INDIANAPOLIS — The question has been thrown his way several times, but typically only when he’s playing games in the eastern half of the country.
Jordan Luplow’s answer to that oft-asked question: Yes, he’s related to former major league player Al Luplow. That’s his great uncle.
And it’s a fair question as Luplow is not a common name, but the former major leaguer and the aspiring one have never met in person. They nearly met at a reunion – Jordan grew up in California and Al lives in Michigan – but that didn’t matriculate.
Al Luplow played 481 games over seven seasons, five of those with the Cleveland Indians; and finished his career hitting .184 in 55 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1967.
One of Luplow’s claims to fame would be a catch he made while playing for Cleveland, leaping to catch the ball backhanded as he flew over the fence in front of the Boston Red Sox bullpen, according to a Sports Illustrated story.
Jordan Luplow, with Class-A Bradenton at the time, was playing a game at St. Lucie, when a man approached him and asked if Al Luplow was a relative. After finding out the answer was yes, that person brought Jordan a few old baseball cards of Al the next day.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Jordan Luplow said. “I got a couple of his cards and started looking up his stats. I thought it was pretty cool he finished his career in Pittsburgh and I’m starting my career with Pittsburgh.”
Luplow’s rapid ascension through the organization brought him to Indianapolis on the last day of June. He has a slash line of .316/.438/.545 with an OPS of 1.043 in 38 at-bats with the Indians.
He batted third in the lineup in his first Triple-A game, on his first day in Indianapolis, and has been in that spot of the lineup in eight of the ten games he’s played.
Not every player promoted to Triple-A will begin that high in the lineup, but Luplow earned the spot after hitting 16 homers in 73 games with Double-A Altoona, Indianapolis manager Andy Barkett said.
“I like to give young players confidence,” Barkett said. “I remember when I was a player getting called up to Triple-A and I got put into the middle of the order, and it made me feel like I belonged and I could play at this level.”
The Triple-A level has a mix of veterans and young prospects, unlike the Double-A level where most players are younger. You’ve got some players who have appeared in World Series games, while others are rising prospects. Not that Luplow was necessarily lacking any, but Barkett’s message was received and probably offered a little extra confidence that he belonged.
“I think it does,” Luplow said. “Him putting me that high in the lineup with this group of guys that are extremely talented shows the confidence he has in me. As the manager he’s not scared to do something like that and I really appreciate that.”
The early vote of confidence wasn’t wasted. Luplow hit three homers in his first 27 at-bats over seven games. In a non-expansive list, Luplow is one of the fastest to hit his first three Triple-A homers in recent seasons.
Pedro Alvarez needed just two games to do so, but Jose Osuna (57 at-bats), Austin Meadows (75), Gregory Polanco (82), Andrew McCutchen (82) and Neil Walker (96), all took significantly longer to hit their first three Triple-A homers.
So far, Luplow has showed himself well at the plate in Triple-A. His defense at the outfield corner positions remains a work in progress.
He has shown the ability to make good throws, but has also taken some bad routes when tracking down fly balls. Luplow’s development as an outfielder is just that, a continuing work in progress.
“I think he’s done a nice job with how he played in Altoona in left,” said Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway. “He took a lot of pride in going about his business. He got a few good jumps on the ball, ran some balls down that we hadn’t seen him run down in the past. I think he’s in a good spot to continue his path there. In the field, just continuing routes and first steps. Try to get a little more and a little faster. His arm strength is pretty good and he’s pretty accurate. It’s more just the nuances of first-step routes and that initial read.”
Luplow has made several good throws from left field, some that don’t necessarily show up in a box score because they might have not resulted in an out, but kept a runner from advancing.
“I think he has a very solid arm in the outfield, an accurate arm,” Barkett said.
Luplow wants to develop into a pitcher’s best friend in the outfield, playing well in all aspects.
“I’m trying to be an aggressive outfielder and I don’t want guys running on me and I want them to know if they’re going to take a chance they might pay for it,” Luplow said.
Although in a small sample size, Luplow has adjusted to Triple-A hitting and has been an offensive threat. If he can continue to develop in the outfield and refine his route running, Luplow’s value as a prospect will continue to rise and he might become the second member of the Luplow family to reach the major leagues and play outfield for the Pirates.