Earning a place on a big league roster is one of the most arduous and taxing accomplishments in all of sports. As the average minor leaguer, you have to beat out hundreds of professional players fighting just as hard as you are for the same spot, just to make it onto the periphery of the team that employs you. But if you do, it’s a life-changing moment for you and your entire family.
That is, of course, except for some: the unlucky few, so gifted with genetic talent that making it to the bigs was not a question of if, but when.
Take the current American and National League home run leaders, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. What do they have in common, other than a metric ton of dingers? Two little letters on the end of their names and childhood homes full of baseball trophies. Their fathers, Vladimir Guerrero and Fernando Tatis, combined to play more than 3,000 Major League games in their Major League careers—a solid portion of which came before Vladdy and Niño were even born (which was 1999, if you’d like to feel old). And now their kids are paying them back with a youthful power show the likes of which we’ve never seen.
How rare is this kind of torch-passing in MLB history? It depends on how you look at it. According to Elias Sports research, there have been more than 250 father-son duos to both play in the Majors, but only 15 have seen both players make an All-Star team. Those families include the Griffeys, Bonds, Alomars, Alous, Fielders, and in all likelihood, it will soon expand to include the Guerreros.
There have been 15 players in MLB history to be an All-Star and see at least 1 of their sons go on to be an All-Star as well
Vladimir Guerrero Sr. seems VERY likely to join that list this summer, if Vlad Jr. (currently the leading vote-getter!) makes it
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 14, 2021
In honor of this moment, I’ve decided it’s time we take a moment to appreciate those dads who paved the way for their children—for better or worse—with their own MLB legacies. This Father’s Day, I’m drafting the best team I can solely out of former players whose sons are active big leaguers.
But before I start, there’s one thing I should admit: I have no personal experience from which to draw. As a baby-faced Gen-Z’er, I wasn’t around to watch most of these players play. My analysis is based entirely on research and b-ref records, which only tell part of the story. So I invited my own dad, Brian—a Braves fan from the Ted Turner generation, who grew up with Dale Murphy, TBS, and those beautiful baby blue jerseys—to weigh in on my picks. You’ll see some of his thoughts sprinkled throughout.
Now without further ado, I present the 2021 All-MLB Dad Draft.
WARNING: dad jokes ahead.
Pick #1: Vladimir Guerrero Sr., DH
Career Numbers (16 seasons): .318 AVG, 449 HR, 1496 RBI, 140 OPS+, 59.5 bWAR | Highlights
There’s no reason to overthink this, folks. Vlad Sr. is an MVP, a Hall of Famer, nine-time All-Star, and eight-time Silver Slugger (seven as a right-fielder, one as a DH). In his prime, he had one of the best outfield arms in the game, though he never won a Gold Glove. The only reason we’re slotting him at DH here (where he played roughly 24% of his career games) is to make room for the glut of outfielders in this particular class of dads.
Nicknamed Vlad the Impaler, Guerrero was an ultra-aggressive power hitter before it was cool. He loved hitting bad balls, famously even getting a hit once on a ball that bounced in the dirt two feet in front of the plate. His 2,590 career hits rank third All-Time among Dominican-born players (behind Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre), and his 449 home runs are good for sixth on that list. Simply put, Vlad never saw a pitch he didn’t like—and it worked out pretty well for him.
Although many of his best years came as a Montreal Expo (he still leads the Expos/Nats franchise in career batting average, slugging, OPS, and HR/AB), he is probably best remembered for what he did as an Angel. He won league MVP in 2004, his very first year in the A.L., with a .337 average and 126 runs driven in. He led the Halos to the ALCS twice, including a 2009 postseason run where he hit .378 in nine games at the age of 34.
Now he’s handing the reigns to Vladdy Jr., a potentially generational talent for the other team in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays. If he has the kind of career many believe he can, they could go down as the greatest father-son duo in baseball history.
