Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Meh Kind of Autograph

I try to pick up an autographed card of every Cardinals player that I can possibly find.  I prefer to go the certified route, but sometimes I have to pick up a few things from a reliable autographer.  The Cardinals added a few new players at the trade deadline that sent me looking for two new autographs.  I already owned a copy of a Steve Cishek autograph and traded for a Jonathan Broxton autograph.  I still need to post that card.  I also needed a Brandon Moss card and found a pretty nice copy of an on card autograph out of Tier One




Not a great looking autograph, but I am happy that this is an A's card over the Indians and Red Sox.  While I was initially excited to see Brandon Moss in a Cardinals uniform his performance during the first handful of games has left Cardinals fans feeling rather disappointed.  I am still hopeful that this trade will still work out since the Cardinals have Moss for next season too.  At this point I am feeling a little bit meh about my latest pickup.  Moss has hit in the past, but right now he looks completely lost at the plate.  Lets hope that Moss kind find his swing in the next few weeks and this trade does not end up going down with other players like Todd "Third Degree" Burns.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I Love The 80s

People love to reminisce about their childhoods.  As someone born in the late 1970s, most of my childhood memories are from that awesome decade known as the 1980s.  So many things to love about the 1980s: music, horrible clothes, funny movies, baseball, baseball cards.  Maybe most people would not put baseball and baseball cards on their list, but I was first introduced to this hobby in 1983 and it has been good to me ever since.

I remember all the great cards I collected in the 1980s and all the players on those cards.  Of course the Cardinals and all of their speedy Whiteyball Era players were my favorites, but other names stick out too.  Which brings me to this evenings card......



I know I have spent time in the past railing against unlicensed products, but I have actually been looking into some of the Panini cards recently and found that there are some great names from the past in their products.  Especially if you are looking for some good 1980s names.  The product this card hails from, Immaculate Collection, also has autographs of Bob Denier, Fred McGriff, Andre Thornton, and Mookie Wilson.  This card was actually been sold by an Ebay seller who had a few other cards I was looking into buying.  Seemed like a nice card at a decent price, I went for it.  I need to track down a copy of the Garry Templeton autograph from the set, heard he is in a Cardinals uniform, well an unlicensed Cardinals uniform.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Missing the Stro Show

Have you been watching the Blue Jays since the trade deadline?  They have been red hot and winning everything.  Well, until they starting playing the Yankees this past weekend.  I have never really minded the Blue Jays and like some of the players that they have added to their team.  Tulo and David Price are both cool players.  As a former Durham Bulls player, I am a huge fan of David Price and still enjoy collecting his cards.

When Price was traded a week and a half ago, I went out and spent a little bit of time searching out his cards to see if I could find any Tigers fans dumping some cards cheaply.  I did not find that, but I did a really cheap Marcus Stroman card.  I miss Stro.  He's still busy and Twitter, but it's not as entertaining as watching him pitch.  Well, except for when they traded for Price and he was in class....

 




It's been awhile since I have added a new Stroman card to the collection.  His autograph has always been pretty simple, but I love the look of the blue ink with the blue from the Blue Jays uni and his glove.  They look nice on the dark black and gold background.  The card is numbered to 399 copies, which is quite a few, but still a great looking card.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

#MyCardMonday

I did not spend a lot of time on cards this weekend, but did spend a few minutes Friday night sorting through a box of old Cardinals cards and autographs I had picked up long ago.  There were a few really cool cards in the box that I had completely forgotten about over the past five or six years, but one really stood out from the rest of the cards.  How did this card end up neglected in a box of cards featuring former Cardinals players like Brendan Ryan, Ryan Ludwick, and Andy Benes?



No idea, but it's been sleeved and placed in a box with some nicer Cardinals cards.  If you are not familiar with Lonnie Smith I will give you a two minute run down on "Skates".  He came up with the Phillies in the early 1980s and was used as an extra outfielder off the bench.  He was actually an important bench player on the 1980 Phillies World Series team.  The Cardinals traded for him before the 1982 season, and like all fast athletic outfielders, Whitey Herzog turned Lonnie Smith loose on the bases.  During his three seasons as a Cardinal he stole 68, 43, and 50 bases.  He played part of the 1985 season in St. Louis and stole 12 more.  Lonnie Smith started the season on the DL and the team called up Triple A outfielder Vince Coleman to fill the void.  Coleman went on to steal 110 bases, Lonnie got traded to the Royals.  

His time as a Cardinal is how I best remember Lonnie Smith.  He was not the biggest base stealing threat on the team, did not have a ton of power, and was not a great defender.  The guy was still a winner and a fan favorite in St. Louis in the mid 80s when I first moved to St. Louis.  I ran into Lonnie Smith again towards the end of his career when he ended up back in the National League with the Braves.  I know baseball fans always remember the core group of pitchers with those 1990s Bobby Cox teams, but Lonnie Smith was an important player at the beginning of that run for the Braves.  

