Major League Sons: Bloodline Players in the 2011 Draft
Sons of former major league players get special attention on draft day. The reasons are obvious: their genetics should be good, and the kids were raised around the game. The latter factor, in theory anyway, should mean that the draftee already knows something about professional baseball, is familiar with the clubhouse environment, and has received good coaching.
This is not always the case, of course, especially today when many kids turn to other sports for enjoyment. Indeed, several bloodline players this year are actually quite raw.
Here is a look at some key bloodline players from the 2011 draft and how they performed in their first pro summer. This report focuses just on sons of major leaguers, not on brothers or more distant relations.
Jack Armstrong, Jr., RHP: Drafted in the third round by the Houston Astros out of Vanderbilt following an inconsistent college season. He is a terrific athlete (like his dad was) and has first round stuff when everything is going well, but is still raw on the mound. Signed too late to play this year. It will be interesting to see how the Astros handle him: does he begin 2012 in High-A or Low-A? Will he develop as a starter or thrive more quickly if used in the bullpen?
Dante Bichette, Jr,, 3B: Drafted in the supplemental first round by the New York Yankees from high school in Orlando, Florida. A power-hitter with similar potential to his father, Bichette hit .342/.446/.505 for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, demonstrating sharp plate discipline with 30 walks in 196 at-bats. He went 1-for-7 in two games in the New York-Penn League, but the hit was a home run. He also played quite well defensively, easing concerns that he would have to move to the outfield. He looks like he could be one of the bargains of the draft.
Garrett Buechele, 3B: Drafted in the 14th round by the San Francisco Giants from the University of Oklahoma. Considered rather similar to his father Steve, Buechele has power and hit well in college, but his tools are otherwise marginal. He hit .235/.288/.350 with five homers, 14 walks, and 39 strikeouts in 200 at-bats for Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League, a disappointing performance.
Shawon Dunston JR, OF: Drafted in the 11th round by the Chicago Cubs, but could have gone much higher if not for a Vanderbilt commitment. He cost $1,275,000 to sign, first round money. Dunston signed too late to play and is considered raw, but he has top-flight athleticism, with plus speed and moderate power potential. His makeup is also considered a positive.
Justin James, OF: Drafted in the 13th round by the Yankees from Sacramento Community College, son of Dion James. Was primarily a basketball player as a kid, so he is considered raw for a bloodline player and is just learning to tap into his talent. He's huge at 6-5, 230, but his swing doesn't translate his strength to power yet and he hit just .230/.348/.311 in the GCL, though he did draw a good number of walks.
Dan Lockhart, 2B-SS: Drafted by the Cubs in the 10th round from high school in Dacula, Georgia, Dan is the son of Keith Lockhart and cost an overslot $395,000 bonus to buy away from Kennesaw State. He went 7-for-32 (.219) in seven games in rookie ball. He projects as a similar player to his father, who hit .261/.319/.385 in a 979-game major league career.
C.J. McElroy, OF: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the third round from high school in League City, Texas. Son of former major league pitcher Chuck McElroy, C.J. is an athletic speed demon but hit just .228/.303/.278 for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. He did steal eight bases in 10 attempts, but has a lot of work to do crafting his swing. He should be an asset on defense due to his range.
Chris O'Brien, C: Drafted in the 18th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers from Wichita State. Son of Charlie O'Brien, Chris had a fine college campaign but questions about how he will hit with wood, combined with mediocre throwing skills, hurt his stock. I'm still surprised he fell this far, given the paucity of catchers who have a chance to hit. He hit .292/.358/.494 in the Arizona Rookie League and threw out 35% of runners, but was old for the level.
Dereck Rodriguez, OF: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the sixth round, from high school in Pace, Florida. Son of Ivan Rodriguez, but not at all like his dad physically, being an athletic outfielder instead of a catcher. He hit just .156/.216/.200 in 90 at-bats for the Gulf Coast League Twins, showing serious strike zone problems (five walks, 35 strikeouts).
Alex Santana, 3B: Drafted by the Dodgers in the second round, from high school in Cape Coral, Florida. Son of Rafael Santana, Alex has third base power potential and a strong throwing arm. Scouts have concerns about hitting mechanics and he hit just .238/.298/.339 in rookie ball with 64 strikeouts in 189 at-bats. He also committed 17 errors in 38 games at third base.
Matt Scioscia, C: Drafted in the 45th round out of Notre Dame by the Angels, at least partially as a favor to his father Mike. Hit .239/.271/.304 in 12 games in rookie ball and was old for the level at age 22. More roster filler than genuine prospect at this point.
Cameron Seitzer, 1B: Drafted in the 11th round from the University of Oklahoma by the Tampa Bay Rays. As you would expect from Kevin's son, Cameron is polished and knows the strike zone well. He hit .285/.407/.498 with 11 homers and 43 walks in 221 at-bats in the Appalachian League. He could have gone several rounds higher in the draft, if not for concerns about insufficient power for a first baseman. So far he's hit great as a pro, but we need to see if this holds up against better pitching.
Devin Shines, OF: Drafted in the 38th round by the Dodgers out of Oklahoma State, son of Razor Shines. The Dodgers like to draft bloodline players. Shines played great in rookie ball, hitting .319/.401/.463 with 13 steals, but was old for the Arizona Rookie League at age 22. Undersized at 5-9, 185, he was seen primarily as roster-filler when drafted, but he performed well enough to earn a clean shot at higher levels.
Dwight Smith, JR, OF: Drafted in the supplemental first round by the Toronto Blue Jays from high school in Georgia, Dwight is similar to his father, a line drive hitter with a sweet swing, a polished approach, and power potential. He isn't as athletic as his father was, but his bat is strong enough that he would have gone in the first round in a less-loaded draft class. Signed too late to play, but should begin 2012 in Low-A.