Category Archives: Red Sox Prospects

Kevin Morton

1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

1991 Upper Deck Final Edition

Looking at Kevin Morton’s minor league numbers, I’m absolutely blown away. Coming into 1990, he had never had above a 0.908 WHIP between three teams. When he was promoted to AA in 1990, he jumped to a 1.221 WHIP (oh noes!!) but pitched 163 innings after pitching 95 the previous year. Yikes. Then in 1991 he pitched a combined 189 innings between AAA and the majors. 189! That’s Dusty Baker-esque for a 22-year old. I can’t find any mention of what happened to him after that year physically, but he fell WAY off after that, so I can only suspect that workload took a toll on his arm.
 
This card wasn’t really one of my favorites in the 1991 Final Edition, a weird set in and of itself. This card displays that weird effect that Upper Deck started putting on its cards, leaving the players looking airbrushed or animatronic. The pose is also a bit weird – he looks more like a fielder than a pitcher to me. Still, I was excited to see a Morton Upper Deck card.

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Mo Vaughn

Vaughn Leaf Gold Rookie

I knew this was coming…I do believe this is the first repeat player, which was inevitable when I decided to cover the entire Gold Leaf set. Mo, of course, was a highly-rated pick when drafted by the Red Sox in 1989. I still remember when he came up with the Sox…I was so excited, because here was another big guy, like me, who played first base, like me. I thought he would be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Of course, he ended up having “old player” skills and aged badly, as do so many big guys.
 
Then came the whole revelation in the Mitchell Report about him buying steroids, and that pretty much took care of my respect for the guy. Oh, well.
 
This was always one of my favorite cards of this set. The old-school Red Sox spring training uniforms were really classy, and this is just a great action shot. Almost through the set now…hard to believe.

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Retro Rookie: Ellis Burks

1987 Fleer Update Glossy

1987 Fleer Update Glossy

Or as we called him, “Sille Skrub” (pronounced silly scrub). Ellis is the first in a new series here at Teen Prospector, all about the prospects and rookies who were a little before my time. I’ll be learning more about them and so, hopefully, will you too.
 
I think a lot of people know about Ellis from his later years, so I’m not going to go too in-depth there. What I want to look at is his minor league and rookie years. Ellis was Boston’s first pick in 1983, #20 overall. He hit .241 with 2 home runs in short season A-ball that year at the tender age of 18. He slowly improved after that, hitting as many as 14 homers in the minors, but never getting his BA above .273 (OBP is not available for that era of minor league ball). It’s kind of odd that he got the call in 1987, as his numbers weren’t that strong, but he did well, going 20/20 that year and making a lot of All-Rookie Teams.
 
Of course, he went on to have a productive, but not a Hall of Fame, career, but he was a pretty big star in the late 80s, when we christened him with the name. You can tell we weren’t big Red Sox fans…

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Jeff Bagwell

Bagwell Minors

Boy, I thought Jeff Bagwell was going to supplant Scott Cooper as the next great Red Sox third baseman. I liked Cooper, but I thought Bagwell was the real deal. As I recall, this was the first time I ever saw a picture of Bagwell, and I was kind of surprised that he was so goofy looking. Still, the guy had hit .310 in the minors the year before, and I treasured every Best card I could find that year. The photo on this card, in particular, resonated with me. It looked to me like it had been taken in the Fall, with the trees having no leaves in the background, the way Bagwell was dressed, and the lighting coming across the photo. I couldn’t wait to see him in the majors.
 
Of course, then he was dealt in the Larry Andersen deal, and I lost a bit of interest (don’t tell me why, but I had some innate interest in Red Sox prospects back then). Now he’s a likely Hall of Famer, and this card seems like a pretty good one to have…not to mention the whole novelty factor of him in a Red Sox uniform of some stripe, since he was a career Astro. Bags rocked, and I’m glad I got in on the ground floor with his career.

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Mickey Pina

Pina UD

1990 was the first year I followed Spring Training as a baseball fan, and I dug into with both hands, enjoying the younger players that got playing time, hoping that I would get some clues as to future stars. Mickey was the first guy that grabbed my attention. I had never heard of him, but he showed up in ST and started hitting moonshots off of established players. This was well before I understood how Spring Training stats worked, so I thought I had found a diamond in the rough. This article from that year says it all:
 
“WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – There is rapidly becoming one story in spring training. He is 6 feet tall with bulging muscles. He grew up in Bridgewater, played for Bridgewater-Raynham High School and the Bridgewater Legion. One of his idols was Jim Rice. He adored Carl Yastrzemski and respected the ability of Dwight Evans.

 He’s got a made-for-Fenway Park swing. Short, compact and sweet. Some think he will someday rule the Wall. The question now is: Will Mickey Pina supplant Evans as the right fielder, with the veteran’s back flareups too unpredictable for the Sox to count on him?”

Of course, he didn’t make the team in 1990, went back to Pawtucket, and somehow degenerated. His career was gone after that. But that’s not what we’re concerned with here. I was more concerned with not being able to find ANY of his cards in 1990. The first to hit was his 1990 ProCards issue, the first regular minor league set I was able to afford, but this beauty is the one I always remember when I think of that guy. It’s a shame he became another in a long line of Red Sox outfield disappointments, because I thought for sure I had the next Yastrzemski. Instead it was just another Sam Horn.

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Phil Plantier

Plantier 90 Debut
I’m starting off the blog with this guy, as he represented a whole approach to collecting and baseball in general for me at one period in my life. Phil Plantier sums up everything about my teenage prospecting years: killer power numbers in the minors with a horrific OBP (we didn’t know any better back then). I’m amazed when I look at how far things have come when predicting the success of young players, though there’s still quite some ways to go.
 
Still, over the years since Plantier’s debut (and even further back), I’ve played the what-if game: what if Plantier had mastered his strikeout issues? What if he had learned to take a walk? That kind of fun has kept these prospects alive in my hearts over the years, and it’s what inspired me to create this site.
 
So, to Plantier himself. I don’t remember exactly where I read about him first, but I think it was in a magazine that touted rookies of the upcoming year issued in 1989. From my first time in baseball card collecting, I had been fascinated with young players because while the older players were great, I felt they belonged to a time that wasn’t mine. These were my kids, my generation, even though I was much, much younger than them. So I read these magazines and memorized the names and tried to imagine what they looked like – what their batting stances might be, or their pitching motion. I flipped out when I would see them on cardboard and buy up or trade for every copy I could find. I still remember when I first found out Ray Lankford was black…it was those moments that made my prospecting worthwhile.
 
When I first saw a Plantier card in the 1990 Procards minor league set, I flipped out and got as many as I could, then scooped up his 91 cards as they were issued, breathlessly waiting for the guy’s major league debut. After all, he’d knocked 33 homers in AAA in 1990 at the age of 21. How on earth could the guy miss? Then he came up and tore the cover off the baseball in limited time…I thought that I’d found the star of the future, and I had the corner on his rookie cards.
 
Well, then we know what happened. He had a great year with San Diego in 1993, hitting 34 homers, but that .240 average was troubling (still, he OPS+ed 121, so he was doing something right). Then I think the strikeouts and low average got to the teams he played with, even though he was hitting well enough, way above league average. He was finished by 1997 at age 28, even though he had a career 103 OPS+. Not outstanding for a corner outfielder, but surely enough to stick around. I blame the low OBP partially and partially also an ignorance of how players like him worked back then. I think he would have a much longer career today, and those rookie cards…well, they’d still be worthless because of the era they were issued in, but such was our ignorance back then. 

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