Unreal. Look at what a kid Cone was here. If Broder’s information is correct, and this is from 1986, it would have made him 23. And he looks all of it, too. What I really want to look at, though, are Cone’s numbers coming into KC. Was he a worthy candidate? The answer kind of surprised me, actually. Cone’s record entering 1986 was 39-34, not too bad, with a 2.20 ERA. Good looking prospect, right? Well, not so fast. First of all, he was hurt by the jumps to AA and AAA, putting up bad win-loss records and ERAs.
Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story. How about the peripherals? As you would guess, his hits/9, BB/9, and K/9 took a hit with the AA and AAA jumps. He went from an average 7.07 H/9 with a 6.87 K/9 in the low minors to an 8.55 H/9 with a 6 K/9. So that kind of points toward him having a fairly off time in the majors when he was called up in 1986, despite improving tremendously in AAA in 1986. The big question for me would have been whether that year was the fluke or the earlier jumps were the flukes.
Well, as we all know, he became a 20 game winner with the Mets two years later, and went on to a very productive career. But there were some legitimate resons to question whether he’d be a successful major leaguer early on. Interesting, huh?
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.
Brad Pounders was retired by the time this card was issued, so he’s DOA, unless you want to count him as a potato farmer. Still, he appears to have been a big power prospect for the Padres in the mid-to-late 80s, hitting 35 home runs in A ball in 1986 and 31 home runs between AA and AAA in 1987. In fact, looking closer, he was something of a Three True Outcomes guy, having a .381 OBP in 1986 and 1987 with 129 Ks in 86 and 79 in 87. I’m a bit baffled to as why he gave up – he looks like a decent enough prospect, but
Jerald Clark is the focus of this card now, though there was probably a time when Pounders would have been the better prospect. A 12th round pick in 1985, Clark had smacked 18 home runs in 1987 at AA Wichita, but beyond that, he had shown some decent power, never OPSing below .810 up through 1988. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite hold up when he came up to the majors. He debuted in the majors in 1988, but didn’t stick until 1990, when he had a 195/250/317 line in six games. Long-term, though, he had a decent if not spectacular major league career, finishing with a .257/.301/.408 line careerwise. He had an okay eye in the minors – not quite sure why that didn’t translate, but I surely wouldn’t call him a failed prospect.
Card Rating: B/D. Good choice of prospects at the time; I certainly can’t fault Fleer looking back at the guys’ numbers. This could have been a really big card at one time. Pounders really brings down the overall value of their careers, though. Clark on his own I would rate a C/C+, but Pounders’ F brings down the grade overall. Not a valuable card, but interesting nostalgia.
1994 Action Packed Minors
Wow, something I didn’t know about Mac Suzuki from BR’s Bullpen:
Mac Suzuki was expelled from high school in the 11th grade for fighting. Suzuki’s father contacted Don Nomura, owner of the Salinas Spurs, as Nomura had previously expressed an interest in Suzuki at a baseball clinic run by Tony Gwynn and Katsuya Nomura. Suzuki became the Spurs’ clubhouse boy. Among his tasks were concessions, batting practice pitching and janitorial work. Mac pitched one inning for Salinas in 1992.
Nomura sold Salinas, ending his ownership career, and signed Suzuki as the first of many star clients to begin his time as an agent. With the 17/18-year old Suzuki throwing 95 mph, he became a hot property for the team, now called the San Bernardino Spirit. He went 4-4 with 12 saves and a 3.68 ERA, striking out 87 and allowing 59 hits in 81 innings. He did walk 56 batters but was voted the 6th-best prospect in the California League by managers there.
I don’t remember hearing any of that when Suzuki was a hot prospect for the Mariners back in the day. I do remember the big hoopla about him possibly being the first Japanese-born pitcher to pitch in the majors since the 60s. It’s kind of hard to think in those terms, the pre-Ichiro days, but there was a lot of excitement around the idea. I lost interest in the game during the years when Suzuki struggled, and I didn’t know it had taken him until 1999 to finally stick for a bit, at the age of 24. And he was pretty awful, offering a combined 74 ERA+ that year. Ick. He lasted in the majors until 2002 with a career ERA+ of 86. He never lived up to that potential, sadly. Weird to think he was once ranked just behind ARod as Seattle’s top prospect.
As for the card itself, well, his name was “Makoto”, not “Makato”. I like the shot, but it’s ruined by the whole Action Packed gimmick, unfortunately. Alas, it was the only Mac Suzuki card I had.
A first round pick in 1985, Chuck Finley didn’t exactly dominate in his first season out of college, going 3-1 with a 4.66 ERA at short season Salem. He pitched 10 games with A-level Quad Cities in 1986 before getting recalled to the Angels. Even there he didn’t show anything too special, so I’m a bit baffled as to why the Angels went ahead and called him up…still, he ended up putting up a 126 ERA+ with the Angels in 1986. He spent his first two years in the majors in the bullpen, so I’m not sure if he was considered a hot rookie at the time or not. I do know that by the time I scored this card for the first time, around 1991, it was considered one of the key rookies of the 87 Donruss set.
Of course, Finley went on to have a strong major league career, going 200-173 career with a 115 ERA+ over 17 seasons. As for this card, it’s just all right. If it didn’t have the nostalgia factor from when I was trying to complete the 1987 Donruss set, I’m not sure it would be worth a mention for the photo. It’s a bit of an odd one, with his face contorted. Why didn’t he have more shoulder trouble, actually? That looks like a painful motion.
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.
1996 Leaf Signature Series
I learned about Matt when he was a prospect in the Padres system, with High Desert back in 1991, where he had hit .341 with 15 home runs and looked like a great prospect. I was a bit surprised when he was part of the Gary Sheffield deal, but he was with Milwaukee by 1993, putting up a .687 OPS in 23 games. He only really managed to stick for a full season in 1995, and only got over 100 OPS+ in 1998, for two years. So he turned out to not be that great after all.
Still, I have fond memories of him in a fantasy baseball game that I created way back in the day, and was giddy at the prospect of getting his autograph.