the Commodores, the No. 2 seed in college baseball’s national tournament, with three home runs, 43 runs batted in and 19 stolen bases.
He will probably be drafted higher than he was a year ago, though he’s not ranked among the top 100 draft-eligible players by MLB.com. For the second straight year, the top-ranked player is Stanford University pitcher Mark Appel, who was drafted eighth last year and returned to school for his senior season after failing to agree on a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates have two of the top 14 picks in the draft after being unable to sign Appel. The Chicago Cubs have the second pick, followed by the Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians, Miami Marlins, Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays.
The New York Mets have the 11th pick tonight and the New York Yankees have picks 26, 32 and 33, with the final two coming as compensation for losing Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano during the offseason.
The Yankees also have family ties in the draft. Left-hander Andy Pettitte’s son Josh, a high school pitcher from Deer Park, Texas, may be among those taken after throwing two no-hitters during his senior season.
Cavan Biggio, Kacy Clemens, Torii Hunter Jr., Manny Ramirez Jr., Preston Palmeiro and Dalton Saberhagen are other sons of major-leaguers eligible for the draft out of high school.
Craig Biggio, a former infielder for the Astros, is one of 28 players in the sport’s history to reach the 3,000-hit milestone, while Roger Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in his league before being passed over in Hall of Fame voting this year because of links to performance-enhancing drugs.
Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a drug test, has been similarly snubbed by Hall of Fame voters after hitting 569 home runs over a 20-year major-league career, while Manny Ramirez hit 555 homers in 19 seasons. Torii Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner for his defense, is playing for the Detroit Tigers this season, his 17th in the majors. Bret Saberhagen won two Cy Young Awards over his 16-year career.
There are more-distant relatives of former All-Stars who are draft-eligible, such as Cameron Berra, a first baseman from Eastern Illinois University. Berra’s grandfather was a first cousin of Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.
“People see the name and ask me if I am related,” Berra, who also plays football at Eastern Illinois, was quoted as saying last month on the school’s website. “I don’t mind getting asked, it’s something kind of cool. I like to have fun with it.”
Ben Verlander, a junior outfielder from Old Dominion University, is the younger brother of Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, a five-time All-Star who won the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011.
The younger Verlander hit a team-leading .367 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI in 53 games this season. He may follow his big brother’s steps into professional baseball.
“We were a baseball family and I grew up going to every one of my brother’s games,” Ben Verlander said this year. “I knew from a young age that I wanted to play baseball.”
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