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.
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.
Saved my favorite for the last one here. Klesko was considered a two-way threat coming out of high school – a capable pitcher and batter, in the mold of John Olerud when he was with Washington. Hearing about someone that was like Olerud (since I had liked Olerud for that whole two-way threat thing) excited me, and I scooped up all the Klesko cards I could get my mitts on. This, however, was the crown jewel of my Klesko collection. For some reason, I loved this Greenville Braves design, and the jersey and the colors just absolutely popped. I mean, look at that photo, it’s awesome.
Of course, Klesko was a highly-valued Braves prospect at the time. He had hit .333 with a .503 SLG at two levels in 1989, showing great power promise, then .315/.480 between two levels in 1990 with 17 home runs. He wouldn’t see the majors permanently until 1993, and would have a decent if not stellar career, but he sure looked promising at the time.
And that finished up the 1991 Gold Leaf set (minus the two non-prospects in the set). I’m going to take a break for awhile before moving on to 1992.
1993 Fleer Final Edition
Guillermo is a forgotten power-hitting prospect for the Padres. Signed as a free agent out of Mexico, he slugged 21 home runs in his third year in the minors, 1991, and got the attention of the Padres. He also hit .295 that year, but here’s where it gets baffling. Moved up to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League the following year, his average went up (as expected) to .309, but his homers fell to seven. That was good enough for a cup of coffee in 1992, where he had a 116 OPS+ in 15 games. In 1993 he boosted his average to .333 and got another promotion to the Majors, where he had a 50 OPS+ in 79 games, performing mostly in a platoon role when Fred McGriff went down with an injury. That was his last year in the majors, and he hung around in the minors until 1995. He resurfaced in the Mexican leagues in 2005, performing fairly well that first year but going down quickly.
I’m not sure how I feel about 1993 Fleer – it’s just kind of there. I mean, this shot is okay, but it never jumped out at me, and the design is pretty bland. Still, I remember being pretty excited about this guy for some reason, so I needed to feature him here.
Man, this card baffled me even more than the Mike Huff card. Who on earth thought Scott Leius was a more worthy candidate than a lot of other prospects in 1991? I could think of a handful of players even on the Twins that I would pick. I mean, the guy never slugged above .413 in the minors before he appeared on this card. I mean, seriously – why? Was it the 116 OPS+ in 1991? Because no one thought that was sustainable. Surprisingly, he did not have a productive career. This shot is not even that great. Bleh.
1994 Action Packed 24K Gold Diamond
I thought Charles Johnson was going to be a huge superstar. At least I’m not the only one; he was consistently ranked as a top prospect and seen as a smart draft by the fledgling Florida Marlins. To be fair, he was an All-Star and a Gold Glover and produced well for a good long while, but unfortunately he fell off a cliff around the time he turned 30. Wow, did he look like a worldbeater in the minors, though. He had a killer (for a catcher) .828 OPS in 1993 at Single-A Kane County, then jumped to an .895 OPS in AA the following year (29 homers for a catching prospect – wow). For awhile in the majors he had a pattern of on-again off-again years – 100 OPS+, 73 OPS+, 113 OPS+, 79 OPS+…see the pattern? It’s a shame his production didn’t keep up because he might have been a longterm HOF candidate.
I pulled this card from a box of Action Packed that I bought in Minnesota in 1995. It’s apparently a fairly valuable card? Though I have to admit I’m not crazy about it. I don’t even know the story – is that actual gold leaf on the card? Either way, I’m not a big fan of Action Packed.
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.