Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mookie Mania

Mookie Betts had an excellent spring and looks like a future star. I'm excited to follow his big-league career after seeing him in Greenville in 2013. He's flown through the minor league ranks since then and started off the year as the starting center-fielder and leadoff man for the Red Sox.

The other day against the Nationals Betts robbed Bryce Harper of a home-run with a nice catch at the wall, and then homered himself. Boston loves this guy and I couldn't be happier for him.

I recently picked up some cards to add to my small Betts collection.

I could be wrong on this, but I'd imagine it's not often that a player has his first Bowman card and major league rookie cards in the same year. That's the case with Mookie Betts, though. The card on the left is his first, from Bowman Prospects. Next up is his Stadium Club rookie. Pretty close to having all the base cards I want from that set. The rest of these are from 2015. I'm a fan of the new Topps design. Great post-swing shot here.

While this isn't my favorite Gypsy Queen design, it still ranks as one of my top five base sets in a given year. I was pleased to see Mookie show up in the Glove Stories insert set. Just from seeing him play a few times this year I would expect to see him win some Gold Glove awards. The last is probably my favorite, which should surprise no one since it's from Heritage. Looks like Betts is glad to be in Boston.

Help me out, am I the only one following this guy outside of Red Sox fans? Where is he in the hype-scale, compared to a Bryce Harper in his first season, or Abreu or Puig. Probably below all of those, I'd expect, but how far below?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Drive Me to the Ballpark

While opening day in the majors is a big deal, for sure, I'm even more excited with the start of minor league baseball, the Greenville Drive, in particular. The Drive, of the South Atlantic League, are the low A affiliates of the Red Sox. Since I moved to the Greenville area I've found myself following the Red Sox system pretty closely, including the major league team. While I've been an Orioles and Braves fan most of my life, I've become a fan of certain Red Sox players as well as they've moved through the minor league system.

The Drive are supposed to have a good group this year if you follow what the experts are saying. Several of the Red Sox top prospects play for the Drive, and one more, Yoan Moncada, should be joining the team in the early part of the season. He could be the best of the group.

Two of the top prospects on the team were picked in the first round of the 2014 draft. Third-baseman Michael Chavis, pick 26, is 9th on's list, while right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech, the 33rd pick, is 10th. Rafael Devers, another third-baseman and other best hitting prospect for the Drive, is 5th on the list. Devers and Chavis have been alternating between playing 3B and DH so they both get some work in the field. Nick Longhi is off to a great start to the season, as well, a 30th round selection in 2013.

April 9th couldn't get here soon enough. The Drive started off the season at home against the Augusta Greenjackets, affiliates of the Giants.

Rafael Devers started off the scoring with a sac-fly in the 3rd, while Chavis homered in the 7th. And then in the bottom of the 9th inning he broke a 2-2 tie and smacked a double off the mini-Green Monster to win the game for the Drive 3-2. Chavis has struggled a bit since that game, as he's batting just 5-30 on the season, but if I had to bet I'd say he's going to have a good career.

Recently I've picked up some cards of new Drive players and ones from last year's team.

The first is Michael Kopech's Bowman Draft card from 2014. He's off to a great start with a 1-1 records, 1.98 era and 11 strikeouts to just 2 walks in Greenville. Trey Ball was picked 7th overall by the Red Sox in 2013. After spending 2014 in Greenville he's moved up to A-Advanced Salem this year. So far he's had one great start, one ok start, and one poor start after a strong second half in 2014.

Here's the first card I've added of Michael Chavis. As mentioned above, I think this is a guy to keep an eye on as he progresses through the minor leagues.

Great way to start the season. Glad you're back, baseball.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Introducing my 2015 Fantasy Baseball Team

Over the weekend I drafted a fantasy baseball team in a yahoo public head-to-head league. I have at least one team a year and in recent years I've tried to limit it to just one. I definitely drafted based on guys that are on my favorite teams, but I don't feel like I reached too much for any of those players. Here's how my team looks with the round I drafted them in. It's a 12 team league.

Round 1 - Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
Could have gone with some higher rated players here, but Adam is off to a fantastic start to the season and is definitely worth being taken in round one. 

Round 2 - Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners
Wanted to get a solid ace for my pitcher staff and I certainly got that with Felix. He struck out 12 over the weekend to move his record to 2-0.

Round 3 - Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
Was going to take Chris Sale if he was available, but he was picked right before my turn. It still felt like a steal getting Freeman here, but that might be the fan in me talking. Hopefully he picks up the Braves offense this year. So with two out of my first three picks I've taken guys on my favorite squads. At least I'll have fun cheering for my fantasy team this year. 

