05/31/05 8:06 AM ET
Ball in the family
These draft eligibles have baseball in their blood
By Kevin Czerwinski / MLB.com
If the name is Bonds or Bell or Boone and a knack for hitting or throwing a baseball runs in your family, then chances are a team is more likely to take a chance on you when it comes time for the upcoming draft. Famous offspring and siblings -- and even some not-so-famous ones -- have always been a big part of baseball, with teams hoping that a player like Barry Bonds would be just as dynamic as his father, Bobby, was.
Well, Bonds the younger proved to be that and much more, so the search for relatives of successful baseball players will continue this year with several high-profile names leading the list of potential draftees. And what better place to start then right at the top than with Justin Upton, who figures to be among the top two or three players selected.
Upton's older brother B.J. was the second overall pick by Tampa Bay three years ago and is currently playing in the International League. Justin Upton didn't waste the opportunity to see how his older brother handled the draft process and is more than prepared for what will take place in the next week or so.
"I've seen him go through it before," Justin Upton said. "I have a heads up on what's going to be going on. We don't talk about the draft much. We talk about how he did, how I did in my game and leave it at that. We talk just about every night. Whatever we're going through, we'll talk about it and we can help each other."
Where Upton ends up on the field once he is drafted is also somewhat of an issue. Some scouts seem to think his future isn't in the infield.
"He's pretty special. He's got all the tools," one Major League executive said. "His future is probably going to be as a center fielder. Right now, he's a little timid defensively, a little erratic with his throws, but he'll go to center and be above-average there and be a big-time impact offensive player."
Middle infield seems to be the place where families get together. In addition to the brothers Upton, the Weeks' siblings are also making this draft a family affair. Rickie Weeks, who is currently starring for Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, is a former first-round pick of Milwaukee. Jemile Weeks is a senior at Lake Brantley High in Florida and has drawn comparisons to his older brother.
The switch-hitting Weeks has a quick bat and has good power to the alleys and at least one National League scout says he is impressed with the way Weeks handles himself on the bases. He's committed to the University of Miami but whether he ever plays there remains to be seen.
Wayne Tolleson was an infielder in the big leagues for 10 seasons, mostly with Texas and the Yankees. His son Steven Tolleson, who plays for the University of South Carolina, will also draw some consideration based on the family name if not his ability. He was hitting .291 with a .376 on-base percentage through 53 games, though he was leading the Gamecocks with 16 errors.
Meanwhile, Drew Thompson, son of former infielder Robbie Thompson, has seen his stock improve this spring. Yet another middle infield prospect, the younger Thompson has shown a knack for getting on base and has impressed some scouts with his maturity. Some rate him ahead of Tolleson, projecting him to go anywhere from the third to sixth round.
One sibling, however, has taken his name out of the running before the draft even takes place. Round Rock High outfielder Jordan Danks, brother of former Texas first-round pick John Danks [ninth overall in 2003], says he'll be heading to the University of Texas next year regardless of where he is chosen or by whom.
"I told teams they shouldn't waste a first-round pick on me because I'm planning on going to UT," said Danks, who added that he isn't worried about getting hurt or losing some of his value if he plays poorly in college. "I've always been a UT fan and was excited when I heard I could play there. I'll go to college first and get more developed as a player and do all the pro stuff later. Scouts have quit coming around and whenever they call, my dad says don't bother wasting your time."
The younger Danks said he doesn't foresee the Astros or the Rangers using a high pick on him considering his intentions. But if a home-state team, particularly Texas were to pick him first or second, Danks may have some thinking to do.
"I thought about getting drafted and having the chance to play with my brother," he said. "But I don't think they want to waste that first-round pick. I don't see it happening."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. Jonathan Mayo contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.