Looking at this picture, it’s as if they knew:
The @BlueJays will host the @Cardinals today and tomorrow at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, as their young slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. returns to his father’s old stomping grounds and the city where he was born. pic.twitter.com/gTMmzL5ypw
— MLBPAA (@MLBPAA) March 26, 2018
Pick #2: Iván “Pudge” Rodríguez, C
Career Numbers (21 seasons): .296 AVG, 311 HR, 1332 RBI, .991 FLD%, 68.7 bWAR | Highlights
When is appropriate to draft a catcher in the top three picks? When he’s one of the top three catchers of all time. So give me Hall of Fame slugger Iván Rodríguez, the man they call Pudge.
Since 1976, Rodríguez is one of just three catchers to win MVP in either league (Joe Mauer ’09, Buster Posey ’12). His 1998 season was part of a nine-year stretch in which he hit .318/.360/.522 with a 123 OPS+ and 16 or more homers every year, one of the best offensive runs by a catcher in the modern era. But what he’s most known for was his defensive prowess and longevity, holding the all-time records in both put-outs (14,864) and games caught (2,427). He threw out 661 would-be base-stealers in his career, earning the American League Gold Glove award behind the plate in 13 of his first 17 seasons.
Before joining the Nationals in 2010 at the age of 38, Pudge played in the A.L. almost his entire career. But ironically enough, the one year he didn’t—2003, his only season with the Florida Marlins—was the only time he made it to the World Series. He helped lead the Fish to glory that year with a .313 average, .912 OPS, and three homers in 17 postseason games, earning NLCS MVP in the process.
His son, Dereck, turned a lot of heads when he came up with the Giants in 2018 and posted a 2.81 ERA in 21 games as a rookie. However, he’s been unable to recapture the same magic in the years since, with a 5.94 ERA in his last 30 games with San Francisco in 2019 and ’20. He was released and briefly claimed by the Tigers in the offseason, then dropped again before landing with the Rockies. So far this year he’s allowed 19 earned runs already in 18.1 innings pitched for Triple-A Albuquerque.
Still, I think it’s fair to say he’s made poppa proud already. There’s a link to a great article about his debut in the tweet below, complete with another aww-inspiring picture from the 2000 All-Star Game.
— Fort Worth Star-Telegram (@startelegram) May 28, 2018
DAD’S TAKE: “I think of him as a brick house behind the plate… you didn’t steal on him. A little bit like Yadi Molina, but less of a jerk. Everybody liked Pudge.”
Pick #3: Craig Biggio, 2B
Career Numbers (20 seasons): .281 AVG, 291 HR, 1175 RBI, 414 SB, 65.4 bWAR | Highlights
The third Hall of Fame dad on our team is the only one who spent his entire career on one team: Craig Biggio. A seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger, Biggio ended up winning four Gold Gloves at second base despite playing his first four seasons as a catcher. By the time he retired in 2007, he was the Astros’ career leader in games played, hits, total bases, and offensive WAR. He’s also the only player in MLB history to play at least 100 games at catcher, second base, left field, and centerfield.
He’s playing second for me, which is where he spent the bulk of his career—1,989 games’ worth. What’s amazing is that despite his trademark versatility (see the above stat), that’s still good for 15th all-time in games played at 2B. Biggio accomplished this feat with his incredible durability, playing at least 100 games every year of his career except his first season in 1988, when he was called up in late June (and still played in 50 ballgames). He played 150 or more games nine times.
He was 39 years old when the Astros finally won the pennant in 2005, with Biggio still batting leadoff. He hit .295 in the playoffs that season. Eight years later, his son Cavan was drafted out of high school by the Phillies (he went the college route instead).
So far in his young career, Cavan Biggio is following in his dad’s footsteps. While primarily an infielder, he’s already started games at first base, second base, third base, right field, and DH for the Blue Jays this season. If versatility is currency, the Biggio genes are a bank vault.