Round 4 - Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies
The Rockies are off to a great start, and that includes Dickerson. I've had him on my team in the past, previously as a free-agent pickup, but if he produces like he's expected to, he's worth a 4th round pick.

Round 5 - Mookie Betts, 2B, Red Sox 
Although he's playing in center field to start the season, I'm playing Mookie at second. This is where I may have reached a little, but I expect Mookie to have a great season doing a little bit of everything. He's not hitting well to start the year, so we'll see how this pick pans out, but again, I'm a fan and will enjoy cheering him on either way.

Round 6 - Julio Teheran, SP, Braves
So through 4 out of 6 rounds I've picked guys that I collect. But really, outside of Betts I picked these guys where they were valued by ESPN and Yahoo experts. Teheran will lead the Braves pitching staff this year and if he produces as he has in recent years, he'll be a big help as the second pitcher on my team. If I had to do it again, I'd probably take Adam Wainwright. Injury concerns bumped him down in the order and he was taken just after I took Teheran. I was debating on those two but the injury worries led me to take Teheran.

Round 7 - Sonny Gray, SP, Athletics
Here's where I think I got great value. This guy was fantastic last year and was surprised he fell this far in the draft. Nelson Cruz for some reason was rated really low in the default rankings and I was hoping to steal him here, but he was picked two picks before I picked Gray. 

Round 8 - Jeff Samardzija, SP, White Sox
Here's where I think my team really started to come together. The four starting pitchers I would think rival any other top starts in my league. I'm thinking at this point I've got a great chance to win most of the pitching categories on a weekly basis.

Round 9 - Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers
If Lucroy starts hitting I think he's a steal at this point in the draft. Surely he'll come around after an awesome season in 2014.

Round 10 - Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals
Was pleased to get Carpenter here, and he's off to a great start to the season hitting .401 with 10 RBIs. Obviously that won't hold but right now he's the 3rd rated third-baseman.

Round 11 - Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals
Well I didn't take Adam Wainwright, but I did end up taking Wacha. I'm thinking he'll have a fine season and will add to my starting pitching depth, which I think is best in the league.

Round 12 - Koji Uehara, RP, Red Sox
First relief pitcher for my squad, and I think I got him a little later because of his injury to start the year. He already has a save and a win since his first appearance on April 14th. Lots of closers were already off the board at this point so I left like I needed to take one of my own.

Round 13 - Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers
Took a chance here on Pederson having a great season, but at this point in the draft I'm good with it. Brings a bit of excitement to my team. Chris Archer was still available leading up to my pick but was picked a few picks before. I was hoping to steal him here. At this point I still needed a few relievers, a shortstop and some utility and bench players to round out the squad.

Round 14 - Xander Bogaerts. SS, Red Sox
Though Xander plays third these days, he has eligibility at short, and that's where I'll slot him. He's off to a great start, but if he doesn't pan out I may have to look at the free-agent list/waiver wire. I don't think that'll be the case though and I feel like this is pretty good value for Bogaerts.

Round 15 - Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees
Definitely an injury risk but in round 15 if he holds up I would consider this a great value pick. He's 2-0 so far on the season with one rough outing against the Orioles. He doesn't pitch deep into games but he's definitely got upside.

Round 16 - Neftali Feliz, RP, Rangers
At this point the pickings for closers were pretty slim so I took one of the remaining guys. Not much to say other than I need the saves, even if there may not be as many opportunities for the Rangers.

Round 17 - Luke Gregorson, RP, Astros
Again I was thinking I needed another closer before there weren't any left. He does have 2 saves in 6 appearances and no runs given up so far, so maybe he'll pan out. Even though I needed a closer, Will Myers went two picks before mine and I was hoping to add him as a utility player.

Round 18 - Lucas Duda, 1B, Mets
Seemed to be a value pick as he was rated higher than this draft position on every set of player rankings I saw. Definitely adds some power to my team.

Round 19 - Dallas Keuchel - SP, Astros
Another pick I feel could be a pretty big steal at this point in the draft.

Round 20 - Gregory Polanco - OF, Pirates
Low risk pick on a high-upside player. Don't have a ton of speed either and he could add that.

Round 21 - Chris Tillman - SP, Orioles
Another pitcher I will be cheering for all year. Ace of the Orioles staff and the O's will win a lot of games.

Round 22 - Jason Grilli - RP, Braves
Was pleased when I noticed the Braves closer still available. He was rated pretty low because Kimbrel was expected to be the closer until he was traded. Probably would have taken him earlier if I had noticed he was there.

Round 23 - Drew Pomeranz - SP, Athletics
This pick was supposed to be Jesse Hahn but I ended up mis-clicking and selecting another A's starter instead. I think I may actually hang onto him and see how he does in his next few starts. Looks like he has a chance to have a solid year for the A's.

