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.
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.
1992 Topps 91 Debut
Tony Scruggs was part of the Rangers’ late 80s/early 90s minor league outfield trifecta – playing in the same outfield as Sammy Sosa and Juan Gonzalez. Scruggs was seen as the speedster with a good glove, who might eventually develop into a 20/20 type guy. Tony’s early minor league numbers were very encouraging: .337 with a .512 SLG at two levels in 1987. Unfortunately, his numbers would plummet as he climbed the ladder; .282 with a .429 SLG in 1988, and .245 with a .342 in 1989. While Sosa and Gonzalez were being heralded, Scruggs was slowly falling out of favor. He only played five games in the majors, in 1991, and ended up with a -100 OPS. Wow. Poor guy. He stuck around in the minors until 1993, but soon was gone. He was an actor for a bit, but no idea what he’s up to these days.
The card itself is pretty ugly, though. Typical spring training shot, covered in sweat, looking all hopeful. Sad, really.
1992 Upper Deck Minors
Wow, was the hype ever strong with this one. Those who were around back then may remember stories of Kelly crushing baseballs so hard in college that he left imprints on the ball. Because of his power, his speed, and the fact that he had starred at Arizona State, he was often compared to Barry Bonds. Here’s a shot of him from his Arizona State days:
Unfortunately, he couldn’t live up to the hype as a pro, which really disappointed me, because I was excited as hell for him to become a major leaguer. After a so-so first year in Durham, he hit 25 home runs at AA Greenville, but that came with an unfortunate .229/.323/.444 line. Not to mention 162 Ks in 133 games. His isoD is probably explained by his power, rather than any special eye. He finally made the majors in 1994, and managed a 104 OPS+ in 30 games. They gave him a more complete shot the next year, and he failed miserably, putting together a 49 OPS+ and an anemic .190/.258/.314 line. He was traded to Cincinnati that offseason for Chad Fox and Ray “Burger” King, his stock completely worthless. His only full year in the majors after that was with the new Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998, where he had a 79 OPS+. He tried a comback in 2003 and 2004 for the Royals, but remained in their minors before retiring. Sad story.
Following up on manager day, here’s Don Wakamatsu. Unlike Eric Wedge, Don was never really seen as a prospect. He always something of an organizational filler kind of guy – never impressive with the bat, marginally impressive with the glove. I hadn’t even heard of him before he made his ML debut in 91, and if you look back at his stats, you can see why. But I am glad the guy got a cup of coffee – it probably made his path to ML manager much easier.
He looks so young here…I don’t even remember him looking this young back then. Looking at him today, however, I can see that he’s generally just a young-looking guy. Here he is:
Today is manager day here at IWATP. Sure, Wedge is known as a manager now, but he was once a highly-regarded Red Sox prospect, up in the same echelon as Jeff Bagwell. Looking back at his numbers, though, I have to say I don’t really understand why. His minor league numbers were never that impressive, and he never managed to stick for long at the major league level. I guess he might have been a case of “tools”.
This card kind of leaves me flat. It’s a standard spring-training shot, and his 1991 year wasn’t that impressive (nor was any other). I really only remember a handful of Wedge cards from over the years, in fact.
I thought I’d leave you with a shot of him today…
Rockies and Marlins prospects kind of sit at a weird intersect here. The two teams were introduced as I was starting to stop collecting, but had prospects in 1992…so while I have some memories of John Burke, I was never as high on him as some of the prospects covered here. That said, I always loved this card. The shot with the rockies got kind of cliche, but it was fresh here. I love the colors here, and especially the lighting. Man, Upper Deck had some great photography back in the day. What happened?
Anyway, I seem to remember Burke got injured and was never the same. Kind of like the other Rockies savior, David Nied. It was a pretty bad thing to be a Rockies pitcher in the 90s, before the humidor. I mean, it’s not great now, but it’s a damn sight better.