The Official COMC Fantasy Pack Baseball Team of 2019!

When we’re not processing the millions of trading cards that come through the doors of COMC on a yearly basis, we like to embrace the hobby and have a little fun. Many members of our team have been fantasy sports enthusiasts for decades, and over the last few years we’ve tried to develop innovative and fun ways to incorporate sports card pack and box breaks with fantasy sports. You may remember our Fantasy Baseball Pack Battle League from last year.

This year, we’ve come up with a fun concept to build a fantasy baseball team using packs of the 2019 Topps Opening Day Baseball Card product. Unlike other fantasy games, we’re not trying to score points,but rather trying to build a team that can ‘win’ the most games using a unique scoring system.

If you want to play along at home, it’s really simple! All you’ll need is to two $9.99 blaster boxes of Opening Day and a way to keep track of your team and stats!

How to play: 

  1. Open all of your packs. Separate your batters and pitchers into two piles, then separate your batters into piles sorted by player position.
  2. Build your offense. Your Offense should consist of 9 players (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 outfielders, and a Designated Hitter). Choose three reserve players (any position) as well for backups in case of injury. Duplicate players are allowed if a player is an outfielder or listed at multiple positions. (If you did not receive a position player from each position, you may play a player of any position to compensate)
  3. Build your pitching staff. Your pitching will consist of 5 Starting Pitchers, 1 Closer, and 2 reserve pitchers (SP or closer). Duplicate pitchers are allowed. (If you do not receive enough pitchers to field a full staff — each pitcher you received may be played up to two times to compensate.If you didn’t receive a closer, you may play a sixth SP.)
  4. (Optional) Hard Mode: Play with a salary cap and build your team using the league average of $132 million or less by utilizing salary information found on Sportstrac.
  5. (Optional) Ultra Hard Mode: Any player with an real life salary of under $1 million is automatically bumped to $3 million. Players on rookie contracts still provide tremendous value, but not nearly as much as they do under hard mode.

Scoring

The scoring system for this game involves converting your players on-field performance into ‘wins’, with a goal of building a team that can win as many games as possible. You can track your players performance throughout the year using Baseball-Reference.

Hitting Scoring 

Every 40 runs = +1 win
Every 15 Home Runs = +1 win
Every 15 Stolen Bases = +1 win
Every 30 RBI’s = +1 win
Every 50 walks = +1 win

Example: Mike Trout in 2018: 101 runs (2), 39 HR (2), 24 sb (1), 79 RBI (2), 122 walks (2) = 9 wins
A team with an offense comparable to nine 2018 Mike Trout would earn 81 wins.

Pitching Scoring

Every 5 Wins = +3 Wins
Every 5 losses = -1 Win
Every 5 Saves = +1 Win
Every 75 Strikeouts = +1 Win

Examples:
Justin Verlander (sp) in 2018: 16 wins (9), 9 losses (-1), 290 strikeouts(4),= 12 wins
Edwin Diaz (rp) in 2018: 0 wins (0), 4 losses (0), 57 saves (11), 124 strikeouts (1) = 12 wins

A team with a pitching staff comparable to five 2018 Justin Verlander and a 2018 Edwin Diaz would earn 72 wins. Combined with the hitting total, this team would win a total of 153 games.

Exception: Autographed cards pulled from your 2019 Topps Opening Day Blasters are worth 50% less points than their non-autographed counterparts. Why? Because you’re already a winner if you hit an auto out of an Opening Day Blaster, duh! Also, you should be submitting that card to COMC to sell ASAP!

Substitutions: If any of your hitters fail to appear in at least 108 games (2/3rds of the season) during the 2019 season, you may swap them for a reserve player from any position. If any of your starting pitchers fail to make 20 starts throughout the 2019 season, you may swap them for a reserve. If your closer fails to appear in at least 45 games in the 2019 season (save opportunity or not), you may swap them for another relief pitcher.

Our Team:

For this game, we’ll be using the hard mode of staying under the $132 million salary cap.Opening two blasters yielded enough position players and pitchers to field several teams, so you should have no trouble building a team or three to play along. A lot of good players got the snub due to our salary cap restriction. We passed on elite fantasy players like J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, and Stephen Strasburg simply because we could not make the numbers work. Our strategy was to divide the money in half as close as possible to balance out hitting with pitching.

Hitting:

Designated Hitter: Mark Trumbo ($13.5 Million)
Catcher: J.T. Realmuto ($5.9 Million)
First Base: Anthony Rizzo ($11.28 Million)
Second Base: Gleyber Torres ($605,000)
Short Stop: Francisco Lindor ($10.55 million)
Third Base: Rafael Devers ($614,500)
Outfield: Ronald Acuna ($560,000)
Outfield: Mike Trout ($17.6 million)
Outfield: Mitch Haniger ($590,000)

2019 Hitting Payroll = $61.19 million

We ran into a salary cap problem after our initial team configuration, which meant that J.D. Martinez and his $28 million contract had to be downgraded to Mark Trumbo’s more manageable $13.5 million deal. Our second and third year players provide insane value for their price tag, allowing us to pay for Trout, Rizzo, Lindor , and Trumbo. We went with the hometown favorite Mitch Haniger as a sentimental pick over a certain player riding our bench. More on that later.

