Category Archives: Yankees Prospects

Pat Kelly

Kelly Pat Gold Leaf

Another repeat offender card. I get the impression that Kelly was seen as something of a fluke by Yankees fans, but he was actually pretty highly regarded coming up through the minors. Looking back at his numbers, though, I’m not entirely sure why; after a hot start to his career in 1988 with Oneonta, he fell off in 1989, slugging only .267 with Prince William. Advanced to the Albany-Colonie Yankees in AA the next year, he jumped up to a .402 slg, which I suppose is fair for a second baseman in his era, but still. He only had a 73 OPS+ with the Yankees in 1991, but improved to a decent-for-a-second-baseman 89 in 1992. I guess Yankee fans got annoyed with him in the mid-90s, when he seems to have fallen off a cliff. Oh, well. A shame. I thought he had some potential.
 
This is a rather pedestrian shot for this set. A fairly generic shot without the vibrant colors or contrasts that set off some of the other cards in the set.

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Retro Rookie: Jose Rijo

1984 Topps Traded

1984 Topps Traded

Wow, I had no idea Jose Rijo was 16 when he began his professional career. Utter madness. He actually pitched pretty well as a 16-year old in the GCL in 1981, going 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA. Not stellar, but he was basically a kid. He really hit his stride as an 18-year old, going 18-7 with a 1.88 ERA across A and AA. I guess with how the Yankees were doing in the early 80s I’m not surprised he got the call in 1984, though he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, settling for an 80 ERA+. I guess he was seen as the Yankees’ answer to Doc Gooden that year? Either way, we know which one had the greater skills, though Rijo was a pretty good pitcher. As a matter of fact, I have to admit he was one of my favorite pitchers of the early 90s.
 
Unfortunately, he ruined that reputation with the Esmailyn Gonzalez scandal and the skimming scandal. From Wikipedia:
 
Rijo used to work as a special assistant to general manager Jim Bowden of the Washington Nationals baseball team. Starting in February 2009, he took a leave of absence from his position after it was discovered that one of Rijo’s scouting finds, Dominican shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez was actually named Carlos David Alvarez Lugo and was four years older than the Nationals believed when they signed him. On February 25, Rijo was dismissed from the Nationals’ organization and his Dominican baseball academy closed down.
 
As for the card itself, what can you say? 1984 Topps is not one of my favorite designs, but I do like the picture. And man does Rijo look young and thin!

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Wade Taylor

Taylor Gold Leaf

I have to confess, this Gold Leaf card never made sense to me. I never recall Wade Taylor being an especially strong prospect for the Yankees. He was always “that other Taylor” to me. Looking at his minor league numbers backs this impression; he appears to have had one outlier season in the minors, 1990, that might have convinced the Yankees front office that he had the potential to make it. In 1990, he went 12-8 with a 2.51 ERA across two levels, which isn’t THAT special, if you ask me, especially given his record to that point. Frustratingly, none of the peripherals that describe a young pitcher exist for that period, but I have a feeling there was a great deal of luck and, perhaps, a very strong outfield behind him (remember, this is when Bernie and Gerald Williams, both strong fielders, were in the system with him).
 
Called up to the majors in 1991, he got exposed for the extreme flyball pitcher he was – honestly, A HOME RUN AN INNING? Good lord! And though he got way too long a leash that season if you ask me, he got booted from the Yankees after that and was never seen in the majors again.
 
Still, a pretty card. I can’t complain about the photograph at all. Just wish it was someone else.

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Robert Eenhoorn

Eenhoorn 91 UD

You’re looking at a genuine baseball pioneer. Okay, so Bert Blyleven is the best-known Dutch-born player in the majors, but Eenhoorn was far more instrumental in the formation of baseball in the Netherlands. It’s a shame he never caught on at the major league level, because he was a hell of a fielder. The bat just never caught up with the glove, and with Derek Jeter drafted just a year later, the writing was on the wall for Eenhoorn. He got some major league playing time, but never stuck.
 
It’s a shame, too, because I thought he was going to be the Yankees’ shortstop for a decade or so. You never know with prospects though…

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Brien Taylor

Taylor UD Minors
Oh, you knew this guy was coming. The classic tale of wasted potential. I remember him washing out early on, then lost contact with baseball for awhile, and found out he was trying out for Seattle in…I think it was 1999. Of course it never came to anything. But I got to wondering just what had happened in all those years…and every now and then I check in on him, to see how he is. Apparently he’s just working for his father these days, and doesn’t want to hear anything about baseball. I’d say poor guy, but the fight was a stupid move…sure, he was young and had no clue what he was doing, but…okay. Yeah. Poor guy.
 
This is a little different Taylor card – I wanted to show something that hadn’t been done all over the Internet. 1992 Upper Deck Minor Leagues Diamond Skills. Ah. What could have been.

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Kevin Maas

Maas UD

August 29th, 1990. I was just a kid attending his second major league game, seated somewhere way up in the Upper Deck at Baltimore’s old Memorial Stadium. I was still stunned by how green everything was, and especially stoked to get to the see the Yankees. You see, they were a bit of a joke at the time, but I knew all about their farm system – Bernie Williams, Gerald Williams, Robert Eenhoorn, Hensley Meulens – all the guys who were big back then. In fact, I had a Yankees hat that I wore in secret because I was such a fan of their farm system. Here was a chance to see, up close and personal, one of the most prolific fruits of that system to date: Kevin Maas.
 
I remember watching him through binoculars in BP, hitting moonshots with his weirdass crouch/stance. I wondered if his older brother, Jason, who was still down in Columbus but would surely make it, used the same stance.
 
Of course, the Yanks ended up winning it, disappointing me as I WAS an Orioles fan, after all (Craig Worthington was our goat that day), but I got to see Maas rip a home run,  his 16th of the season.
 
After that game I started imitating his stance in our backyard games, and I found I was able to uncoil a lot more quickly, giving me a lot more drive on the ball, but also requiring me to start my swing a little bit early, thereby hurting my pitch judgment just a tad. I wonder if that’s what ultimately did Maas in.
 
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll write more about him in time.

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