Sunday, April 24, 2016

Opening Day Stack

Last month I posted a pack of Opening Day I opened that served as the start of the blogging year for me. After getting a taste of 2016 cards I had to add more from this set to cover my player and team collections.

These three fit into individual player collections. Machado has developed into a true star. I worry he will leave Baltimore and go another team. Seeing him in pinstripes for the Yankees would be a nightmare. Mookie continues to lead off the Red Sox lineup where I expect him to stay for years to come. Sano's bat is slowly coming around after a cold start. His average is up to .250.

Teheran is pitching well below the level from his 2014 All-Star season. Through four starts his ERA is 5.64. Not what you want from your number one starter. It is April and surely he will pitch better than he has thus far. The Braves could certainly use the help as they wait on the returns from recent trades. Freeman appears to be rounding the bases in this one. Neat card.

The blue parallels might be my favorite part of 2016 Opening Day. Was pleased to find the Mookie in particular. Also on this row is the first of the inserts. Alternate reality is not necessarily a better reality in the case of this insert set. To me none of the inserts are particularly exciting. But they are cheap cards of my favorite players, and I'm glad to add them to my collection.

Three more Alternate Reality inserts. Same guys as above. The Mookie is my favorite of this row. I guess the uniform colors mesh better with the colors on the rest of the card.

Here's the last of the inserts. Miguel Sano's power is coming back. He's hit two home runs in his last three games after hitting one in his first 15 games of 2016. The insert design is even worse than the ones above. Reminds me of a mid-2000s Upper Deck insert of some sort. 

The blue parallels are definitely the highlight of this release and I plan to pick up the remainder of the blue parallels that fit into my collection. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Minor League Stack

I'm in on following the Braves and Red Sox minor league systems this year. The Braves because the season is already probably lost and the Red Sox because I'll be seeing the single-A Greenville Drive a handful of times this season. I also want to check on some of the guys the Braves traded most of their talent for.

And if I'm going to follow their seasons by tracking boxscores, might as well pick up some cardboard. Plus, this gives me another reason to pick up more Heritage and one of my favorite sets each year, Topps Heritage Minors. I love the team names, the logos, the mascots, everything about the minor leagues, really.

Manuel Margot is a Drive alum who's now in the Padres minor league system playing for the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas. He stole 39 bases last year splitting time between High-A Salem and AA Portland. The Red Sox traded Margot and another former Greenville Drive player Javier Guerra to get Craig Kimbrel. Margot and Guerra are listed as the top two prospects in the Padres organization per Really like the colors in the Margot card.

The other two on this line are Braves minor leaguers. The Braves picked up Toussaint from the Diamondbacks last summer. He is struggling so far with single A Rome but it's early.

Sean Newcomb is with AA Mississippi and has given up 4 runs in 15 innings so far and was rated the #67 prospect in baseball by

The Braves minor league system is loaded with young pitching talent. Hopefully a few of them have strong careers with the big league club, or they can create a balanced squad by making some moves. They seem to be set at shortstop with two top prospects there as well.

Chavis was a first round pick of the Red Sox in 2014 and is repeating at single A Greenville this year. He has good power but struggled to maintain a good average last season. He's off to a much better start this year.

Devers is one of the top prospects in baseball with High-A Salem. He is just 19 after driving in 70 runs last season for Greenville in the middle of a loaded Drive lineup.

Kopech definitely has talent but between a suspension and breaking his hand in a fight at the beginning of this year is having a hard time staying on the field. Kopech is also just 19 and was another Red Sox first round pick from 2014. He's got some growing up to do, it seems.

Sam Travis has hit for a high average at every level in the minors, and started 2016 with AAA Pawtucket. He's once again off to a great start at .327 through 13 games. It would not surprise me to see Travis have a long major league career as a starting first baseman for the Red Sox or elsewhere. This is the first card I've picked up of Travis.

Chavis I already talked about above. Glad to see him off to a good start. If it continues he'll be on his way to High-A Salem.

Was glad to pick up this Donruss insert of Devers. Yoan Moncada may be the more hyped Red Sox prospect, but I expect Devers to have a solid career himself.

Anybody else keeping up with their team's prospects this year? Anyone under the radar we should be on the lookout for?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On the Mark-akis

Nick Markakis has been one of my favorite players since he made his debut with the Orioles 10 years ago. I was thrilled when he signed with the Braves in December of 2014 for four seasons, despite him coming off a surgery for a herniated disk by his neck. He has two gold-glove awards for his career and it seems wrong that he doesn't have an All-Star game appearance.

Markakis is off to a strong start to 2016, one of the lone bright spots in the Braves lineup so far. He's leading the majors with 9 doubles through 12 games. In a game my wife and I attended last weekend against the Cardinals he smashed three doubles and was robbed of a fourth. It seems like he is as healthy as ever based on these early games.

With that said, I've been eager to pick up cards of Markakis in a Braves uniform. I picked up a few from 2015 but recently added a handful from 2016. My #1 want for 2016 is the Opening Day blue parallel. Those things are awesome.