Pitching:

SP: Justin Verlander ($28 million)
SP: Gerrit Cole ($13.5 million)
SP: Trevor Bauer ($13.0 million)
SP: Blake Snell ($1.6 million)
SP: Jacob Degrom ($9.0 million)
Closer: Edwin Diaz ($607,000)

2019 Pitching Payroll = $65.7 million

We had way too many good pitchers to choose from, so we had to make some extremely tough decisions. In the end, we decided that the Houston Astros 1-2 combo of Verlander and Cole simply provided too much value to overlook. Trevor Bauer has in insane K/9 ratio, and reigning AL CY Young Winner Blake Snell is the best deal in the Opening Day set. We round out our pitching staff with the NL Cy Young Winner Jacob Degrom and his new teammate Edwin Diaz, who should still be capable of closing 50+ games for what should be a competitive New York Mets team.

Reserves

Hitter: Juan Soto ($578,000)
Hitter: Max Muncy ($575,000)
Hitter: Whit Merrifield ($1.0 Million)
Pitcher: Dereck Rodriguez ($561,000)
Pitcher: German Marquez ($565,000)

Bench Reserves Payroll = $3.279 million

Admittedly, spending $126.89 million of our $132 million before considering a bench probably wasn’t the best idea. Our team finds itself extremely thin in the event of a pitching injury, with us not having the cap room to add a veteran or top backup pitcher. All in all, we spent  $130.1 million of our $132 million, and it was extremely difficult to pass on some of the game’s best. If we had played uncapped, our team would have looked substantially different!

What do you think about our fantasy game and scoring system? Have you come up with any good ways to turn your trading cards into an interactive ‘fantasy sport’? If you decide to play along at home with us, let us know how your draft goes and who’s on your team! We’ll be checking in with an update blogs along the way throughout the season to track our progress!

The Pulse of COMC – How will the Seattle Mariners Do in 2019?

Welcome to ‘The Pulse of COMC’ , a new monthly blog series where we give our team members a chance to be heard on topics ranging from sports to pop culture and everything in between! For our inaugural flight, we’re turning our attention to our local beloved Seattle Mariners baseball team.

Following another failed attempt at earning a playoff spot in 2018, the Seattle Mariners made some drastic off season roster changes, parting ways with established superstars and key players while in return replenishing their farm system with younger talent expected to make an impact in 2020 and beyond.  The Mariners have stated that their plan is to be competitive in the future, leaving a lot of question marks for what could be a ‘results may vary’ 2019.
 
With that in mind, we asked our team to answer the following questions:
 
How many games will the Mariners win in 2019?
 
“I think the Mariners have enough upside to be a .500 team. A lot key veterans were traded away, but I don’t think this will be the 100-loss disaster a lot of people are foreseeing. I’ll put my win/loss prediction at 79-83. It’s tricky because Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce add pop to the lineup, but could be traded if they perform well enough and will make it tougher to reach the .500 plateau with their absence.”  – Dieter V.
 
 
“The Seattle Mariners certainly had an overhaul of sorts, with a projected six new starters in the lineup, and do not quite have the look of a contender. However, how much did they really lose? Looking at the numbers shows you that the losses weren’t extreme. Going out was a combined 90 HR, 322 RBI, 33 SB, and a combined slash line of .263/.331/.421. The one caveat to these numbers is the fact that Robinson Cano only appeared in 80 games due to suspension and his overall production will be the toughest to replace. All in all these numbers are not hard to replace and they brought in a lot of power over the off-season with Edwin Encarnacion, Domingo Santana, and Jay Bruce while pairing that with athleticism in guys like Mallex Smith, J.P. Crawford, and Shed Long. The pitching staff remains largely the same with the exception of Yusei Kikuchi taking over for the departed James Paxton.
 
Overall I would be hard pressed to say that this team is worse, on paper, in 2019 compared to 2018 however they still have the look and feel of a rebuilding team. If they finish above .500 I would call it an over-achievement so I will make my proclamation that they finished the season with a 80-82 record.” – Kyle S.
 
“Even though the team lost a lot of fan-favorites and key producers, I look at our projected roster and I see a group of guys with plenty of high upside, but more importantly, plenty of heart and desire to play the game at a high level. I think we took a step backwards, but it won’t be as miserable as most expect. 77 wins sounds about right.” James G.
 
“Not as many as my beloved Yankees and more than my hometown Texas Rangers. Probably around 76-77″Rich K.
 
“70”Sam P.
 
“65”Darren F.
 
“Some; I mean statistically, they have to, right?”Joseph H.
 
How do you feel about the off season changes the team made?
 