Overall I think my team stacks up well with any other in my league. My starting pitching is deep, and hopefully that will carry me and allow me to win most weeks. I will need to drop a pitcher and add a hitter at some point in the early season.

How did I do? Does anyone here play fantasy? If anyone has an opening in a keeper league, that's what I'm really interested in.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Diggin' the Donruss

Reading a post from The Junior Junkie on 2015 Donruss inspired me to pick up 3 of the 30-card packs at a recent trip to target. I wouldn't rank either the 2014 or 2015 sets among my favorite base sets, but they're new baseball cards and chances to pick up some of my favorite players on the cheap. The 2015 set design is definitely a step up from the 2014 design. To me, these 30-card packs for $4.99 are a bargain, with all the inserts you get.

I was pleased with the mix of young stars, veterans, and legends.

The McCutchen to me is the best looking card in this group. Was pleased to pull a Yasiel Puig, as well.

Some of the star base. Panini did a nice job on the Ortiz as far as hiding the absence of logos.

Can't go wrong with cards of these three. Really like the Bo Jackson, in particular.

And of course I had to show what I pulled of Orioles, Braves (not one base!), and Kershaw.

The inserts, though, are where this product really shines. The Diamond kings scan great and might be my favorite of the bunch.

Nice to pull these of some exciting young players. I expect Michael Taylor to have a great big-league career once he is able to stay in Washington. It appears he might be heading back to AAA when Denard Span returns for the Nats. But his guy will get his shot and I expect him to do well.

These didn't scan well for me, but again it's hard to go wrong with the number of inserts you get in these 30-card packs. These look a whole lot better in person than in the scan. Always exciting to see some of the more sought after guys in the hobby show up in your packs- Abreu in this case.

Can't go wrong with inserts of these three All-Timers.

This was one of my favorite type of inserts, but again they didn't scan too well for me. I really like the colors on the Altuve. My biggest mistake in my fantasy baseball league was cutting this guy early last season (I'm ashamed to admit it). He started off slow and to be honest I hadn't heard of him, and I had Robinson Cano as well at 2nd. Probably my biggest mistake of the fantasy baseball season.

Excited to see how Rusney Castillo does for the Red Sox, and was surprised to see him included in the set, but glad to have pulled his 'The Rookies' card. He'll start off his season in AAA when he returns from injury.

Here's a random mix of the remaining inserts. All three of these are sharp, and I always appreciate shiny cards. The first two are definitely that. Upton's started off the season strong for the Padres. Was sad to see him traded but the Braves starting off better than expected have made me feel a lot better about the rebuild.

And I was pumped to see a relic appear in my last pack! Jake finished 8th in Rookie of the Year voting last year and has started off well through 3 starts for the Rays in 2015. 

While I didn't pick up too many of my player collection guys, hopefully I added some cards that other collectors will want. These inserts are awesome and look even better in person than the scans show. Was glad to pull several young stars in these breaks, and as always, there's nothing like opening a fresh pack of cards.

Anyone got any inserts from this set of my guys?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Delayed Wallet Card - Blizzard of 2015

Back around Christmas, I requested two tickets to the Late Show with David Letterman. My wife is a fan of Letterman and has always wanted to go see him live in New York. I had pretty much forgotten about it when my wife got a call on a Thursday in January about tickets for the following Monday's show. When she got the call, she looked at me and asked- can we really just go to New York this weekend? I said if we could get the time off work then why not? So we booked a flight and hotel and were off the next day on our first ever trip to New York City. At this point there wasn't much snow in the forecast.

Here's McGriff's view from our hotel room, looking over Central Park:

I definitely missed a lot of #WalletCard opportunities on this trip, but I was more focused on seeing the sights on our first trip to New York. Maybe next time the Crime Dog will get into more mischief.

After we arrived in New York, the amount of snow in the forecast jumped to the point that a blizzard was being called for. We added another night to our reservation and pushed our return flight back a day.

We didn't get blizzard conditions, more like 8 inches of snow. So we just enjoyed a longer trip.

Some of the highlights:

  • Winning $100 on the Today Show by answering a trivia question about the Super Bowl.
  • Seeing David Letterman twice (and meeting Rupert Gee)
  • Going to two Broadway shows
  • Playing in the snow in Central Park
  • Seeing one of The Original Soup Man restaurants

We took a trip on the Staten Island Ferry and passed by the Statue of Liberty.

We went to the Top of the Rock and got some great pictures and views.

Here I am outside of Radio City Music Hall.

We wanted to go to a New York Rangers game but the schedule didn't work out for that.

We had an excellent trip and actually ended up lucking out as the weather allowed us to do way more than we would have otherwise!