Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Set Appreciation Post #20 - 2012 Topps Pro Debut

No special guests or Aaron Boone memes for this set appreciation post, just baseball cards of players wearing Minor League uniforms. As a person who follows and watches Minor League baseball, these are always fun sets to flip through. This was the third Pro Debut set, so it was still a relatively new product at this point. More than a decade removed from its release, there are plenty of players on the checklist who are in the prime of their carer or beyond.  

Let's get it.  

The 2012 Topps design has always been fairly low on my list, easily the bottom quartile of all their base sets. It's just uninspired and looks like they did not put much thought or effort into this design. Someone came up with this five minutes before pitching it to some higher-up. The photography is fine, it's not Stadium Club or anything. You better believe I am going to count the bad design towards the final rating at the end of the post.  

It gets worse.  

There are no statistics on the back of the card. I almost want to stop the post here and just tell you to avoid ever touching this set. Add in that Topps is calling Dante Bichette a "dynamic offensive" player. That is only making things worse. He couldn't hit a beach ball outside of Denver.  

This set is really a hit or miss product. The good names are great, but there are a lot of former highly regarded prospects who never panned out or lived up to the hype. As a fan of the Minor Leagues, I am going to try to stick to the success stories for the cards I show off. The percentage of players who did not make it is really high, even for a Pro Debut product.  

The best three cards in the set are no-brainers. Like decade into their careers and they are Hall of Fame trajectory type players.  

First, we have Syracuse SkyChiefs outfielder Bryce Harper.  

Bryce Harper was in Triple A less than a month during the 2012 season before the Nationals called him up to the Majors. I usually make a point to see players like Harper when they roll through Durham, but he did not make it that far into the schedule. Despite the miss on my part, this is a cool card. I miss the SkyChiefs, who had a train as a mascot. You can see it on his batting helmet. There is story there, but I am not going to tell it on my blog. Cool card and a cheap Harper rookie if you don't own one. 

One of the other really good cards belongs to Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado.  

Arenado is shown here with the Modesto Nuts of the California League. That's A Ball and Arenado is 20 years old in this picture. Arenado was actually on Modesto in 2011, his 2012 season was spent with Tulsa in the Double A Texas League. Who would have guessed this guy would go on to hit 300 home runs and win 10 Gold Gloves? 

Baseball America rated him the 42nd best prospect right along side fellow third baseman Mike Olt and Will Middlebrooks in their 2012 Prospect Guide.  

Oops, missed out on that one.  

Last up of the really good cards is Manny Machado of the Fredrick Keys.  

I will not listen to your Manny Machado slander about him not being a future Hall of Famer.  

A few other really good players in this set......

We've got Jose Ramirez. Probably also a Hall of Famer, or getting really close. The card shows him with the Indians entry into the 2011 Arizona League team. Ramirez is an 18 year old on this card, one the youngest players featured in this Pro Debut set. This card is why this set is fun to look at years later.  

We've also got what feels like an air brushed Gerrit Cole.  

Cole was actually in college in 2011. He went to UCLA and was selected by the Pirates with the first overall pick in the MLB Draft. Cole did end up playing with the Bradenton Marauders during the 2012 season, but he was only there for a few starts before the Pirates promoted him all the way up to their Triple A team.  

Locally, we've got Christian Yelich playing for the Greensboro Grasshoppers.  

Yelich is another really young player in this set, only 19 in this picture. Turned out to be a pretty good player. Why do the Greensboro cards never have the players posing with the bat dogs?  

Many teams have bat dogs these days, Greensboro was the originator.  

Let me move on to the Cardinals and Durham Bulls portion of the post. 

There are a lot of Durham Bulls in this set. There are not many Cardinals players in this set. At least not many who made it to the Majors.  It was a toss up between Shelby Miller and Matt Adams. 

I am going with Matt Adams, because you can see his uniform.  

I have always liked the Springfield Cardinals uniforms. The Cardinals should do this with all their Minor League affiliates. Two birds on the bat with the city name in the Cardinals script. 