His best year with Atlanta was in 1989 when he hit 21 home runs, a career high, and lead the National League in on-base percentage with a .415 mark.  He put up a .384 mark in 1990 and a .377 mark in 1991.  Lonnie ended his career with the Orioles in 1994 posting almost 1,500 hits and a slash line of .288/.371/.420.  Combine that great on base percentage with 370 steals and it's easy to see why Topps put him in the All-Time Fan Favorites set back in 2005.  Lonnie also ended his career with three World Series rings (1980 Phillies, 1982 Cardinals, 1985 Royals) and two League Championship rings (1991 and 1992 Braves)  Great player.  

Allen & Ginter Part 4: Minis

On to one of my favorite parts of the Allen & Ginter set: The minis.  I feel like my box had some good minis in it starting with my box topper which was an extra pack of minis.  The pack held five red bordered mini cards which were all numbered to 40.  Here's a look at the five cards.....


Some pretty good names in that group of cards.  There were other color bordered in the Ginter set beyond the red.  The black bordered minis, which are always the most common, look really nice this year.  In putting together my base set, I almost always put together a team set of black bordered minis for the Cardinals and Rays.  Here's a look at what these cards look like in this year's Ginter set....



I pulled a Lackey black border out of my box, which will make putting together the Cardinals team set a little bit easier, but these cards are not hard to find and not very expensive.  Most of the time I can find most of the team set for a few dollars on Ebay, or COMC.  I like the design of the black cards this year.  The design around the edges of the card are a little less heavy feeling.  



I also pulled a Ginter flag card from my box.  I pulled a copy of the Hank Aaron version of this card last year and completely missed it because I was not looking for these when I opened my box.  This year I turned over all of the minis as I went through and I opened the box.  Kind of makes me wonder how many of these I have missed over the years?  Hmmm.  Might need to go back through some boxes.  Anyway, this year I pulled Greg Holland and promptly traded it away to a Royals fan who was annoyed by their ownership of a Cardinals card.  



Lots of cool mini inserts too.  I like those Hoist the Black Flag cards on the right side.  Might have to make that one of the non-sport sets that I put together this year.  Wonder if any of these pirates are in the set?  


Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Five: Top 5 Sets From 2006


5. 2006 Bowman Heritage

I miss Bowman Heritage.  I get to talk about this set one more time on one of these Friday Five posts and then it is gone.  Sort of wish there were more cool old Bowman sets that Topps could rehash, but the original Bowman products did not stick around too long.  I will wait patiently until they decide to rehash the 1989 Bowman set, hopefully there is a Royce Clayton autograph in the set.  This set was a 300 card with the majority of the high numbers over 200 being short printed.  I believe that the "official" Prince Fielder rookie card is in this product, but I always give the nod to the Upper Deck Prospect Premiers card in spite of the fact that the 2006 cards, across all brands, had that cheesy rookie card logo.  In fact, the vast majority of the players in this set with the rookie card logo had rookie cards in previous card years.  The most egregious rookie logo cards in this set were players like Justin Verlander and Jared Weaver who not only had rookie cards made in prior years, but they were also Bowman cards.  A cool design helped this set make my list.  




4. 2006 Topps 52

The 1952 Topps set is a classic.  Sometimes Topps goes to that well a few too many times.  At the time this set was released I kind of thought it stunk and I completely ignored the product.  A few years later I found a really cheap box somewhere online, busted open the box, and was hooked.  Sure, there are some not so great names floating around this "rookie card" product, but there are enough cool players in here to make the product worth while.  Let's not forget the fact that the set is also loaded down with all kinds of cool on card autographs.  


Boxes are still floating around and are not too expensive if you want to press your luck looking for a cool autograph.  The singles of most of the autographs can be found pretty on Ebay and are pretty affordable.  The other highlight in this set is the Mickey Mantle card which has different variations based on the background color of the card.  There are half a dozen different versions of the card, which make it a pretty reasonable variation to find, and complete the set.  Definitely a set that has grown on my over the years.  



3. 2006 Topps Heritage

This was a pretty fun set to put together and I really like the simplicity of the 1957 Topps set.  The short-prints in the set were concentrated in the middle of the set, 300s, with a few scattered around the low numbers.  As a Cardinals fan I consider this set a really important set for one reason: It marked the last really high quality Stan Musial autograph.  Stan still signed autographs for a few more years, but his signature really seemed to decline after this product. Do I own a Stan Musial autograph from this set? 


The coolest thing in the world is when you buy a box and get a big hit card from a team or player that you collect.  This is the last Stan autograph I pulled out of a box and it is definitely a really cool one.  I bought this box from a card shop on Duke Street in Durham, it's long gone, and was incredibly happy to land this one.  Unfortunately I was surrounded by a bunch of high school kids playing Pokemon cards.  Probably why the card shop is gone.  This is a must have for any Cardinals fan.  




2. 2006 Upper Deck 

This was most of my summer card collecting in 2006.  The Upper Deck set went giant that year with a 1,250 card base set which was put out in three parts.  There were two 500 card series with a 250 card update that was issued later in the year.  The boxes were not too expensive and there were some above average autographs in here too.  I also like this design with the borderless look and the player name printed across the bottom in the middle.  The foil team logo gives it that Upper Deck feel.  This card also features the dreaded rookie card logo I was talking about above. 

