We’ve all heard the old adage, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. Sons have been following in their father’s footsteps from Time immemorial- Today, we can see more and more apples lying close to the tree in the field of MLB. So, where are these children of great and not so great past ballplayers playing and how are they doing?
I decided to take a closer look at the Minor Leagues to see if I could spot the next Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr. or at least the next Tim Raines Jr. I was surprised to find as many young juniors beating the bush as I did. I found children ranging from families of Baseball royalty like Fernando Valenzuela and Roger Clemens to sons of the more pauper-like Garth Iorg and Floyd Bannister. Here is an update on some of the children of Present and Past ex-major leaguers roaming the Diamond down under.
GP AB HR RBI R AVG OBP SLG SB 133 530 12 83 78 .296 .373 .432 5
Drafted in 10th Rd. of 2003 Draft.
2004- A Ball (Ft. Wayne)
2003-A(Short) Ball (Eugene)
Midwest League All Star (Ft. Wayne ’04)
3rd in Padres System in AVG. (’04)
In the early 1980’s –Fernando-Mania spread through MLB like wildfire. Fernando Valenzuela trying to entice Tony Gwynn to swing at a screwball out of the strike zone was a classic matchup between a Star Pitcher and a Hall of Fame Hitter in the making. Fernando would go on to win the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards that season and lead his Dodgers to a World Series victory over the NY Yankees. That matchup could be classified as Class A. Today, we would see a different Class A matchup involving Fernando Valenzuela. Fans at Lake Elsinore can watch Fernando Valenzuela Jr. as he swings away for the Advanced A Ball league of the San Diego Padres system. This time the roles have been reversed as Gwynn, that is Chris Gwynn (brother of Tony Gwynn) was the one doing the pitching while Valenzuela was the one swinging away. As the draft approached the 2003 season, Chris Gwynn (Scout for Padres) pitched the idea of drafting Valenzuela Jr. to his Padre boss- Kevin Towers. Towers drafted Valenzuela in the 10th Rd. and sent him to Short season Eugene to start his career. Valenzuela Jr. has moved up a level with good success in each of his 3 seasons in the organization that his father ended his career with. In fact he was an All Star last season for Ft. Wayne. and has proven to be a legitimate prospect who has a shot at making the Majors in a couple of years if he keeps improving. While Valenzuela doesn’t project as a Starting 1B in the Majors (Only 5’ 10” with so-so power) he does have a chance to be a useful bench hitter who could increase his value by learning the OF.
GP AB HR RBI R AVG. OBP. SLG. SB
103 378 28 86 68 .291 .388 .569 8
Drafted in 1st Rd. (7th Overall) of 2002 Draft.
Named PCL’s Best Power Prospect (’05)
Rated 15th Best Prospect by Baseball America (’05)
2003 Minor League Player of the Year (USA Today)
Debuted with MLB Brewers for 13 games (’05), hitting .321 with 1 HR and 6 RBI.
Hit first MLB HR against Jessie Crain of Minnesota Twins.
In Milwaukee, the Brewers are doing there best to create a field of
dreams for their fans and at the center of that dream is former HR King
Cecil Fielder’s child, Prince Fielder. Physically, Prince could almost
be mistaken for a younger version of his dad as he sports a similar
girth to go with a massive frame. He also plays 1B, the same position
his father manned. However, unlike his father, Prince is a LH and a
much more highly touted prospect. In the mid 1980’s, after a brief stay
with the Toronto Blue Jays, Cecil had to travel to Japan to showcase
his talent before he could catch a Major League club’s interest again.
Prince has only had to travel as far as Nashville, the Brewers AAA
club, to become one of the best power hitting prospects in Baseball,
rated as the number 15 overall prospect by Baseball America in 2005.
Prince will have a hard time living up to his last name at least as a
glovesman, as he is below average in the field, but he should very much
have a chance at topping his father’s 319 career HRs and probably end
up a better overall hitter. Look for Prince to be the Brewers starting
1B for years to come.