My best memories of Matt Adams on the Cardinals include his home run off of Clayton Kershaw in the 2014 NLDS.......

There was also that time FanGraphs wrote an article about how bad Matt Adams was playing left field and fellow Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham liked the article post on Twitter.  

On to the Durham Bulls portion of the post. There are a lot of them.    

Some former Bulls are in the base set, but were on the Royals at the time this product was released......

You can't read the names, because it's 2012 Topps, but this is Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery.  

Montgomery recorded the final out in Game 7 for the Chicago Cubs in 2016 World Series, so I should probably ignore all his cards, but he also threw a no-hitter for the Durham Bulls at a game I attended. Seeing a no-hitter is pretty cool, so I just try to ignore his Cubs cards. 

I have also sacrificed a Durham Bulls card from this set for an in-person autograph for my son.  

Never replaced it, not sure I ever will.  

There is also a card of Taylor Motter in the set, but he is on the Princeton Rays and not the Durham Bulls. He looks weird with short hair.  Motter does not have any certified autographs, but I have an in-person autograph copy of the card that I prefer to the unsigned copy.  

There are also two Tim Beckham cards, which both show him on the Durham Bulls.  The first is a relic card.  

There are parallels of this card with patch pieces, but they've always been really expensive when they've shown up and the patch pieces are just the blue trim from the middle and sleeve areas of Beckham's jersey.  If I ever saw a patch piece from the Bulls logo, I would be all over it.  

Last Tim Beckham card......

Easily my favorite Durham Bulls card, as well as my favorite card overall in this entire set.  

Let's make one more stop with this set and then I will assign it a rating.  

Pro Debut products usually come with a few autographs per box. The 2012 Pro Debut set was no different, but the autograph checklist is terrible. I have autographs of Drew Hutchinson, Charlie Tilson, and Matt Adams, and they are three of the better names available.  

So, how does the 2012 Pro Debut set rate?  

I had been ranking the sets featured in my Set Appreciation posts, but I am going to stop that today.  Instead, I am going to rate the set on a 1-5 scale based on its design, quality of checklist, insets, value and price, and also an overall. 

Today's rating scale is using the Durham Bulls beloved mascot, Wool E. Bull.  

The design is really bad and the lack of stats on the back of the cards is really hard to get past for me. I gave the set 1 Wool E. Bull for design and I felt like that might be generous. The checklist has some strong names, but it is really top heavy. There are a few other solid names in this set that I did not bring up in the post, my time is limited, but there are a lot of failed prospects here. More than other Pro Debut sets. 

My two highest ratings were for inserts and value. While the autograph checklist is terrible, I am a sucker for those manufactured patch cards with the Minor League logos. I know that there are few Minor League card collectors floating around on Blogger, but those are universally loved and were a great concept. The value offered here is good too. There are really cheap boxes and packs of cards that you can find on the discount table at shops and shows.  

Overall, I give this set two Wool E. Bulls.  There are better Pro Debut sets out there. 


  1. Nice looking cards - cool to see those stars - for one second I mistook Dante for Bo

    1. All the Bichettes have a similar appearance. No need for Dante Sr. to go on the Maury Show, he is definitely their father.

  2. I picked up some nice Pro Debut cards from a less-than-a-dime box this weekend. But nothing as old as these, and certainly no players of the caliber of Harper, Machado, or Arenado! The Archer auto is really cool too.

    1. Pro Debut cards are always fun, no matter the quality of the players. So players in their early 20s and late teens, it's fun to see how they have aged over the years.

  3. I don't mind the 2012 Topps design. It's kind of minimalistic, and doesn't interfere with the photos. On that Bryce Harper card it kind of looks like his face was photoshopped onto another player.

    1. I had actually thought that card looked photoshopped while I was making the post, but decided that they would probably not go that far with a Minor League set. Maybe they messed with the background or there is weird lighting in that stadium. You're right, something looks off.


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