Which leaves the no-brianer......



1.  2006 Allen & Ginter

Easily the best set of 2006.  Incredible first set with an equally awesome autograph checklist.  


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2015 Allen & Ginter Part 3: Standard Sized Non-Sport Inserts

I am going to split the non-sport inserts into two posts.  I will talk a little bit about the non-sport minis on a post I am working on just about the different minis available in this year's Ginter product.  The non-sport inserts have long been a popular staple in Allen & Ginter and something that I have enjoyed collecting over the past decade.  I usually end up putting a few of these together every year.  I have not quite decided where I am going with these this year, but here's is a look at two sets that I am considering adding to my collection and two that I have crossed off the list....



Ancient Armory- This is a 20 card set, and while I pulled a few of these from my box, I am probably not going to put this set together.  This reminds me of the lower level of an art museum where there is inevitably some room filled with fancy swords and spears.  There are also a things that are club like objects from Mesopotamia.   Not too interested.  How could Topps have improved this set?  Perhaps if they had put in an iron maiden I would have been more into collecting this set.....




Menagerie of the Mind- Maybe.  It's 20 cards, and while I expected this set to be more Dungeons and Dragons, there are cards for leprechauns and unicorns.  Also a zombie card, making this an all around interesting mix.  This set seems to lack a little bit of direction.  What could Topps have done to make this set better?  Perhaps a Lucky Charms set, or a villains of Austin Powers set.  Again, not sure this is the set for me. 



What Once Would Be- This is only a ten card set and I kind of dig the artwork.  A definite possibility.  There is a mail parachute card too, got to find out what that's all about.  No video here?    


Keys to the City- I like this set too.  It's 10 cards, there is an Arch card, and an Alamo card.  I think I am sold on this one.  Check back with me next week.  






Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Favorite Buybacks

I am still going to post more on the 2015 Allen & Ginter set, but thought I would take a quick detour to talk about a few buyback sets from the past that were fun to collect.  As mentioned in my post last night, Ginter is just the latest set to offer collectors a second chance at adding cards to their collection.  Almost every card manufacturer has done something with this concept.  Specifically I have two past favorites.  Here's a look at the two sets:

1. SP Authentic Buybacks- These ran for years in Upper Deck's SP products which spanned from the mid 90s until the mid 2000s.  The buyback cards started to appear in the late 1999s and featured players cards from the mid 90s SP products.  The cards were also autographed and serial numbered.  I know that these are really popular with collectors from this era.  I own a whole slew of them and always am looking for cool copies from unique players.  I have only pulled one of these autographs out of a box, also got the Chirography autographs out of these boxes, but I still have the card.  Always had a special thing for this card.......


Again, there is a wide range of players in this set, but one of the part things about buying/trading for these buybacks is the fact that the autographs are all on card signatures.  The later SP Authentic sets were smack dab in the middle of the sticker autograph era which started in the early 2000s.  There are some great autographs out there from these sets.


2.  Donruss Recollections- These buyback cards started in the early 2000s when Donruss relaunched. I loved these buybacks because there were a lot of cool cards from my middle school and high school years.  Donruss was always a good brand for me.  Not the best looking cards, nor the best designed, but this was always a fun pack of cards.  My favorite Donruss sets are probably the run from 1987 through 1990 and then the sets from the mid 90s.  Similar to the SP Authentic product, there are some really nice high end cards in this set.  If you want to find an autograph with a low print run, that will cost upwards of $100, there are plenty of buybacks from Frank Thomas, Tony Gwynn, and Greg Maddux type players.  The thing I liked most though about the Donruss Recollections was the fact that the cards were a little bit more affordable, but featured more players from the "good player" category.  Take this card for example.....



Carney Lansford is pretty far from a Hall of Famer, but was still a good player for the late 80s A's teams.  I know he played for the Red Sox and Angels too, but I remember him as an A's player.  I pulled this card out of a box which sparked my interest in the Donruss Recollection cards.  Playoff, who owned Donruss at the time of the Recollection cards, was the worst offender of all the sticker autograph users.  One of the coolest things you could pull out of one of their boxes was one of these buybacks.  All of the signatures are on card, with a silver stamp somewhere on the card, and the serial number on the back.  Here's a peak at the serial numbering....

There are other buyback autograph sets out there, but these are two of my favorites mainly because they feature some nice on-card autographs and offer a pretty wide range of players and buyback years.  

What is your favorite buyback product?  Favorite buyback card?  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Allen & Ginter Part 2: Buybacks

One of the most talked about changes in this 2015 Allen & Ginter set was the inclusion of buyback cards.  Topps, and several other companies have included buybacks in different products over the years.  Most recently Topps has included buybacks in their base set and their Topps Heritage products.  Some of them are decent, but many of the cards are straight out of the dime box with an added silver stamp logo placed on the top of the card.  Here are two I pulled out of 2014 Topps boxes....


The cards in the Allen & Ginter buybacks look a lot nice than these old creased Topps cards.  I ended up pulling two of the buybacks from my box of Allen & Ginter.  The first is a Edwin Jackson.  It's a pretty nice card and Edwin was a member of both the Durham Bulls and Cardinals, so it's a card that fits well in my collection....