Craig and Cavan Biggio now and then pic.twitter.com/xLjwIg1yaK
— Bush Leaguer (@BushLeague101) June 15, 2019
DAD’S TAKE: “He was just so pesky… it seemed like he hit every inning. I was like, ‘didn’t he just bat?’ and he would be up again. Kind of like a Duke basketball player.”
Pick #4: Tim Wallach, 3B
Career Numbers (17 seasons): .257 AVG, 260 HR, 1125 RBI, .322 wOBA, 38.5 bWAR | Highlights
An ironman in the age of the original ironman, Cal Ripken Jr., Tim Wallach played in 150+ games in 10 of 11 seasons from 1982 to 1992. He was as reliable as they came for the ’80s Expos, and a five-time All-Star to boot. He won three Gold Gloves at third base and finished fourth in the ’87 N.L. MVP voting with a .298 average and a then-franchise-record 123 RBIs. He’s a member of the Canadien Baseball Hall of Fame, which is not bad for a guy from SoCal.
Later in his career, Wally had a few decent years with the Dodgers, where he eventually stuck on as a hitting and bench coach. He held the latter role with Marlins from 2015 to 2019, during which time he had the rare opportunity to welcome his son, Chad, to his first meaningful big league action. How cool is that!
Wallach the younger has been splitting catcher duties in Miami for the last few years, and he’s currently on their Triple-A taxi squad. But his presence on their roster gifted me a quality third baseman for my dad squad, and for that, I thank him.
DAD’S TAKE: “Tim Wallach was like the precursor to Nick Markakis, a professional hitter. You could always count on him to make the right baseball play.”
Pick #5: Raúl Mondesí, RF
Career Numbers (13 seasons): .273 AVG, 271 HR, 860 RBI, 229 SB, 29.5 bWAR | Highlights
This one could get a little tricky logistically given that he’s currently in prison, but once upon a time, before his ill-fated Dominican political career, Raúl Mondesí was a pretty darn good baseball player. And with my team lacking for speed, he’s an obvious choice here at no. 5.
Beginning with his 1994 Rookie of the Year campaign, Mondesí had six really good seasons with the Dodgers. He hit for power and average with a .288/.334/.508 line during that stretch, averaged 23 stolen bases per year, and joined the 30/30 club twice. He also won two Gold Gloves in right. He followed that up with three solid years in Toronto, where his averages slipped but the power and speed remained. By the time he landed with the Yankees in 2002, it was mostly gone. But what a fun peak it was! That’s the Mondesí I want on my squad.
His son, Adalberto, has periodically gone by Raúl Jr. (but has said he prefers his middle name). He’s one of the most exciting young players in the American League, having already shown the trademark Mondesí speed with an MLB-best 99 stolen bases in the past three years. He’s known by most for becoming the first player to make his MLB debut in the World Series in 2015, and by me for having a great year for my hometown Lexington Legends back in 2013. Both equally impressive accomplishments, IMO.
Pick #6: Tom “Flash” Gordon, P
Career Numbers (21 seasons): 2,108 IP, .396 ERA, 1928 SO, 138 W, 158 SV, 35.0 bWAR | Highlights
From the fastest man in L.A. to the Flash—it’s time I picked a pitcher. And from the options available, none were more dynamic than Tom Gordon. After finding overnight success as a rookie with the Royals in 1989, “Flash” had a solid run as a starting pitcher in Kansas City, totaling 79 wins in six years. But upon joining the Boston Red Sox in free agency in ’95, his numbers dropped drastically. So they did what any success-starved ballclub would do and converted him into a closer.
Suddenly, his legend began to grow. He led the A.L. with 46 saves in 1998, was named an All-Star, and became the first and last MLB player to inspire a Stephen King novel in the process. He made it through Tommy John surgery and went on to earn two more All-Star nods, in ’04 with the Yankees and ’06 with the Phillies. He finished as one of five pitchers in MLB history with 150+ saves and 130+ wins.