“Domingo Santana was a sneaky pickup who has a few years of team control and already has a 30 HR season under his belt at the MLB level. If Kyle Seager and/or Dee Gordon return to form, the Mariners offense could be above average. Pitching is where there are some issues. King Felix has lost his crown, Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc are #3 or #4 starters at best. Marco Gonzales is not a true ace, and Yusei Kikuchi is a #2 or #3. With no dominant starter and a patchwork bullpen, we could see a lot of runs allowed.
 
I love the acquisition of Jarred Kelenic in the trade with the Mets. He could be the future face of the franchise. If he builds on how he performed as an 18 year old, he’ll be a top 25 prospect in all of MLB heading into 2020. Kyle Lewis is finally healthy and having a strong showing this Spring. The future of the M’s outfield looks very promising.”Dieter V.
 
“How do I feel? This team robbed me of my ability to feel, long ago. Rebuilding isn’t necessarily a bad thing… but the timing and implementation of these moves… doesn’t make a ton of sense.
 
First off: Hunter Strickland is not a closer. Hunter Strickland is a moron.Secondly, How did we not trade Nelson Cruz at the deadline last year? And instead let him walk… for nothing? How much more was Cano worth after his 2017 season? Why trade Mallex Smith the first time? We ended up paying more for literally the same player we already had.I think Edwin Diaz and Mike Zunino were a larger part of the M’s 2018 “success” than most people realize. I actually like Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion – it’s too bad they aren’t going to be in our lineup past June.
 
Lastly, I think it was disrespectful to Felix Hernandez and his career in Seattle, not to go for the playoffs, in the final year of his contract.  Whatever you think of King Felix… this franchise owed it to him, to try and contend… TWO front office extensions were tenured on the assumption that we were fielding a competitive team. What impact player did Dipoto acquire mid-season? Oh yeah, Cameron Maybin. To me, these off-season moves were nearly all front-office justification — for their inability to field a contender… or even, a wildcard team. It’s a lot easier to fail if you don’t give fans the expectation that you’ll succeed.” – Sam P
 
“Having been a die-hard M’s fan in the 90’s and 2000’s, it pains me to say that for almost a decade now I haven’t cared nearly as much. I used to go to a few games a season and yet I’ve only been to a couple the past few seasons. So even though five big names are gone from last season’s epic fade job, I never grew attached to them and don’t plan on doing so with this new crop of supposed high-level talent.”Darren F.
 
“The changes made were a necessary evil. The core they had proved unfit to get the team to the playoffs and being a middle-of-the-road franchise has been growing tiresome for the team and the fan-base. They needed to blow up the team and start as fresh as they could and they did that. In my eyes the off season was successful in the now but the player development department will need to work overtime to ensure it is successful in the future. Bringing in top prospects in Jarred Kelenic, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Erik Swanson, and Shed Long really stocked up a very depleted farm system that at the time only had Evan White and Kyle Lewis to hang their hats on. The front office says they built this team to compete by 2020 and I think these off season changes help the team outlook more for the 2021 season and beyond. They still lack starting pitching and bullpen arms to build on which is why I think the rebuild takes a year longer than they projected. However I am still happy with the way the off season went and feel refreshed that this team actually has a farm system to be excited about.”Kyle S.
 

“I question if we could have gotten more value out of James Paxton and especially Edwin Diaz, such as getting both Peter Alonso and Jarred Kelenic from the Mets. I think a lot of fans will be skeptical of that deal if Justus struggles out of the gate, and he probably will given the amount of run support he’ll receive during his first season at the MLB level. The Shed Long deal was the best move they made, and although I love me some Ben Gamel, I think the swap for Domingo Santana could go down as a Jay Buhner-esque level deal. Signing Yusei Kikuchi was smart, as is the flexible deal he signed, but feels like something of a consolation prize for missing out on Shohei Ohtani a year ago.
 
It physically pains me to suggest this, but if the team was truly committed to a building a winner in 2020 and beyond, they need to make a very tough decision on Mitch Haniger, because his value will never be higher. They need to buy out his arbitration years and extend him, building the offense around him as their superstar, or they need to ship him out for a multiple top prospect package that would give us the top farm system in the majors. Haniger is my favorite Mariner since Griffey, but it would be hard to feel terribly upset about a deal with a team like the Braves if it brought over Austin Riley, Cristian Pache, and Ian Anderson.” – James G.
 
“Thank you for James Paxton. We’ll take him even for 25 starts in NY”Rich K.
 
What do you think they could have done differently, or should do in order to bring a championship to the city of Seattle?

“Could the M’s have made some moves to compete for the division this year? Probably. But with an aging roster and falling just short of the playoffs the past couple years, hitting the reset button was appropriate to try and build sustained success with talented youth rather than go all-in with an older foundation that was nearing its end anyway.”  – Dieter V.
 