My other buyback is a really nice card too.  It's a mini from the 2009 Allen & Ginter of former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin.  I like Martin as a player, but I also like the looks of this card with the gold frame around it.  



Sharp looking card.  Overall, some of these cards are selling really well on Ebay and I have seen quite a few people trying to track down these buybacks.  In some cases some collectors are shelling out some serious dollars and trade offers to land these cards.  I will do a little non-Ginter blogging at some point tomorrow about some on one of my favorite sets with buyback cards.  

Anybody have a cool buyback autograph in their collection?  


Sunday, August 9, 2015

#MyCardMonday

I am doing a whole slew of posts this week on the Allen & Ginter product, but I am mainly going to be focused on the baseball cards.  Last year I pulled a really cool autograph of musician/actor/spoken word guy Henry Rollins.  I went off on a tangent with non-sport cards for a few days, but eventually came in from the wilderness and returned to my life as a guy who writes about baseball cards.  Since I am not spending much time on the non-sport cards this year, alright there is one non-sport post on Thursday, I am giving the #MyCardMonday slot to one of the best non-sport cards ever.

Before you say D.B. Cooper and hope there is a video clip from Unsolved Mysteries, just know I am about to let you down.  Instead I am going to go with one of the creepiest houses in all of St. Louis.  Some people rank it in the top 10 nationally.....




The card featuring the Lemp Mansion was placed in the Uninvited Guests set which appeared in the 2011 Ginter set.  So what's the story behind the Lemp Mansion?  The family owned a brewery in St. Louis that sat on a bunch of natural caves.  There are a bunch of them around St. Louis.  I have never been in any, but I am not mixing my St. Louis urban legends.  If I believed everything I heard about urban legends in St. Louis I would believe that the cave is now home to an escaped penguin that was stolen from the Zoo and is now wandering one of the caves.  Right, breweries.  Here's a picture of the Lemp Brewery.  Shout out to Built St. Louis for the picture.  


The Brewery was owned by the Lemp Family who lived in the Lemp Mansion.  Long story short the owner, William Lemp Sr., committed suicide in his mansion by shooting himself.  His son, William Lemp Jr., committed suicide in the same mansion by shooting himself.  William Sr.'s youngest son also shot and killed himself, and his daughter did like wise.  Mix in a few other stories about family members dying young for odd reasons, illegitimate children who is referenced as 'The Monkey Faced Boy" by most "experts" on the Lemp Mansion, and it's hard to figure out who exactly haunts the mansion.  I often missed out on the small details of St. Louis urban legends, but the Lemp Mansion has a few dozen websites committed to logging the paranormal activity around the house.  Perhaps you could start your own.....
  



2015 Allen & Ginter Part 1- Autographs and Relics

I will put up a few posts this week showing off my Allen & Ginter cards.  I know I am a little late to the party, but this is always a really fun product.  We have now had Allen & Ginter for ten years and it is definitely a fixture in the world of baseball cards.  I still remember my first box of Allen & Ginter I opened back in 2006.  Great box of cards.  This year I picked up my box from Big D's in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Here are my autographs and relic cards from the box:




First up today is my autograph.  There are some great names on the autograph checklist in this set, so always hopeful to pull something good, Dilson Herrera might seem like a little bit of a disappointment.  However, Herrera is still just 21 and has proven himself as a good player at every level outside of the Majors.  Most of his at-bats have come at Triple A this year and is hitting .340 with an on-base percentage close to .400.  Maybe he will never do that for the Mets, but he's still a good prospect.  I love the look of this autograph with the blue frame, the blue ink on the autograph, and the blue in the Mets jersey.  Looks really nice.

Two relic cards:


This was my first relic out of my box.  I like Aaron Sanchez.  I have seen him pitch a few times in the minors and really liked him as a player.  I am not sure if he is ever going to be a front of the line pitcher, but should still be a pretty solid performer.  This is a pretty ho hum card, everyone loves the framed relic cards.  Next...




I really like this card.  I almost wish that Topps had scrapped the relic cards in the design of the Sanchez card and gone with the framed relic cards and this 10th Anniversary look.  Topps has done a lot of horizontal cards over the years in Allen & Ginter and this relic piece looks nice.  I like the die cut job around the relic piece and the framed picture of the player on the right hand side of the card.  Just a nice looking card.  I am going to go find a Cardinals card in this style, probably asking to much for there to be a Rays card.  

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Friday 5: Top Rookie Pitchers

If you missed my list of top 5 rookie position players you can click here to review my list.  For this morning's list I am going to take a look at some of the rookie pitchers floating around MLB this year. There are some good names on this list, but I do not think any of these players are strong candidates for the Rookie of the Year hardware.   Still, long term, I think some of these players are going to be very good pitchers.


