Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Chasing Kids

My wife and I do not have children, and we probably never will for a number of reasons. Not the least of those reasons relate to the fact that we rather like peace and quiet around our house. I'll admit, as well, that I'd rather not be 63 years old and sending a kid off to college -- which would be the case if we had a newborn show up in our lives in the next 12 months (I turn 45 in a couple of weeks).

There are times I would like to have a child, though. I enjoy working with kids. I've tutored one of the boys from across the street in, of all things, math. I coached high school debate one year, and even helped coach a little league baseball team. I like doing those things.

I feel like I'd probably enjoy going to minor league baseball games more with a kid as well. Here in the Atlanta area, we have the Atlanta Braves, of course, but also the Class A Rome Braves are just an hour and a half away and the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves are 35 minutes away -- or about 7 minutes further than the Atlanta Braves new stadium (for reference, getting to Turner Field would take about 45 minutes...).

With both the local Atlanta Braves and my Milwaukee Brewers both in mid-rebuild, my attention turns more regularly to minor league action. I have started getting more interested in Bowman lately -- even buying in for Crackin' Wax's Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects case break. I also decided to buy a hobby box of 2016 Topps Heritage Minors from Blowout Cards to feed this new interest.

This box seemed fated to come my way. This was the first card out of the first pack I opened:

Vanderbilt's own Dansby Swanson in his Mississippi Braves outfit looks suspiciously like he plays for the Milwaukee Braves. You know, except for that whole Atlanta stealing the Braves after the 1965 season and all. 

All in all, it wasn't a bad box. It could have been better, of course -- they always could be better and, say, have a hot pack of all the printing plates for all the Brewers farmhands in the set. But let's take a look at the highlights of the box that were not Brewers.

First, each box contains one autograph. Here's the one I got:

Braves hot box! Braves Hot Box! Allard made it to Rome last season at the tender age of 18 -- he was born August 13, 1997. I think most of us card collectors probably have t-shirts older than Kolby. Allard was the Braves 1st round pick out of San Clemente High School in 2015. I've never been to San Clemente, but I have been to Dana Point, which is only a few miles away north on the Coast Highway.

I also got one relic:

A freaking Cardinal? That's not cool.

But wait -- this one made it to the majors last season and, in 12 games (5 starts) put up a 1.57 ERA in 46 innings while striking out 52 (though walking 23). Not bad for a 21-year-old kid who turned 22 on August 29. And, not bad to get the #7 prospect (Baseball America) or #10 (Baseball Prospectus) or #7 post-season (MLB Pipeline) as a relic. Though I have to admit that this Topps photo makes Reyes look much more Caucasian that every other photo around:

Yeah, are we sure that's Reyes?

Okay, moving on to the short-prints and serial numbered cards:

The Innings Pitched Leaders card -- also known as, "guys who their team thinks very little of" -- is serial numbered to 25, or 3 less than the number of years that Pat Dean will have been on this earth on his next birthday in May. Both Dean and Rogers pitched for the Twins last year, with Rogers proving to be a decent bullpen arm and Dean looking like he was throwing batting practice (13 HRs allowed in 67-1/3 innings...not good). Bleier pitched reasonably well in limited work out of the Yankee pen last year as well -- though, of course, he turns thirty this coming year.

Jacob Faria's card is serial numbered out of 99. He's a Tampa Bay Rays pitcher who made it to Durham for half the year last year at the tender age of 22. He could probably use a bit more seasoning in Durham this year, which the Rays may give him through June to keep him from arbitration for an extra year.

The other three, including new White Sox star-in-waiting Yoan Moncada, are short prints.

So, what Brewers did I get?

Yes, I'm cheating a bit to have Mauricio Dubon in this group since he just joined the organization from Boston in the Tyler Thornburg trade. Dubon is likely to start the year in Biloxi with the Shuckers, though his advanced hitting ability he displayed last year could push him to Colorado. With Dubon being just a month older than Arcia, it is possible that the Brewers could push Dubon a bit to get him to start playing some second base rather than shortstop so as to get Dubon ready to play next to Arcia for the next 18 years. 

That's being very hopeful, of course. That also would mean that Jonathan Villar would move positions -- probably to third or centerfield from second base, where the team is saying currently that Villar will be the starter. 

The guy here I am really, really rooting for -- okay, I'm really rooting for all of these guys...they are Brewers, but this guy is really a favorite -- is Oluwademilade Oluwadamilola "Demi" Orimoloye. Demi was born on January 6, 1997, in Nigeria. His dad is an architect, so he could afford to move his family out of Nigeria if he chose. They did so when Demi was just eighteen months old and moved to Orléans, Ontario -- just outside Ottawa and just across the Ottawa river from Québec. 

If he makes it to the majors, he'll be the first Nigerian-born -- and perhaps the first African-born -- major leaguer. He's got a long way to go -- he struggled last year in Rookie ball in Helena, slashing just .205/.293/.324 in 247 plate appearances. Of course, he is only 19 years old.

Finally, there's David Denson. For what it's worth, he started out like a house of fire in 2016. In his first 38 games, he had 3 HRs and was slashing .306/.388/.455. That was built, though, on an unsustainable BABIP of .409. In his next 55 games at Wisconsin, he hit .178/.285/.325 on a BABIP of .225. He's 21 years old and, in his four minor league seasons -- only one of which has been spent above rookie ball -- Denson has hit .229/.338/.368. He's a good story, and the team's treatment of him as just another player rather than being "the guy who came out" is commendable. Still, at this point, Denson probably is nothing more than organizational filler -- even at the relatively barren position in the organization of first base.

In the end, I find myself liking the Heritage Minors product. That's probably because of the eternal optimism and the analytical attempts in my head at projecting who will be good and who will not that springs with the youth of the minor leaguers. I'm not a big prospect hound by any stretch of the imagination -- and, by that, I mean I'm not looking to turn a profit on these cards by hoarding some player's cards -- but I really enjoyed opening these.

I guess the minor leagues is probably the counter to the cynicism I feel for Topps and its efforts in producing cards of major leaguers. I mean, I don't love the set enough to collect it as a set, but it whets my appetite for more minor league sets.


  1. I really like seeing these.. Maybe Demi will be an Honourary Canadian collection. Really the only difference between him and Kevin Reimer is Reimer's dad was Canadian living in Georgia lol

  2. Nice box! Too bad Allard's auto sucks! But to get him, Reyes and Moncada... not bad!

  3. I was a little bummed when Heritage Minors didn't have a Black Bears card. Either way this is always one of my favorite releases of the year. MILB unilforms are the best.

  4. Nice Allard auto and nice roundup of your favorite prospects from the break. I used to break this a lot back in 2011 when Harper was all the range and inside.

  5. I should have picked up a box of this stuff... instead of Topps Debut. As for kids... I'm in the same boat as you. There are times when I regret not settling down and having children... but most of the time, I've content with my choice.