“Going into last season – they should have snagged a capable center fielder and at least 2 more, starting pitchers via free agency or trade. Guys like Scott Kazmir, Nathan Eovaldi, and Gerrit Cole – come to mind. Otherwise… they called have invented time travel, called Pete Caroll, and told him to run the ball… because that’s still a more likely way to bring a championship to Seattle… than this front office – winning a world series.
 
In all seriousness;  Going forward – we’re going to need  franchise caliber players at 1st base and center field, more than anything. IMO those are the positions to build championships around, and we aren’t going to compete or even crack the playoffs with trader Jerry’s flip-floppy decision making. Justus Sheffield becoming a James Paxton level ace is pretty much a necessity in this fantasy scenario”.Sam P.
 
“I think having a real plan and sticking to said plan would make a difference. Whether that is going all in or tanking to get better draft picks; in today’s world you either have to be aggressive and overpay/go for it or just start all over again. They are in that horrible middle realm.
 
And in all seriousness, they are heavily screwed by their location and they have to travel more than any other teams.  Not that this would make a ton of difference but a team either in Vancouver or in Portland is almost mandatory so their travel can be somewhat reduced. This puts the Mariners at a very large disadvantage every season.”Rich K.
 
“They need to bring in a world-class manager who’s actually won in the post-season. I miss Lou Piniella, and his balance between fiery accountability and down-home persona. People forget that in this franchise’s 40-plus years of existence, only one manager has led them to the playoffs (1995, 97, 2000-01). I’m not sure that Scott Servais is the man to lead them to the promised land in 2021 when this ‘Step Back’ era comes to fruition. Ironically, that would mark the 20TH anniversary of their last post-season appearance.” – Darren F.
 
“Commit. Commit. Commit. What are we doing here? Are we tearing it all down, as the off season moves suggested, or are we ‘re-imagining’ the roster as Jerry Dipoto recently suggested to dodge the tough questions? Commit to the tear down, grind through a couple of bad seasons of big league ball, and when the timing is right, move all-in and sign or trade for the guys needed to push the team into October.
 
Stop giving up on guys so early. Give Daniel Vogelbach 400-500 AB’s in 2019 to prove if he is a AAAA player, or a major league hitter capable of manning the DH role for years to come. Say farewell to Felix and Kyle Seager gracefully, or eat their contracts if they become too much of a detriment to the team. Continuing developing Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi into your top of the rotation pitchers, because Mike Leake, Wade Leblanc, and Felix Hernadez do not have a future in Seattle. And above all else, since we’re making wholesale changes, Aaron Goldsmith needs to take over for Dave Sims in the booth.”James G.
 
“They are going to have to follow the mold of the Houston Astros to find success and bring a championship to Seattle. The Astros developed an amazing offense and a couple starting pitchers and then went out and acquired two big time starters in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The Mariners need to do the exact same thing by getting Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Shed Long, and J.P. Crawford developed into above-average big league hitters and then add to a starting staff that should already include Yusei Kikuchi, Justis Sheffield, and possibly Justin Dunn or Logan Gilbert. The prospects they have are not only projected out to be excellent hitters but they possess above-average athleticism which will play a huge role playing at T-Mobile Park.
 
It is going to be a fine line between bust or success with these prospects but if they hit on a few of them they can certainly build on that and finish the team out through free agency. I could see a championship coming to Seattle by the year 2023 as I think it will take at least two years of seasoning for some of our top end prospects before they reach the majors.” – Kyle S.

Guest Blog: Cardboard Therapy

(Editors Note: Please welcome COMC Member Jason1969 to the COMC Blog! This post comes to us thanks to the Call to Arms we put out earlier this month seeking guest writers. Jason enjoys writing about baseball and baseball cards for the SABR Baseball Cards Committee and on his personal blog. He can be found on twitter as @HeavyJ28.  His main collecting interest is vintage baseball, especially Hank Aaron, but he also boasts (and yes, that’s the right word) over 600 different playing career cards of Dwight Gooden cards, many of which he was able to obtain right here on COMC)

By Jason A. Schwartz

For my guest appearance on the COMC blog I will get personal. My hope is that most readers will never find themselves in my shoes, but I hope my experience can help any of those who someday do.

Just under five years ago I found myself in a near-empty apartment alone. In the basement was my guitar, in the kitchen was a coffee mug, and in my hands was a small cardboard box containing the top hundred or so cards I’d saved from when I was a collector back in the day.

For the first time in a decade I opened the box and flipped through the cards. The rush of memories was incredible. Sometimes it was of the player and how much I loved him (in a fan sort of way, please). Other times it was the recollection of where I was and who I was with when I bought the card. The one constant as I made my way through the stack of top loaders was joy, something I hadn’t felt for a while.

I hadn’t purchased a baseball card for 20 years, and I suspected a lot had changed in that time. Were the Beckett Monthly and the Kit Young mail-order catalog still around? (Yes.) Were there still local card shops in every neighborhood? (No.) Were my Jose Canseco rookie cards worth a lot? (No.) Had the Hobby moved to the internet? (DEFINITELY!)