5.  Chris Heston - Giants

Heston is a 27 year old rookie who spent a long time in the minors.  He's also already thrown a no-hitter for the Giants.  The East Carolina grad probably does not have a really high ceiling as a Major Leaguer, but he's here and filling a role for a contending team as a starting pitcher.  There have been good starts, and a few bad ones, but everything about Heston's numbers suggests he is just an average pitcher.  His ERA+ is 102, FIP 3.37, and his K/9 and BB/9 are 6.8 and 2.9.  Just average.  I think that the no-hitter he pitched against the Mets earlier in the year might garner him a Rookie of the Year vote or two, but he's not a serious contender.



4.  Taylor Jungmann - Brewers

Jungmann has pitched well enough that perhaps he should be higher than five on this list, but I am not sure if he's going to keep up his current level of performance.  Perhaps I will look back at this list in a year and shake my head for putting him fifth, or perhaps I will look back and think about why I did not put a player like Carlos Rodon, who has a higher ceiling without the success in the Majors, on this list.  In the minors Jungmann started almost 90 games with an ERA just over 4.00 a WHIP of 1.358 and a K/9 rate under 7.  Kind of blah, but throw in the fact that his walk rate is almost 4 and he kind of seems like the fifth starter/long reliever type.  The Brewers put him at the end of the rotation and he's done nothing but pitched well since.  Well might be selling it short.  He's K/9 rate is suddenly almost 8, his walk rate is 2.6, he's given up 2 home runs in 71.2 innings, and has an ERA+ of 174.  If he had enough starts to qualify his 2.89 FIP would put him in the top 10.  Again, I am not sure this is a true picture of what Taylor Jungmann truly is as a pitcher, or we are just witnessing a hot streak that will end when he starts facing teams a second and third time.  I like his curveball.



3.  Joe Ross - Nationals 

What in the world were the Padres thinking by trading this guy?  For Wil Myers?  Seriously, I think that Ross is going to be a really good pitcher for a long time.  This spot on my list this morning is sort of the dividing line, Jungmann and Heston might be solid pitchers at best, Ross and the two names lower on the list have high ceilings and could be much more than solid pitchers.  He has only made seven starts, and I get the feeling the Nationals are being really careful with the right handed pitcher, but his numbers are quite impressive.  More than a strikeout per inning, an FIP of 2.56, and an ERA+ of 137.  My favorite number on Ross, just seven starts in, is his 47 strikeouts versus 4 walks.  Seems Pedro Martinez like.  I am eager to see how the rest of the season plays out for Ross, but I would imagine a goos showing will mean that the Nats find a spot in the rotation, full-time, for him next season.  




2.  Lance McCullers - Astros 

McCullers was a first round draft pick of the Astros back in 2012.  They have added a lot of other talent to their Minor League system since they drafted McCullers, so I feel like he gets overshadowed often by guys like Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.  Still, McCullers has 14 Major League starts under his belt and his striking out more than a batter per inning with a FIP under 3.  I have never seen McCullers in person, but I know a lot of people have been really impressed by him and think he will be a very good pitcher for a long time.  



1.  Noah Synergaard - Mets 

Syndergaard is clearly the class of the rookie pitchers this year.  Coming into the season he was almost universally rated as a top 10 prospect by publications like Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.  Unlike some of the previous names on this list, who are out performing their minor league numbers, Syndergaard has dominated since starting his career.  His ERA has been right around 3 in almost 100 starts and he has averaged more than a strikeout per inning throughout.  Really his roughest year in the minors was last year when he had an ERA of 4.60 in the offensive minded Pacific Coast League.  The Mets started him out there again this year and he was dominating in five starts.   Since being called up to the Mets he has started 15 games this season and is averaging more than a strikeout per inning while holding down an FIP of 2.78.  If he had enough innings to qualify for the league leader board he would be in the top 10 in that statistic behind Garret Cole.  His K/9 is in line with pitchers like Cole Hamels and Lance Lynn.  I have watched a couple of his starts this season and have been really impressed with his stuff.  Syndergaard clearly can be a front line pitcher in the Majors for a long time.  



Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday 5: Top Five Rookie Position Players

I have two Friday Five posts this week.  One this evening, Friday, and I will have another one tomorrow early in the morning.  Yes, it is technically Saturday, but this is interesting stuff....  This week I am going to look at some of the rookie players who are floating around MLB this year.  There have been a ton of young talented players called up this year with a wide spectrum of performance levels.  Originally I was going to make one post with the top 5 rookies, but decided to split the group into two so I could get a few more names into the conversation.  Tonight position players, tomorrow pitchers.    With a little under two months left in the season, there are going to be some great races for the Rookie of the Year Awards.

Here are my Top 5 Rookie Position Players:


5.  Kris Bryant Cubs 3B

I have always had some reservations about Bryant, most of which revolve around his contact rate.  There was a great Fan Graphs article at some point about it since the season started, but I first started paying attention to the stat a few years ago after sitting near a scout at a Durham Bulls game who was talking about it as a way to rule out players, contact does not guarantee success, who will likely wash it in the Majors.  I first saw Bryant a few years back at USA Baseball.  It is really hard not to love the way the ball jumps off his bat and not think he's going to be a tremendous power hitter for years to come.  However, it seems that the contact rate issues are starting to mount for the Cubs third baseman.  He leads the league in strikeouts and has a .141/.258/.269 slash line with just 2 home runs over his last month of play.  Still, Bryant's overall stats for the year are good with 14 home runs, an OPS+ of 118, and a WAR of 3.0.  He's still a young player with a limited amount of at-bats in the Majors and can still make some adjustments to how he is being pitched.  He makes my list, but is in real danger of falling off if I revisit this post and his performance does not improve.  Here's a look at that power.....