His oldest son, Dee, is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner in his own right, though he has yet to appear in a Major League game yet this season. Meanwhile, his younger brother, Nick, made his MLB debut with the Twins in May, and he’s looked good so far with 13 hits and five stolen bases in 14 games. If I could draft the whole Gordon family, I would.
DAD’S TAKE: “They called him Flash Gordon, I loved it… but he really wasn’t flashy. He was very businesslike, for a closer. Kind of like Greg Maddux… he looked like a normal guy, but he was deadly.”
Pick #7: Mike Cameron, CF
Career Numbers (17 seasons): .249 AVG, 278 HR, 297 SB, 968 RBI, 46.7 bWAR | Highlights
Every good team needs an elite center fielder, and Mike Cameron was one of the best. He won three Gold Gloves for his stellar play in 2001, ’03, and ’06, and he was an All-Star for Seattle as well in ’01. He never contended for any batting titles, but he did average 22 homers per year throughout the 2000s. With nearly 300 stolen bases to his name, Cameron is one of just 23 players in the exclusive 250/250 club.
One more Mike Cameron fun fact: in 1998, he was traded by the White Sox to the Reds for Paul Konerko. Two years later, he was flipped to the Mariners in exchange for Ken Griffey Jr. All three would go on to become (or already were) All-Stars. Then in 2017, his son Daz—then an Astros’ minor leaguer—was traded to Detroit in the deal for Justin Verlander. And now Daz plays for the Mariners. What does any of this mean? I have no idea. But if someone could look this up somehow and find out if it’s as odd as I feel like it is, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Pick #8: Dante Bichette, LF
Career Numbers (14 seasons): .299 AVG, 274 HR, 1141 RBI, .835 OPS, 5.6 bWAR | Highlights
The third father of a current Blue Jay on the list is of course Dante Bichette, a girthy slugger, neck hair extraordinaire, and founding member of the infamous “Blake Street Bombers” Rockies. Along with Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, and Vinny Castilla, Bichette powered the 1995 Rox to the playoffs in just their third year of existence. They lost in four games to the eventual champion Braves, but Bichette had 10 hits in his 17 postseason at-bats that year.
All of Bichette’s best years offensively were in Colorado, which, you know, tends to happen with Coors Field. He made the All-Star Game four times in five years and was the N.L. MVP runner-up in ’95, when he slugged a ridiculous .340/.364/.620 with 40 homers and 128 RBI. After he was traded in ’99, he never eclipsed 20 home runs again.
Like his teammate Vlad Jr., Bo has the talent to be as great or better than his father before all is said and done. It should be fun to watch, especially for fans of super tight pecs.
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) February 27, 2021
DAD’S TAKE: “Bichette was good. He had this swagger about him… that whole Rockies squad, they had this sort of outlaw thing, like the ‘bad boys’ from Detroit. He had a righteous mullet, too.”
Pick #9: Charlie Hayes, 1B
Career Numbers (14 seasons): .262 AVG, 144 HR, 740 RBI, 251 2B, 10.5 bWAR | Highlights
Father of: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
With Wallach at third, I need a reliable slugger for the opposite corner. He was a regular 3B, but Charlie Hayes played 132 games at first in his career—and we’re definitely settling at this point, so he’ll do. Hayes changed caps 10 times during his 14-year MLB career, including a moment as a PTBNL, an expansion draft call that resulted in him starting for the Colorado Rockies in their first-ever game, and two separate trades to the Yankees. It was in New York that he made his most memorable impression, catching the final out of the 1996 World Series.
Nowadays, he presumably spends most of his free time watching his talented son Ke’Bryan do amazing things for the Pirates. Here’s one of those moments, captured by the Pittsburgh broadcast a few weeks back:
Ke'Bryan Hayes homers.
Charlie Hayes gets it all on video.
— Jason Catania (@JayCat11) June 4, 2021
DAD’S TAKE: “He was kind of fat, wasn’t he?”