By evening I had made an online purchase of three of the Hank Aaron cards I needed for his basic Topps run. There were important areas of my life where I felt powerless, but it turned out buying Hank Aaron cards wasn’t one of them. Ditto for completing my 1957 Topps Brooklyn Dodgers team set that had been one card short for more than two decades, and ditto for starting on the 1956 version of the same.

I may have gone a bit overboard at times, but man oh man did I love coming home to a #MailDay! Man oh man was it a thrill to frame my completed Hank Aaron run and hang it on my wall. And man oh man was it fun to become part of an online community of collectors who not only buy, sell, and trade cards but eat, breathe, and sleep cards as obsessively as me! (Okay, don’t take that last part completely literally.)

When we’re at low points in our lives we sometimes hear that “it gets better.” I’m here to bear witness that it does. There was a lot I did to get from there to here, and I won’t kid you that some of it—maybe most of it—completely sucked. However, one little thing I did that made a huge difference was getting back into the hobby I loved so much as a kid. In my case, pairing “cardboard therapy” with “real” therapy proved to be the perfect combination for rebuilding my collection as I rebuilt my life.

Rich Reminisces: Thurman Munson

By Rich Klein
When I was growing up my two favorite teams were the Houston Astros in the National League, and the New York Yankees in the American League. Let’s face it, you can’t really root for both New York teams unless you like the flip-flop between your allegiances. In my generation, my three favorite players growing up were Jim Wynn and Cesar Cedeno of the Astros, and Thurman Munson of the Yankees. All three of the players had some interesting life stories, but sadly one of them would not even live until the 1980’s. When Thurman Munson’s plane crashed on August 2, 1979 that truly was one of the saddest days of my young life. When you really know a player more for what they do on the field than with any off-field characteristics, it’s easier to admire what they were.
Munson was drafted as the fourth overall amateur draft pick in 1968, and while the scouting in the 1960’s was not as sophisticated as 50 years later, Munson was a wise selection as he was in the majors barely a year later. In fact, he was such as good prospect that Topps placed him on one of those two-player Rookie Stars cards early in 1970 set:
Sy Berger always claimed that Topps had a better idea than most people about whom teams would keep in the majors, and in this case they batted .500 as Munsion had his fine career, but Dave McDonald would never play with the Yankees again and make a cameo with the 1971 Montreal Expos to conclude his major league career.
It’s really not a bad card, but his second year card, now that’s an even better card! His 1971 card, because of the black borders, is even harder to get in great condition than the 1970 rookie stars card. The 1971 card is even more significant because technically this is the first action photo ever on a base Topps card. Yes, we can consider card #5 the first action card in any Topps set EVER.
Because Topps was based out of New York, many of their photographers were also based out of the Metropolitan area.  You can see the backgrounds of either Yankee or Shea Stadium on many of the photos, and in 1971 you can see lots of action photos featuring players from those two team. Here is an example of Munson on the background of a couple of cards:
Vada Pinson was a great player in the 1960’s and was still a very good player in the early 1970’s, which is why he also earned an action photo in the set. Notice the player prone wearing #15. Yep, that’s Thurman!
A couple of years later Terry Crowley‘s card has Munson featured as well:
Munson is featured just as actively as Crowley is on his own card.  There are other cool background players on 1970’s action cards. Especially in basketball where you will see Hall of Famers from other teams on many cards. But for our purposes, we’ll just stick to Munson. Recognize the player Johnny Bench is going to tag out in this 1977 World Series card?  Yep, Thurm is making another guest appearance:
Munson’s career continued to thrive and in 1976 he won the American League Most Valuable Player award. His 1976 cards have always been among my favorite cards. But if you notice both the Topps and SSPC card feature Munson with a full beard. One team rule New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had was no beards, and these cards help to show Munson’s independent streak over the facial hair issue:

I always wonder if the photo on his 1976 Hostess card was taken as part of the same photo shoot as the Topps card:
As I mentioned in an earlier column, within a few short years Munson would perish in a plane crash, and the last card issued whilst he was living was the 1979 Burger King Yankees set. I believe it is possible to have a signed card, but I have never seen a signed 1979 Burger King card in the past 40 years. Munson was not the easiest person in giving out autographs to fans, yet in a fascinating conundrum, most Yankee team signed balls have legit Munson signatures and not what are called “Clubhouse” signatures.
And if you really want to really know why Thurman was so beloved: Munson had not hit a homer in months. His power was sapped from the 1975-77 era.  He was hurting all over. But in this 1978 playoff game, with his body aching from those hard catching years, and in the pressure packed 1978 American League Championship Series, he hit what was probably the longest homer of his career.

And the night after his plane crash, the Yankees still had a game the next day, and if you want to cry go right ahead: I once asked Jerry Narron, who started as catcher that day, about what it was like trying to catch that game, and he stated that it was the hardest game he ever had to play in.

Would Thurman had made the Hall of Fame? My instinct says his career would have wound down before getting the career stats, but in our memories he was the straw that stirred the drink for the 1970’s Yankees.