  



4.  Jung Ho Kang Pirates SS

Kang is in his first year in the MLB, but played for awhile in Korea before coming over this past off season.  Sometimes overseas veterans can be a little hard to figure out.  The Cardinals were in on the Kang bidding and I was not completely sold on him being an impact player.  However, he appears to be the real deal.  Kang has done a job for the Pirates this year spending time at both third and shortstop.  His overall line currently stands at .291/.362/.446 with 8 home runs, 2 triples, and 17 doubles.  I like that production out of Kang, but he has actually gotten better as the year has gone along.  During July he posted a .379/.443/.621 line with 3 home runs, and 8 doubles.  I am curious to see how the season ends for the shortstop.  He is certainly in the conversation for Rookie of Year this year.  





3.  Matt Duffy Giants 3B

Duffy has been a big surprise this year for the Giants.  He's was never a huge prospect for the Giants with a career minor league line of .304/.387/.413.  He got on base, but he has never hit for double digit home runs, and has never taken an at-bat in Triple A.  Like most baseball fans, I was not expecting much out of him when the Giants jumped him up from Double A to replace Pablo Sandoval.  So far this year, playing third base full time, Duffy has slashed .309/.346/.464 with an OPS+ of 128.  If you're a fan of WAR he actually leads all rookie position players in the statistic at 3.6.  Duffy should also be in the running for Rookie of the Year, but I just do not hear his name get dropped very often in that conversation.  Perhaps I am conversing with the wrong people.





2. Randal Grichuk Cardinals OF 

This spring Cardinals manager Mike Matheny compared Randal Grichuk to a Lamborghini.  I laughed.  Grichuk seemed like a tools player, but he also spent the last year bouncing between the Cardinals fourth outfield spot and Memphis.  There were some great moments for Grichuk last year, like hitting a home run off of Clayton Kershaw in the playoffs, but also lots of frustrations.  He struck out 31 times in 110 at bats, had an OBP of .278, and only walked 5 times.  This season Grichuk has just over 250 at bats with a slash line of .288/.336/..572, 40 extra base hits, and an OPS+ of 144.  He's a fun player to watch and Cardinals fans rave about his skills, especially his bat, but I need to see a little bit more before I am completely sold on Randal Grichuk.  So, why did I put him ahead of the other players if he's not a slam dunk?  I think he and Bryant actually have the highest ceiling on this list.  Kang is approaching 30, Duffy is going to be a high average/high on base with a little pop, but Grichuk and Bryant could both be something special.  They just happen to be trending in opposite directions at the moment.  He would be my pick to win the NL Rookie of the Year at the moment.  




1. Carlos Correa Astros SS

I am going out on a limb here by saying that Correa will win the American League Rookie of the Year.  He has fewer at-bats than anyone on this list, but has a slash line of .291/.345/.567 with fourteen doubles, fourteen home runs, 8 steals, and an OPS+ of 148.  Correa was the first overall draft pick by the Astros back in 2012 and has the potential to be exactly what teams hope to get out of having that first overall pick: A franchise player.  There are not too many good offensive shortstops left in the game, but Correa looks like he is going to be a great one for years to come.  At just 20 years old we are likely in for a long run out of Carlos.  I am guessing it's going to look pretty nice at the end assuming he stays healthy.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Waiting and Waiting.....

I spent the last week going through some of my favorite cards in the Stadium Club base set.  I felt a little bit unusual posting all kinds of cards from the base set without posting anything with a serial number or autograph on the card.  Since I did not actually open a box of Stadium Club I am more or less just piecing together the cards I like from the product.  Not quite as fun as opening a box, or some packs, but in the end I am still going to walk away with a complete set and a few nice autographs.  

I guess the end product is ultimately the same.  I set out through Ebay, Facebook Groups, and Twitter to track down a cool autograph from this product.  I ran into a familiar problem, I have mentioned in other posts, while trying to track down an autograph of a Cardinals, or Rays player.  Namely, they are all the same Cardinals and Rays players who always appear in every Topps product.  I love the Cardinals, but I am just not excited about Matt Adams.  

After contemplating several different directions, I landed my first autograph from Stadium Club last week, and it arrived in the mail this afternoon.  Here's my latest autograph:  




No Cardinals, no Rays, no problem.  I went with this Rodon since I loved watching him pitch at my alma mater NC State.  Rodon has had several autographs recently, and while I have not rushed out to buy them all, I am excited about his prospects of being a really good pitcher for a long time.  More Stadium Club in the near future....

