1991 Upper Deck
I remember Scott being another one of those endless supply of rookie pitchers the Tigers seemed to be able to produce in the early 90s (see Kevin Ritz, Paul Gibson, Steve Wapnick, Greg Gohr, and a cast of thousands). It was hard for me to really differentiate between them all, and even harder for me to believe that any of them would pan out, given the similarity between them. And guess what? Even if that was a misinformed approach, I turned out to be correct. But let’s look at Aldred’s numbers. Did he really warrant his status?
Going purely by record and ERA, then no, I can’t really make a case for him. Leading up to 1991, he had a cumulative 28-37 record with an average ERA of 3.98. Nothing special, right? Well, then you look at his k/9. How about an average k/9 of 7.3? Pretty good, right? And the BB/9….well, not as great. 4.9. So something like a 5/7 BB/K ratio. Ick. You could even be generous and say 5/8 and it’s still pretty lousy. Looking at his H/9 is even more grim. 8.05 per 9. So basically, he’s putting on an average of 13 baserunners per nine innings while generously striking out 8. Is it any wonder he flopped? The bigger question would be how he managed to stick around until 2000 while producing a career major league line of 20-39 with a 6.02 ERA (I know, I know, WINS, but his peripherals were even worse – how about a 1.4 HR/9 ratio?). I can only guess it’s because he was a lefty.
Still, I really like this card. I dug the 1991 design a lot, especially after a rather tepid 1990 design, and the shot sums up a young kid getting his shot in Spring Training. I seem to remember holding on to this card more because I liked the photo and design rather than thinking that Aldred would turn out to be anything. Either way, I think we’ve learned a valuable lesson here. The Tigers had no idea how to evaluate pitching prospects in the early 90s.
1992 Upper Deck Minors
Rick Huisman was one of the Giants’ super prospects in the early 90s. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 1990 draft, he shined in his first minor league season, going 6-5 with a 2.11ERA at two levels. Promoted to high-A in 1991, he went 16-4 with a 1.83 ERA, winning the pitching “Quadruple Crown” for San Jose, becoming the only pitcher in league history to top the circuit in wins, strikeouts, ERA, and winning percentage. Continuing his stellar rise, he went 10-6 with a 2.38 ERA in 1992 between AA and AAA.
So what happened? Why didn’t he make it big in the majors? You guessed it: injury. He hurt his shoulder at the end of the ’92 season and was never quite the same after that. Oh, he tasted the majors from 95-96 with Kansas City, ending with a career 93 OPS+ in the majors. Sad story.
1992 Upper Deck Minors
Tyler Houston was one of the gang of 1990 Score draft picks that I’ve written about (that’s another set I should cover some day). Now if ever there was a steroids candidate, he’s it. Brought up in the Atlanta organization, he never had a BA above .226 until he turned 22, but then dropped right back down into the sub-.250s right afterwards. He never quite developed the power they thought he would have, either, and only really got a shot in 1996, at the age of 25. I know catcher prospects tend to come along more slowly, but that was a loooong road. Not to mention that, by the time he broke in, he was no longer a catcher, but a corner infielder.
He was a serviceable major leaguer – nothing special. In fact, a little less than special – his career OPS+ was 90, pretty wretched for a corner infielder. I still suspect he doped at some point, though. I can’t imagine how he made it otherwise.
I do like this card a lot, though. The 1992 Upper Deck Minor League set was full of awesome shots like this. Well worth the money, especially when boxes are so cheap nowadays.
1992 Upper Deck Minors
Wow, was the hype ever strong with this one. Those who were around back then may remember stories of Kelly crushing baseballs so hard in college that he left imprints on the ball. Because of his power, his speed, and the fact that he had starred at Arizona State, he was often compared to Barry Bonds. Here’s a shot of him from his Arizona State days:
Unfortunately, he couldn’t live up to the hype as a pro, which really disappointed me, because I was excited as hell for him to become a major leaguer. After a so-so first year in Durham, he hit 25 home runs at AA Greenville, but that came with an unfortunate .229/.323/.444 line. Not to mention 162 Ks in 133 games. His isoD is probably explained by his power, rather than any special eye. He finally made the majors in 1994, and managed a 104 OPS+ in 30 games. They gave him a more complete shot the next year, and he failed miserably, putting together a 49 OPS+ and an anemic .190/.258/.314 line. He was traded to Cincinnati that offseason for Chad Fox and Ray “Burger” King, his stock completely worthless. His only full year in the majors after that was with the new Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998, where he had a 79 OPS+. He tried a comback in 2003 and 2004 for the Royals, but remained in their minors before retiring. Sad story.
1991 Upper Deck
Peltier was one of those “amazing” prospects from the early 90s that never really found success at higher levels of the minors, much less the majors. At the time this pic was taken, he wasa highly-rated guy in AA, though he had dropped from .402 with a .648 SLG to .279 with a .415 SLG, a disturbing trend. He fell further in Oklahoma City in 1991, to .229.with a .325 SLG. Despite this, the Rangers called him up in 92, and he produced a .167/.167/.167 line. Amazing, right? He stuck somewhat in 1993, putting up a 92 OPS+.