10 Baseball Rookies to Watch in 2019

Who doesn’t love rookie speculation? With the start of a new MLB season comes a fresh new crop of rookies who’s potential will spark the imagination of millions of fans. Who will walk away with Rookie of the Year honors? Who will make an immediate impact with their team? Will they be remembered among the greats of the game? Will they jump out of the gate at an unprecedented trajectory that looks to rival the record books?

Cody Bellinger and Aaron Judge put on a spectacle in 2017, crushing nearly every pitch that came there in way. Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna, and Juan Soto carried the rookie torch in 2018, dazzling baseball fans with raw talent that infused much needed youth and excitement to their respective teams. Now we turn to 2019, where the next wave of call ups will have to fill some very big shoes. Without further ado, here is our list of 10 prospects that we believe can live up to that hype and then some!

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3b, Toronto Blue Jays) – The number one prospect in all of baseball is expected to make his debut in Toronto in 2019. The son of a Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero (who knew a thing or two about hitting himself), Vlad Jr. has been revered as a generational talent, capable of winning MVP awards as a premier MLB hitter for years to come. He hit .381 in the minors in 2018 split between AA and AAA ball. When he arrives in the majors he will be 20 years old, and is expected to lead a youth movement in a city that is eager to compete with the titans of the AL East.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

2. Eloy Jimenez (OF, Chicago White Sox) – By utilizing his tall 6’4″ frame, Jimenez generates incredible power and bat speed through the zone, drawing comparisons to the likes of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton from a power perspective. This 22 year old also hits for huge average, hitting well north of .300 in the minor league level. The White Sox may have missed out on the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, but they have a superstar waiting in the wings in Jimenez.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

3. Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, San Diego Padres) – While all eyes might be on San Diego’s newest Megastar Manny Machado, who inked a 10-year $300 million dollar deal with the club last month, Tatis should also be arriving to the team in 2019. Tatis is a player more than capable of posting a 20-20 stat line while hitting for high average.He’s touted as above-average in the field, bringing a blend of speed and athleticism to his game. With the revival of competitive baseball in San Diego, Tatis Jr. will not fly under the radar on a team that is expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2019 and beyond.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

4. Kyle Tucker (OF, Houston Astros) – Even though Tucker struggled mightily during his ‘cup of coffee’ with the Astros in 2018, failing to impress in his 72 plate appearances, the Astros have high hopes for this 2015 first round draft pick. Praised for his hand-eye coordination and strong plate discipline, it’s only a matter of time before Tucker puts it all together at the major league level. Kyle has the luxury of playing for a World Series contender, which has allowed him more time to develop in the minors before cracking the big league starting lineup. The Astros expect Tucker to bring that progression to the major league level at 2019, and he should fit in nicely to an already stacked batting order once he gets acquainted to major league pitching.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

5. Austin Riley (3b, Atlanta Braves) – The hot corner in Atlanta belongs to Austin Riley once the time is right, and it appears that time will be 2019. His raw power combined with an above average arm and athleticism makes him a dual threat at the plate and in the field. Riley is not afraid to strike out at the plate, as his contact rate could use some work. With a little refinement, he should slot in nicely to an already power-packed Braves lineup. With so much protection around him, Riley could find himself in contention to deliver the same Rookie of the Year crown that Ronald Acuna Jr. brought to Atlanta in 2018.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

6. Victor Robles (OF, Washington Nationals) – Suffering an injury that took him down for much last season, this rare five-tool talent is expected to return to form in 2019. All was not lost for the Nats however, as Robles injury opened the door for the emergence of Juan Soto. Robles is expected to be the rookie to watch in Washington in 2019, possessing a blend of power, speed, and athleticism that make him a dynamic player. He should have no trouble getting on base often, and keeping opposing hitters off the base pace with his defense in center field.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

7. Nick Senzel (3b/2b/OF,  Cincinatti Reds) – Drafted second overall in the 2016 draft, Senzel should help boost the Reds infield in 2019. While the team will appreciate his versatility in the field, fans will love Senzel for his pure hitting ability, as he is a contact hitter who doesn’t strike out often and earns plenty of walks as well. The Reds have a good track record of developing similar players (see: Scooter Gennett), and with the Reds adding Sonny Gray and Yasiel Puig in the off season, Senzel could be the missing piece to help spark a wild card push in Cincinnati.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

8. Brendan Rodgers (infield, Colorado Rockies) – Great bat speed? Check. Mammoth home run power? Check. Playing all his home games in Coors Field? Check! All signs point to Rodgers being a shot in the arm to the Rockies offense in 2019, joining the likes of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon with his 30+ home run per season potential. Rodgers has improved his K:BB ratio over his minor league career, and is touted as an above average defender capable of playing multiple infield positions. He could be a late season call-up depending on how competitive (or lack there of) the Rockies are in 2019.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