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015 Durham Bulls Team Set

I have done a lot with Minor League sets during the past month and have a few more to throw up on my page during the next few weeks.  I am going to start out with the 2015 Durham Bulls team set.  I have been waiting for this set to hit the shelves at the team store for the last couple of weeks.  I went to a game Friday night and was happy to see the signs up for the cards as soon as I hit the front gate.  In fact, they were also at the concession stands too.

Similar to my previous Minor League sets I am going to pick out three players I am excited about in the set.  Two are going to be no brainers and I am going to pick out one player to keep your eye out for in the future.  Oh, and there's background music for this post.   Click on the video, it's Ryan Brett's at-bat music.




The lists on the Rays prospects vary greatly from website to website, but there are two players in this set who consistently show up high on every list:

1.  Richie Shaffer- The former Clemson star was the Rays first round draft pick in the 2012 amateur draft.  He was drafted as a power hitter, but had a fairly quiet bat his first two years in the minors.  Last year he started to come around a bit when he hit 19 dingers in Double A Montgomery.  He started out this season in Montgomery again, but after 7 home runs and 10 doubles in just about 40 games the Rays promoted Shaffer to Durham.  In 50 games in Durham the third baseman/first baseman has 16 home runs, 11 doubles, and a slugging percentage of almost .600.  He played third base in the lower minors, but is seeing more and more time at first.  Watch out James Loney, he was called up officially this afternoon. Shaffer has a bunch of other baseball cards in Bowman and Topps products if you are interested in picking up a few.  An appearance in the Futures Game this year has really improved his popularity and the price of his cards.  

2.  Ryan Brett- He's a little spark plug, but a lot of different prospecting publication really like him.  The Rays called him up early in the year, he got hurt, and has not really looked right since.  He's hit over .300 at almost every stop in the minors, consistently gotten on base, hit for a little pop, and stolen bases.  This season he is hitting .220. Brett is still just 23 and has awesome work out videos on YouTube.  He's going to bounce back and be a solid baseball player, or perhaps Batman.  



and my final name....

3. Taylor Motter- Motter does not have many cards and he's not on any prospects lists.  Ask a baseball fan who has watched a Durham Bulls game this year who the funnest player to watch on the field is and you will likely get the answer of Motter.  What does he do?  He plays everywhere in the field.  I think I have seen him play everywhere except first, catcher, and pitcher.   He has a little bit of pop, 9 home runs and 33 doubles, speed with 24 steals, and also has cool hair.  When he plays in the outfield he does a cool Dan Quisenberry imitation on his last warm up throw.  Watching him reminds me a lot of Ben Zobrist.  He does a lot well and can fit in just about anywhere on the field.  Card companies have not gotten the notice that this guy is good, there aren't many cards of him out there.  






Sunday, August 2, 2015

#MyCardMonday



I like picking up autographs of Cardinals players.  When the Cardinals get a new player I go shopping, or trading, looking for an autograph of the new players.  This week I added Brandon Moss and Jonathan Broxton to my list of players I need to find an autograph of on cardboard.  I already had a Steve Cishek.  It did not take me long to track down a copy of a Brandon Moss autograph.  Just a matter of a mere afternoon between his trade to the Cardinals and a completed trade.  I also picked up a Jonathan Broxton, but I paid nothing, and traded nothing, for the card.  Just a straight donation to my collection on one condition.  I had to post a "bad" Cardinals card as payment for the Broxton.  I thought the #MyCardMonday post would be a good format for the payment, but we had to agree upon the card.  After a little haggling, we settled on Kip Wells.  

Who remembers the Kip Wells era as a Cardinal?  

I always post stats and videos with all of these cards, so let's cover Kip Wells terribleness in full.  In 2007 the Cardinals signed the right handed veteran to a one year contract worth 4 million dollars.  That was way too much money.  In return for that sum of money Wells led the National League in losses, had an ERA of almost 6, and an ERA+ of 77.  That ERA+ was second to last on the team, as he finished above Mike Maroth (0-5) who had an ERA+ of 42.  In all, the Cardinals found 26 starts for Kip Wells that summer.  There were so many low lights, but perhaps his worst start of the year came in a start against the Royals where he lasted just 1.1 innings while giving up 6 runs on 3 hits with 4 walks.  In all, Wells had 12 starts during the season when he gave up more than 5 runs.  

Despite the terrible single season that Wells spent on the Cardinals I still own an autographed card of the pitcher.  It's a sticker autograph and it's from the Donruss Champions set.  Not a great product.  The sticker has started to get a little foggy.  Seems fitting.  



2007 Durham Bulls Team Set

Just filling in a few holes from previous years.  I saw this set on sale this past weekend while I was attending Friday night's during Durham Bulls game and just simply could not pass this one up.  I think I now have all of the Bulls sets from every year that I have lived in North Carolina (roughly ten years).  I am going to have to go back and start working on the sets from before 2005 now.  This set actually has some pretty nice names in it for a Minor League team set.  A bunch of these players made it up to the Majors with Zobrist being the best of the lot.  Here's a look at the cards and a few thoughts on some of the players.....