Then he was gone until 1996, when he returned with the Giants and put up a 69 OPS+ before disappearing from the majors for good.
Still, this maintains one of the more iconic baseball card photos (for me) from the early 90s. This card alone encouraged me to buy a Tulsa Drillers shirt, which I believe my father still has. Good memories.
1989 Upper Deck
Another one of those key 1989 Upper Deck High Numbers rookies, this guy was HIGHLY sought-after in my trading circles. It’s kind of amusing when I think about what Gordon eventually became, especially those years with the Red Sox. I can still remember the night I traded for this one in our library basement club. I took it home and immediately put it in a hard case. Now THIS guy was certainly going to be a superstar! And look at that photo! That delivery! It became another one of those iconic images of my baseball youth.
But how good was Gordon when this card came out? Was the hype warranted? I was curious, so I went back and looked at his numbers. The answer? Uh, HELL YES. In 1988, at three levels, Gordon was 16-5 with a 1.59 ERA, and a mind-blowing 0.92 WHIP. He also cleaned up at the ML level in 1989 before tailing off into mediocrity over the next few years. I mean, he had some amazing years when he was reinvented as a closer, but nothing can touch that early brilliance. My guess is injuries took their toll over time. Of course, that was one of the concerns about him as a rookie: too small to make it long-term. But hey, 20 years later and he’s still around. Go Flash!
This card was once highly regarded.
Man this was THE card to have in the back half of 1989. Jerome Walton was in the middle of his 89 ROY campaign, and everyone wanted to have this card. I remember it being a highly valued card in our little trading community, one that took me a long time to acquire. It was trading up in the stratospheric TEN DOLLAR range! The same as the Ken Griffey Jr rookie card. It’s laughable now, really, and I didn’t completely understand it at the time, as I was more of a Dwight Smith guy, but hey, a must-have card is a must-have card.
And frankly I think it’s a pretty good-looking card. He looks a bit weird, but the color in the picture is vibrant and I think almost as iconic as that Griffey shot. If Walton had panned out like Griffey, I could easily see this one occupying that same aesthetic stratosphere. I have a feeling they chose this photo very carefully, just like the Griffey one. Still fun to look at and think about, even if Walton was terrible.
This is the first in a hopefully ongoing series of autographs from the prospects of days old. I’ve collected a handful of such autos over the years, which is thankfully fairly easy since so few of these guys became huge stars.
Tom was a big prospect for the Dodgers back in the day; he was one of those storied 1990 Score draft pick cards, in fact. I never expected a huge amount from him, but he did seem like a decent burner on the bases, so I thought his cards might be worth a look. I particularly liked his 1991 Final Edition card, shown here:
1991 Upper Deck Final Edition
I’m happy for Tom that he had a fruitful career, and I’m happy to have an auto from somewhere in that career. Hall of Famer? No way. Hall of Very Gooder? Nah. But a fun player to watch in his prime.
Time for another Leaf Gold Rookie. Still a ways to go in the 1991 set, and then we’ll get to 1992. Reggie was another of the early prospects that I learned about, included with a class of Wil Cordero and Dan Opperman. He was often compared to Eric Davis, who was a superstar at the time and one of the players that I really admired. Reading that made me instantly want every one of his cards I could find, which was not much back in 1989. Come 1991, he had a card in the Upper Deck Final Edition set and the Leaf Gold Rookies, so of course I snapped up those as soon as I could. I believe I traded for Reggie’s Gold Leaf card through a friend who had pulled it from a pack.
I think Reggie falls in the same category as Zeile: good but not great. Injuries held him back a lot (like Davis), and of course he bounced from team to team, which couldn’t have been good for him overall.
I have to comment on this card: the photo is pretty weak by Gold Leaf standards. The color coordination, which was the set’s strength, is still there, but you can just barely see Sanders’ face and the pose is only so-so. Kind of disappointing.
Oh, and here’s a 1991 Final Edition card of Sanders with Ryan Klesko, since I wasn’t sure where else to put it:
I’ve told the tale of the 1989 Upper Deck High Numbers a few times, but this card in particular has an interesting story. I was part of a little card club back in 1989…we were a group of kids and a couple of older guys who would meet in the basement of the public library and swap cards from our collections. This usually resulted in the older guys ripping off the kids (thanks, jerks). But this card represents a little change. When I saw Zeile I was instantly intrigued – a prospect I hadn’t heard of? I checked out the guy’s stats on the backs and decided he looked like a pretty good catching prospect; the kid I was trading with wanted a bit for him, but to me it was totally worth it. I seem to remember dealing some 87 Fleer Update cards for him, but the actual trade is lost to the mists of time. Either way, I didn’t care. I had what I wanted.
Of course, Zeile went on to have a pretty decent career, if not Hall of Fame. He remained one of my favorite players during his playing years – one I always kept an eye on, even if this card disappeared into the ether sometime in the late 90s (this is a recently acquired copy). Thanks for the good years, Todd.