9. Forrest Whitley (SP, Houston Astros) – The second Astro featured on our list, Whitley’s arrival at the major league level will bring much needed depth to a thin pitching rotation. Beyond Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the ‘Stros will need to find consistency, and could turn to Whitley early in the season. He posted a ridiculous 143 strike outs over 92 innings in 2017, but found his 2018 season shortened due to a drug violation suspension. Although his command could use a bit more work, he has multiple plus pitches, including a 12-6 curve and slider with late movement to compliment a 98 MPH fastball.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

10. Peter Alonso (1b, New York Mets) –  A power hitting first basemen who will play his rookie season in New York. That should be all the convincing that you need that Alonso could be the real deal. The Mets top prospect mashed 36 minor league long balls in 2018, while hitting .285 and drawing nearly triple the amount of walks he did the previous season. As long as he can improve and show consistency at the plate, he will be given a pass for his below average speed and average at best defense. At 6’3″ and 245 lbs, this 24 year old should be the talk of the town if he can live up to the hype.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

 

**Bonus** : Justus Sheffield (SP, Seattle Mariners) – A little home town bias before we wrap up, shall we? The Mariners acquired Sheffield as part of the deal that sent ace James Paxton to New York. The M’s believe they have their ace of the future in ‘Shef. He posted a 2.48 era over 116 innings between AA and AAA in 2018, while striking out 123 batters. With a wipe out slider and above average sinking fastball, Sheffield will play a pivotal role in the youth movement in Seattle and will find himself in the starting rotation in 2019 and beyond.

Three Cards to Consider Owning:

What do you think of our list? Did we snub someone who you’ve got your eye on? Let us know in the comments below who you think will be a rookie force to be reckoned with in 2019!

Rich Reminisces: The 1967 ‘Impossible Dream’ Boston Red Sox

By Rich Klein
I have been a life-long New York Yankees fan for all but one summer when I just starting to discover baseball. You see myself, like many other baseball fans, were enthralled by the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox.  As an impressionable very young person whose family had a place in far Northeastern corner of Maine where the sun arrives during the summer at 4:00 AM, the Red Sox were the local team, so how could you not love following them?
I was not aware of the past 15 years of so prior for the Red Sox, but they had barely been competitive since about 1950, and even had to deal with the tragedy of the death of local hero Harry Agganis, who died shortly after turning 26 in 1955. We know when Agannis passed, but there are still some third party authenticated autographed cards of his out there. The card is pretty difficult to find, and the autograph on the card is even scarcer:
But the 1967 Red Sox had a new manager and some new players. Their best player was 27 years old and had just done intense off-season training for the first time.  Those new and improved players, as well as a little luck, turned out to be the key to the Red Sox success.
To begin, 1967 was the summer of Yaz. Carl Yastrzemski would win the triple crown that season and be the last player to lead the league in all three categories until Miguel Cabrera accomplished that feat a few seasons ago. This card pictured was issued a few years ago but gives us the 1967 flavor:
Some of the young players on that team included George Scott and Joe Foy, who had been rookies in 1966. Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith were the rookies in 1967, and a player turning just 22 during the season would finish the season season with over 100 career homers. That player was Tony Conigliaro:
Conigliaro would sadly almost lose the sight in his eye after being struck by a Jack Hamilton fast ball, and never was the same player again. Along with Yaz and Rico Petrocelli, they were the three Red Sox who also played for their 1975 team, which would be the next time the Red Sox won the Pennant.
Anytime I can mention Rico Petrocelli, it helps the hobby. You see, Rico and Tom Zappala host a weekly hobby radio show which feature many leading dealers and hobbyists. Their show can be found here if you’d like to give it a listen:
Rico is a beloved figure in Boston and does many appearances around the area. He has also co-authored many books with the Zappalas, and you can usually see him at the National Sports Collectors Convention each year. I heartily recommend meeting both Tom and Ellen Zappala along with Rico during the National. I promise you will enjoy chatting with them.
The other cool thing was both Mike Andrews and Reggie Smith shared a 1967 Topps rookie card:
One of the oldest known color television broadcasts of a baseball game feature the 1967 Red Sox!  The fact that this is a crucial game in September makes it an even more memorable game. If you have time, I do recommend watching this or having this as background during a game

The 1967 American League pennant race was legendary as four teams actually all lead the league in one confusing September day. As a young fan, I thought every season would be like 1967 season. Well not so much, but if you like to read about a very different time with one team going to the World Series and no one else in the post-season, than 1967 is for you. Just two seasons later there would be the first year of divisional play.
And if you wanted to know if the New York Yankees were doing something that year, they moved the great Elston Howard to Boston, which helped shore up the Red Sox catching situation. Howard solidified the catching position and had his last good season in 1967. I still wish there was a 1969 Topps card of him, but this 1968 serves well:
Oh, and even in the next year these Red Sox would continue to affect baseball history. Jim Lonborg,who had been 22-9 and the 1967 Cy Young award winner, hurt himself in a skiing accident and was never quite the same pitcher again. He was good, but never great. After his accident, many contracts were updated to not let the players do off-season activities which could hurt them. Note the text on his 1968 Topps card:

And lastly, the player mentioned in the quiz is Sparky Lyle, would become a superstar Yankees receiver after being traded for Danny Cater just before the 1972 season. This trade would torment the Red Sox for many years following. Unrelated to Lyle, Cater actually lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and his son-in-law and I attend the same Torah (Bible) Study class.  Hey, anytime you can name drop a major league play is worth a shot!

