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?
New feature for Teen Prospector…I want to look at the cards from the past that feature multiple rookies and grade them both on the quality of the prospects at the time as well as how their careers worked out. These cards have always been fun for me, even if they went nowhere, so I thought it would be excellent to take a look at them.
So, Luis De Los Santos first. Selected in the second round in 1984, he was a corner OF/1B/DH type who had shown almost no power but could hit for a decent if not spectacular average. My guess is that he was expected to develop into a power hitter, but it just never came; the most home runs he ever hit was six in 1988, when he earned his promotion to the majors (to be fair, he did hit .307 that year). In 11 games in 1988, he hit .091/.231/.227. How did that earn him this card? Haven’t a clue. Guess it was the AAA numbers. He fared a little better in 1989, going .253/.293 (ick)/.310 in 28 major league games at the age of 22.
Yes, that’s correct, he’s 21 in that picture. I can’t believe it, either. Anyway, he never did much better, only getting one more year in the majors in 1991, when he managed a 25 OPS+. He bounced around the minors for a couple of years, but was dropped out of organized baseball in 1993, at the age of 26.
Jim Campbell was one of a million men so named in major and minor league history. A 32nd round pick in 1987, it’s a little baffling as to why he even made this card. Sure, he went 6-0 with a 0.73 ERA in short-season A in 1987 at the age of 21 (no great feat), but he was a pedestrian 4-3 with a 3.60 at AA Memphis in 1988. What was Fleer looking at here? He wouldn’t even make the majors until 1990, when he went 1-0 with a 46 ERA+ in two games. And that was it for his major league career. Nice pick, Fleer!
Card Rating: F/F. Poor choice of prospects to begin with, and neither made a dent career-wise. Best used as kindling.
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!
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure Johnny Damon was going to stick. Sure, he was a speedy outfielder with a good glove (how things change), but I wasn’t sure he had enough of a bat to hang around. I thought the Damon cards I got were kind of cool back in the day, especially this one, but I didn’t think he was going to hang around long enough to really make a mark. Obviously I was wrong, but the odd thing is that this is not a recent acquisiton; this is the original card I got in 1994. I think I may have even traded for this. So I guess in some corner of my mind I had some questions. I’m still not a big Damon fan, but I have to admit this card is pretty cool. I think of this parallel as a predecessor to the later sets like refractors and x-fractors. I may try to track down more of these as I have an opportunity to.
I remember getting this card in a pack in 1990 and going “WHO?” I had no idea who he was, but I was immediately drawn to him. After all, there weren’t too many major league players who looked like I did (I was chubby even when I was playing ball every day), so it was exciting to me to see another big guy get a shot. It was even more exciting that he won Rookie of the Year when he got his shot.
Of course, big guys don’t age well in sports, and so he didn’t have much of an impact past that rookie year, but I still have some fondness in my heart for Bob. I wish he could have had a more productive long-term career. But I’m happy he got there at all when I think of other big guys whose careers died on the vine (Andre Keene, Calvin Pickering).