If you paid any sort of attention to baseball in the 1990’s and 2000’s, one name at the 2017 MLB Futures Game will instantly emerge as particularly noteworthy: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The 18-year-old third baseman, who is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system and No. 2 overall on Baseball America’s Top 100 list, comes from baseball family royalty. It, of course, starts with his dad, who was easily one of the best and most entertaining players of his generation, but baseball runs deep throughout this Dominican Republic family.
Here’s everything you need to know about Guerrero Jr.’s support system:
1. His Father Is a Former MVP & Likely Future Hall-of-Famer
Blessed with a rocket right arm, an ability to hit anything within his time zone, and transcendent all-around tools, Guerrero Sr. signed with Montreal Expos out of the Dominican Republic, shot through the minors and made his MLB debut as a 21-year-old in 1996. He hit .302 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI in 90 games the following year, and by his first full season in 1998, he was a legitimate MVP threat.
In his first nine full seasons, which were split between the Expos and Angels, Guerrero slashed .327/.394/.586 with an average of 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 100 runs and 16 steals per season. He was named to eight All-Star games over that span (he added a ninth as a 35-year-old with the Texas Rangers in 2010), won MVP in his first year with the Angels in 2004 and established himself as arguably the best bad-ball hitter of all-time.
Guerrero, who finished his career as a .318 hitter with 449 career home runs and a remarkable 126 outfield assists from right field, received 71.7 percent of the Hall-of-Fame vote in his first year on the ballot in 2017. He was just 15 votes shy and will surely be headed to Cooperstown in 2018.
2. His Uncle Spent 8 Years in the Majors
Guerrero Sr. was certainly the most successful player in his family–he would have been the most successful player in most families–but he wasn’t the only one to make it to the highest level. His older brother, Wilton, spent eight years in the majors with the Expos, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Kansas City Royals, compiling a .282/.308/.369 line with 11 career home runs and 42 stolen bases.
Now 43, Wilton remains invested in the game in the family’s native country of the Dominican Republic. He works at the Guerrero Family Baseball Academy, scouting and training young kids who have dreams of being signed my MLB franchises. He started working with Vladimir Jr. when he was six years old.
“Wilton means a lot to me,” Vladimir Jr. said. “He’s my uncle, he’s my trainer and he’s my agent. He’s my family and I’m very grateful for him. Family means everything.”
Guerrero Sr.’s oldest brother, Eleazer, signed with the Dodgers but never made it to the minors, and his youngest brother, Julio Cesar, signed with the Boston Red Sox for $750 thousand but ultimately only reached high-Class A in 2001.
3. He Has Cousins in the Reds, White Sox & Mets Organizations
As was the case with their respective fathers, Guerrero Jr. looks to be the family’s best current prospect, but several of his cousins have joined MLB farm systems.
Gabby (son of Elezar), 23, joined the Mariners rookie squad as an 18-year-old and now plays for the Cincinnati Reds’ Double-A affiliate. Josue (son of Elezar), 17, signed with the White Sox for $1.1 million in July of 2016. Gregory, 18, and Jose, 21, (sons of Vladimir Sr.’s sister, Aurelia) are both in the Mets organization.
And they’ve all followed Guerrero Sr.’s path, coming from the small town of Don Gregorio.
“My nephews saw their uncle had what he had, and he never moved,” says the 2004 AL MVP. “I think that’s the best message I could send them. They can accomplish some of the things I did and still stay in the same town.”
4. Junior Is Ahead of Where Senior Was at This Point in His Career
Vladimir Sr. showed up to an Expos tryout camp on the back of a motorcycle with shoes that didn’t match and ultimately received a $2,500 signing bonus. His son, trained by two former MLB players, had a tryout that was attended by every MLB team and ended up signing for $3.9 million.
While most would agree that Jr. has–at the very least–the same gaudy raw tools his dad once did, he has had an advantage when it comes to guidance.
“Ever since Junior was a very young boy, maybe 10 years old, he always wanted to play against older kids,” said Guerrero Sr. “When Vlad turned 14 or so, he started playing with men, so he always has been ahead. I had more (experience) to provide to my son to be ready. Both Wilton and I had the talent to pass some of the information on to him. I’m happy that, where he’s at now, he’s a little more advanced than I was.”
Just 18 years old, Guerrero Jr. is hitting .316/.409/.480 with seven home runs, 21 doubles and 45 RBI with Toronto’s Single-A affiliate. Perhaps the biggest difference from his dad is the plate discipline, as he boasts a 40-to-34 BB-to-SO ratio.
“It’s not going to be the same as me because he takes a lot of pitches, which I didn’t do, but I like how he swings the bat,” Vladimir Sr. said. “I’m pleased that they compare him to me at that age. When I was (16), I never hit home runs like he does.”
5. Guerrero Sr. Reportedly has 8 Kids
According to a report in 2012, a paternity lawsuit revealed that Guerrero Sr. has eight children with five different women.
It’s unclear if Vladimir Jr. is close with any of his siblings or half-siblings, but with a bevy of aunts, uncles and cousins in addition to his father, it’s clear he isn’t lacking a support system.