GP AB HR RBI R AVG. OBP. SLG. SB
42 143 4 23 17 .294 .388 .469 5
Drafted in 8th Rd. (254thOverall) (’05)
Batted .523 with 10 HRs, 55 RBIs (Memorial High-Texas ’05)
Threw three No-Hitters (Memorial High-Texas ’05)
No modern Pitcher post WW11 has had the type of long-term success
that Roger Clemens has. The Rocket broke into the Majors in 1984. In 21
Seasons he has gone on to garner an unprecedented 7 Cy Young awards,
win 339 games ( 5th All-Time and counting), is second All-Time in
Strikeouts, and has so defined pitching success over the last 20 years,
that young generations of baseball fans listening to the Star Spangled
Banner’s lyrics ,“…the Rockets Red Glare…” might think it refers to the
steely glare that peers from beneath Clemens cap whenever he toes the
mound. Apples and oranges is the best way to compare Koby Clemens to
his famous father. Much like Valenzuela Jr., Koby has decided to take a
different path to a MLB career than his dad. Koby already has three
things going for him right off the bat; First, his name is not Roger
Clemens Jr., Second, he’s not a pitcher and Third, he’s already a
pretty good hitter with plus power and has the athleticism to be a
decent 3B. Koby joined his father’s organization in early July when
Astros GM Tim Purpura drafted Koby in the 8th Rd. out of Memorial HS in
Texas after Koby decided to forego a scholarship to his Father’s alma
mater, the University of Texas. He was immediately assigned to
Greeneville in the Appalachian Rookie ball league. On July 25th,
backing up scouting reports about his plus power, Koby hit his first
professional HR in his 7th game in dramatic fashion- a first inning
Grand Slam that led his team to a victory over Johnson City. As of
August 5th Koby, batting 4th in the lineup, was leading his team in
Avg. and OBP. Koby will spend the next few years polishing his skills,
but his father is careful not to put too much pressure on him. In Brian
Mctaggart’s article for the Houston Chronical (July 15th) Roger Clemens
said, “I know he loves the game and loves to compete…there are so many
quality instructors that will clean up his weaknesses, the quicker he
can do that and the more confident he becomes, then he’ll mature and
get better.” And who knows at the rate Father Clemens is going maybe
Father Time will see to it that the Old man and his son are both
wearing Houston Astros Jerseys one day.
GP AB HR RBI R AVG. OBP. SLG. SB
35 138 7 34 36 .333 .391 .565 12
Drafted in 1st Rd. (’05).
Led Tennessee to 4th trip to College World Series.
Hit .381 with 15 HR, 72 RBIs and 27 SB for Tennessee (’05).
Batting directly in front of new teammate Koby Clemens in the
Greeneville lineup is Eli Iorg son of Garth. The Iorg brothers (Garth
and Dane) played in the late 70’s and early eighties. Neither was much
of an impact player, but both survived many years in MLB mainly as
utility players. Garth was drafted by the NY Yankees in 1973, but got
his break with the Blue Jays where he helped lead the Jays to the 1985
AL Championship Series, where they lost to his brother Dane’s Kansas
City Royals. 1985 was also Garth’s best season when he batted .312 in
288 ABs. Eli is projected to become a much better player than his
father and is a much more highly touted prospect than Koby Clemens. The
Astros drafted him in the First Rd. (Sandwich pick of ’05) out of
Tennessee where he led the Volunteers to their 4th trip to the College
World Series in his Junior year. While another of Garth’s kids (Isaac)
plays in the Atlanta Braves system, make no mistake- Eli is the Iorg
everyone is looking out for. 4” taller than his father, Eli has a great
power stroke, is a fleet footed OF and is a dangerous and efficient
basestealer (Second in SB in the SEC- 2004 and 8 for 9 in Steals in his
brief career for Greeneville). Interestingly, Eli hit his first
professional HR on the same night Koby Clemens hit his (7/25), against
Johnson City. Eli will probably be in High A-ball by next season.