I'll start it off with a trio from 2016 Topps. We've got the Opening Day version, the regular Topps and the Topps Gold version /2016. Foil cards do not scan well for me but fortunately you can see the foiled out parts with the regular version right next to it. How many design differences can you spot in the Opening Day version? Answers at the bottom in white. Highlight over to see. I'll have to do this more maybe with some photoshop work.

Other recent Markakis additions from 2015 and 2016. I love a good Heritage card. One card showing my favorite two current Braves might make my top cards of 2016.

Differences between opening day and the regular version (highlight below to see):
1. The Opening Day log, of course. 2. The Topps logo is in gray on the Opening day and on the right side, silver foil on the left side on the others. 3. The Braves logos and associated text are flip-flopped. 4. Atlanta Braves text is in gray as well on Opening day. 5. White sections flip-flopped.  6. More of the bat showing on Opening Day version. 7. Is it just me or is the image slightly zoomed out more on the Opening Day version? This was fun, but would be more fun if the differences weren't so obvious. Maybe the attempt was amusing if nothing else.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Bright Side of Marketside

By now I'm sure most of you are aware of the promotion going on at Wal-Mart where you can purchase Marketside pizzas and breadsticks that come with packs of 3 cards. Pizza and baseball cards are a solid combination, and since I started seeing blog posts about them I wanted to at least pick up a few packs. 

The opportunity arose this past weekend when we stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few things. I added two boxes of breadsticks to those few things.

The packs include a coupon for $2.50 off a Topps brand 2016 value box and $1 off a jumbo or value pack of a Topps 2016 brand. An excuse to pick up more packs? I'll take it!

Here's the packaging on the breadsticks in case you are curious.

And here's the packs, just plain silver, nothing at all printed on either side.

I've pulled Yadier Molina from just about every pack I've opened in 2016. Could be worse players I suppose but I am not a Cardinals fan. In fact, none of these cards really do anything for me. 

This pack was better. A veteran player I like in Mauer and one of the top players in the game in McCutchen. I can't claim to know too much about Pollock but he was an All-Star for the first time in 2015 and hit .315 while hitting 20 home runs and stealing 39 bases. Not bad at all.

The verdict? The breadsticks were mediocre and the players pulled weren't too exciting from my perspective. I was hoping to pull a Freddie Freeman so I could knock that off the wantlist but the chances were slim. If you have one I'll gladly make a deal for it. 

The bright side? The combination of breadsticks and cards was awesome, the packs were fun to open, and now I've got some new cards to send out to fellow bloggers.

I hope the Wal-Mart promotion leads to more cards like these! What other combinations could we see? Donuts and cards? Has that been done yet? That's one I would go for.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Lookout for Miguel Sano

More and more my collecting interests are being influenced by certain life experiences and most recently, trips with my wife to new places.

Over three years ago I moved to the upstate of South Carolina, and with that came an excitement having a minor league team within driving distance.  It's been fun seeing some top prospects move through the Red Sox system, one of which is now with the big league club (Mookie Betts) while others have played for the major league squad in spring training games (Rafael Devers, Mauricio Dubon, Sam Travis, Yoan Moncada).

Our honeymoon trip to Boston brought us to Fenway Park, a trip that we want to repeat soon. While the Sox are not my #1 team, I certainly have an interest in the big league club as more players from Greenville move towards Boston. 

Last summer, my wife and I caught a Chattanooga Lookouts game against the Jacksonville Suns as part of a trip to Tennessee for our first anniversary. The Lookouts not only have an excellent mascot but they had some top prospects in the Twins system as well. Miguel Sano is now with the big league club and Max Kepler is on his way there. Both guys were impressive and helped lead the Lookouts to a 3-2 win. Seeing these guys play in person was a treat and made me interested in following their careers, and of course, pick up some of their cardboard.

I definitely appreciate Topps producing sets of minor league players. The first is from 2012 Topps Pro Debut and shows Sano as a member of the Elizabethton Twins. As an 18 year old in rookie league ball he hit 20 home runs in 66 games with a .292 average. 

His 2013 card pictures him on the Fort Myers Miracle, Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Twins. He played in 56 games there, batting .330. 

Finally we have a Heritage Minors card from 2013, where Sano played AA ball for the New Britain Rock Cats. Throughout his stops in the minors he has shown power. In case you missed it, the Rock Cats have moved to Hartford and now compete as the Hartford Yard Goats, the AA affiliate of the Rockies. 

Sano's 2015 Bowman Chrome card points out that he did not play in 2014 due to injury, as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

I also recently picked up two 2016 cards from Topps. His New Age Performers insert compares his power to Harmon Killebrew.

I'm a fan of the Lookouts jersey and their team logo and mascot. The jersey, you might notice, resembles the design of the Dodgers.  The Lookouts were an affiliate of the Dodgers prior to their affiliation with the Twins. 

Here's a photo I snapped of Looie the Lookout from our game in Chattanooga. The Lookouts are named for Lookout Mountain which is close by. 

At Lover's leap on Lookout Mountain you can look out on 7 states.

My wife and me at Lover's Leap in Rock City.

The Twins and Sano are struggling at the moment, as are the Braves. Both squads are 0-9. Here's hoping Sano gets out of his slump soon. When he does... LOOKOUT.