Alright, a little bit hard to read and the cards have a horizontal orientation.  Still fun to look at.  The best card in this group belongs to Johnny Gomes on the left hand side of the middle row.  I was never really a huge fan of Johnny Gomes, but he's had a decent career and won a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2013.  Long time relief pitcher J.P. Howell is below Gomes and Brent Butler is in the top right hand corner.

A few more Major Leaguers in this group too.  Top right is Royals/Rays infielder Elliot Johnson.  Most famously plowed over a Yankees catcher during a Spring Training and injured him somehow.  Can't remember how he trucked, but it might have been Francisco Cervalli.  Jeff Niemann on the middle left was a high draft pick out of Rice, had a decent year or two, and his career was then wrecked by shoulder problems.  Loved watching him pitch for the Bulls, but injuries definitely did him in.  Chris Richard is in the bottom right.  He was first baseman for the Orioles for awhile, but ended up in Tampa with the Rays afterwards.  Richard spent several years in Durham and is on the top of the franchise leader board in several offensive categories.


This is a good group of cards.  Let's start with the top left card belonging to Justin Ruggiano.  He's one of my favorite Bulls of all-time, and even though he's hanging out in Tacoma, I still am following his career.  Shawn Riggans is in the middle of the top row.  He was a pretty good catching prospect for awhile.  The Zobrist card in the set is in the bottom right hand side.  I also like the Gary Gaetti card to the left of the Zobrist.  


Last three.  Montoyo, the manager, is on the left.  He managed the Bulls a long time and did a great job.  Cool to add a card of his to the collection.  Wool E. Bull on the right is also a sweet add.  The Blue Monster in the middle?  Not so great.  



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Archers!!

It's always nice to have a few friends who are looking out for your collecting needs.  I use my Facebook page to pick up cards in different groups, but there are so many different pages and posts that it can be difficult to keep track of all of the cards floating around out there.  Last weekend I got a Twitter message from one of my best Twitter follows who gave me the heads up on a lot of Archer cards that were up for sale on one of the Facebook pages.  The post slipped right past me.

After a couple of messages I was the proud owner of four new Chris Archer cards.  Pretty sweet lot, here's a look at the new cards......



At some point I had this card and I flipped it around to a fellow Rays fan to fill in a hole in a trade.  Not a difficult find, nor an expensive card, but I still love looking at it.  We've got an on card autograph and a cool picture showing some good grit from Archer making a pitch.  Again, sharp card, and if there was one downside to this lot, it's that this card is the only on card signature in the group.  


Archer autographs from Topps Supreme?  I have a few, but they are all from the 2013 release which was actually only released in Asian markets.  Why haven't I picked up any from the 2014 release?  It was actually released in the US which made the challenge of finding and buying the cards a lot easier, but for some reason it did not happen.  Looking back over my posts on this product, it seems like I spent a lot of time and money focusing on the Cardinals.  Sorry Archer collection, I hope this is the first of many cool Supreme autographs I pick up from last year.......



Here is a card that I already own.  If you cheat, scroll down, the next card is very similar too.  So what's the deal with wanting more copies of this card?  It's nice to own Archer autographs, but I swear that Topps did not make one of these cards with an identical patch.  It's like there was a giant pile of mismatched Archer patches sitting somewhere at Topps production facility and they used every last inch.  There are a few hundred copies of these cards and I have not found two patch pieces that are the same.  


It's true that duplicate cards kind of stink to own, but not when they have al sorts of cool and interesting patches.  Really happy with this new lot of Archer cards.   

Kindergartner Takes On Allen & Ginter

I will have some serious posts about Allen & Ginter over the next few days, but while you are waiting to see what I landed out of my box, I took a little bit of time to bust some wax with my five year old this afternoon.  We got out of the house for a little while this morning, took a walk, went out for lunch, and stopped to pick up a blaster of the recent Topps release.  Since they do not write blog posts in Kindergarten I am going to go ahead and type up his hits and thoughts on the cards.



He actually helped me out with my box this morning too, so he had a pretty good idea what the cards were going to look like before he opened up the box.  We categorized the cards into three groups: Little Cards, Baseball Player Cards, and Cards of Others Things.  Like Statues.  Here's a little peak at the sorting system......


Mini cards are at the top, baseball cards in the forefront, and the cards of other things are in the background.  Clearly the favorite card of the box was The Statue of Liberty card.  I am not sure why, but my son really loved that card.  I am pretty sure we will have a crease and some round corners by the end of the afternoon.....



Beyond the cool Statue of Liberty card we also pulled an autograph of Padres outfielder Cory Spangenberg.  While it's not the best autograph, it's hard to be disappointed with any "hit" cards that come out of a box of retail cards.  



Overall, Allen & Ginter was a pretty big hit with my five year old.  We liked looking at the baseball cards, but the non-baseball cards were a nice touch in this product and were something different to look at and sort.  Outside of the obviously popular Statue of Liberty card, my son also liked the Mantis card out of the A World Beneath Our Feet set, it's a mini too, and his favorite baseball card looks like a James McCann.


Most importantly, at the end of all the packs and all of the cards we were really happy with all of our cards.  We are going to work on boxing them up at some point this afternoon.  Should be fun to see how the sorting finally works out.