This card is the 1967 Red Sox team card and a scarce high number. Yes, you can use this card to talk about the stories of the famed “Impossible Dream” team. They were called the Impossible Dream because of the then recent popular song from the Man of La Macha musical. This powerful version by Jack Jones was #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts of the time and the best known of the versions.  But everything coalesced in 1967, and I will still not forgive the St. Louis Cardinals, who were a better team, for winning the World Series that year.

Retail Therapy – 2019 Topps Series 1 Baseball

Welcome to our first ever ‘Snowed In’ edition of Retail Therapy! With snow blanketing much of the Pacific Northwest and expected to continue for some time, we’re ripping away from the office this time around. While some people might prefer to stay inside under a blanket and watch their favorite series on Netflix, not us! We picked up a couple of blaster boxes of this year’s flagship Topps set before #Snowmaggedon hit the PNW, so we could bring this blog to you regardless of the conditions outside!

2019 Topps Series 1 was released on January 30th and features the standard 350 card base set and plenty of parallels, short prints, super short prints, inserts, autographs and memorabilia! While you might have to rely on Cardboard Connection’s short print variation guide for regular short prints, super short prints are a bit easier to spot as they all feature Hall of Fame players. Topps also celebrates their 1984 set with plenty of insert sets stylized after the 84′ design.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time for the big reveal! How does the flagship Topps design look this year?

Pretty good, actually!  Topps opted for a half-bordered design this year, with the player’s first name found within the color that wraps from the left edge of the card to the upper right. Our one complaint is that the gray last name on top of the color is prominent in the design, and does occasionally get lost in the mix between the white space and player’s photograph. The cards actually look much more sharp in person than they do in photographs or scans. On the other hand, the 1984 inserts are extremely sharp on the modern card stock. This is not the first time Topps has brought this design back. It was most recently included as part of the 2012 Topps Archives base set cards #151-200, and has been used many times over in Topps On-Demand products as well.

In addition to the 1984 inserts, the Grapefruit League Greats set really stands out for it’s absolutely gorgeous set design. Home Run Challenge cards return as well, and we were fortunate enough to hit two: Juan Soto and Gary Sanchez. We’ve polled our twitter followers to choose a date, and even though the odds are astronomical, if we’re lucky to win the trip to the 2020 Home Run Derby, we’ll be sure to take plenty of photographs and share!

Ballpark Evolution is another really fun insert set this year, which shows how far some of the game’s most legendary cathedrals have come over time:

For $19.99, Topps flagship series blasters almost never disappoint. The Topps flagship series are sets that appeals to a wide array of collectors. Sure, the amazing hits and chase cards can be found in hobby and Jumbo HTA boxes, but Series 1, 2 & Update are products that should be opened and collected to celebrate a time when the hobby was simple, and the rookie card was king.

With that being said, our only gripe with our two blasters was the inadequate collation of base cards, as each blaster yielded 6 RC’s and 3 future stars featuring all of the same players!

As always, we’ve saved the best for last! If you read our blog last month, you’ll know that a certain COMC employee (who may or may not also be ghostwriting this blog) enjoys manufactured patch cards. In commemoration of 150 years of professional baseball, this year’s retail manufactured patch cards feature a vinyl logo. The top card is numbered to /50 :

But if manufactured patch cards aren’t your thing, don’t worry! While there are a bevy of different ‘fake’ patches, there are several real ones to be found in the nosebleed of the stated odds section. Our resident Mitch Haniger collection was able to pick up this spectacular one-of-one Letter Patch card shortly after the product release:

RECAP:

All-in-all, in our 14 total packs (2 blasters) we hit two gold /2019 parallels, one foil parallel, and two unnumbered 150th anniversary stamped base cards. For inserts we hit four 1984 throwbacks, two home run challenges, six Grapefruit League Greats, two Greatest Moments, and one Ballpark Evolution. We also received both of our guaranteed patch cards. If you’ve been following along with this series, you’ll remember we’ve been snubbed on guarantees more than once!

That’s going to do it for this installment of Retail Therapy. We expect to start seeing 2019 Topps Series 1 cards find their way onto the COMC marketplace in mid-February, and in a few weeks, we’ll have plenty of base and insert cards in stock to help you complete your sets!

As always, any cards featured in our Retail Therapy series will be available for sale on the COMC_Breakhits account shortly! How much Topps Series 1 will you be breaking? Leave us a message in the comments below letting us know what you’ve hit so far, or what you think of the set this year!