Pick #10: José Valentín, SS
Career Numbers (16 seasons): .243 AVG, 249 HR, 816 RBI, 872 R, 31.6 bWAR | Highlights
Father of: Jesmuel Valentín, IF, fmr. Philadelphia Phillies
Okay, full disclosure: this one’s cheating. Jesmuel Valentín hasn’t played in the bigs since 2018. But I really need a shortstop, so I’m breaking my own rules and picking José with the last pick. Sue me.
José Valentín made a career as a solid MLB player with a strong glove and an average bat, but he had a knack for timely hitting. He had the unfortunate luck of leaving the White Sox after five seasons in 2004, the year before they won the World Series. However, he played a big part in the Mets’ 2006 NLCS run at the age of 36. He is one of just seven shortstops with 240+ career home runs.
As for young Jesmuel, he did play 46 games for the Phillies in 2018. He currently plays for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Winter League, according to his page. Hey, that’s a lot more than I’ve accomplished.
BONUS PICK: Steve “Bedrock” Bedrosian, CL
Career Numbers (14 seasons): 1191 IP, 3.38 ERA, 921 SO, 76 W, 184 SV, 14.5 bWAR
But wait! If Flash is starting, my team still needs a closer — and I know where to find one. You need look no further than, like, any of his baseball cards to see that Steve Bedrosian was one of the ultimate ’80s baseball players (no, seriously). The mustache, the smolder, the comically high leg kick, he had it all.
He was good, too. After several excellent years with the aforementioned baby blue Braves (136 ERA+ from 1982-’84), he moved to the Phillies and got even better. His 2.83 ERA and 40 saves in 1987 earned him a Cy Young, just the sixth reliever to ever win the award at the time. Ironically, he would go on to win a World Series against the Braves as a member of the ’91 Twins.
His time in Philly was impactful enough on young Rob McElhenney to earn a shoutout in an episode of “Always Sunny.” He was also good friends with Smokey the Bear, evidently.
Steve Bedrosian sought counseling in 1988 after he took Smokey literally and spent a stressful month under the mistaken belief only he could prevent forest fires. pic.twitter.com/BgmhV5xurl
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 12, 2019
With him in the fold (thanks to current A’s reliever Cam Bedrosian, his son), my team is almost complete. And I think my dad is happy with it.
DAD’S TAKE: “Yes, Bedrock! They called him that because he was just solid. A key piece of that Braves bullpen… he always looked like he was about to fall asleep, but he got the job done.”
Here’s my team, in review:
- CATCHER: Iván Rodríguez
- FIRST BASE: Charlie Hayes
- SECOND BASE: Craig Biggio
- THIRD BASE: Tim Wallach
- SHORTSTOP: José Valentín
- LEFT FIELD: Dante Bichette
- CENTER FIELD: Mike Cameron
- RIGHT FIELD: Raúl Mondesí
- DESIGNATED HITTER: Vladimir Guererro
- PITCHER: Tom Gordon
- CLOSER: Steve Bedrosian
Not bad. Now let’s add a few bench bats:
- 1B/3B – Phil Nevin (father of Tyler Nevin)
- IF/OF – Fernando Tatis Sr. (father of Fernando Tatis Jr.)
- UTIL – Clay Bellinger (father of Cody Bellinger)
- OF – Mickey Brantley (father of Michael Brantley)
- C – Sal Butera (father of Drew Butera)
Plus a few more pitchers to fill out my bullpen:
- LHP – Charlie Leibrandt (father of Brandon Leibrandt)
- RHP – John Farrell (father of Luke Farrell)
- RHP – Jeff Shaw (father of Travis Shaw)
- RHP – Paul Quantrill (father of Cal Quantrill)
- RHP – Lance McCullers Sr. (father of Lance McCullers Jr.)
- RHP – Bryan Harvey (father of Hunter Harvey)
And that’ll do it. I’ll take my ’90s baseball dads over any other sport you want to throw out.
Happy Fathers Day!
Photos by Icon Sportswire and Wikimedia Commons | Adapted by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)