Dream or Dud: 1993 Topps Coming Attractions
Welcome to “Dream or Dud”, where periodically the Spitter will look at the prognostications of baseball card companies in guessing who is going to be the future stars, or at least competent players.
Topps, Donruss, Upper Deck, and the rest gave it their best shot in showcasing the up and coming players whether it be on future star cards, multiple player rookie cards, draft pick cards, or any other special series designating the latest and greatest. It’s not easy to predict stardom, since baseball is baseball, so they missed as much as they hit.
So with that….we present one series in the 1993 Topps – Coming Attractions.
Brad Pennington – Orioles – He. Threw. Hard. But oh, those bases on balls. Pennington made the Orioles out of Spring Training in 1993, and as of June 24th had a 1.74 ERA. The rest of the season his ERA was 14.59 as his control problems were astronomical. He was sent to Rochester and had issues there too. He wound up just pitching 75 2/3 big league innings and his MLB career ended in Tampa Bay in 1998. One game, one hit, three walks, no outs. DUD
Greg Blosser – Red Sox – Blosser had a good power year in the Eastern League in 1992. Boston hoped he’d be the next power hitting outfield star. He was blonde, blue-eyed, chiseled, and just 22. It didn’t happen. Three hits in 39 at bats in the bigs, and then he saw the baseball world in the minors, Japan, and the independent leagues until 2003. Missing on draft picks like this led to a lot of upheaval in Beantown, leading to the eventual Dan Duquette / Jimy Williams era. DUD
Jim Edmonds – Angels – He repeated Class A in 1991, but in 1992 he broke out at both Midland and Edmonton. He got a cup of coffee in 1993, made the club out of Spring Training in 1994, and never looked back. However, his power was a surprise. He hit six dingers in his first 217 games (1988-1991) in the minors. In the bigs in 1995, he whacked 35. DREAM
Shawn Jeter – White Sox – Drafted in 1985, he repeated AA and was part of a trade for Cory Snyder. Hitting .301 with 26 steals in 1992 (after stealing nine the year before) got him a call for a short spell in June, and then at the end of the year. He got two hits in one game against the Mariners, and those were the only two hits of his career. He never made it back to the bigs. In fact, those who got this card in their packs probably wondered by a player hit under .200 in AA at the time was a “Coming Attractions”. DUD
Jessie Levis – Indians – I saw him play rookie ball for the Indians in 1989, at a quaint park in Elizabethtown, Tennessee. He made the big leagues in 1992, filling in when Sandy Alomar, Jr. was injured. Levis was always the third wheel for Cleveland, catching wise, behind Alomar and either Junior Ortiz or Tony Pena. Shipped to Milwaukee at the end of Spring Training in 1996, he was the semi-regular for two years for the Brewers before settling in, again, as the third catcher for organizations, waiting in AAA for injuries or ineffectiveness. He later was a manager and a scout, but his career seemingly ended in 2008 thanks to a Carl Monday worthy arrest. DUD
Phil Clark – Tigers – The Tigers drafted him in the first round in 1986 as a catcher, and was on his third season in AAA after converting to the outfield (hello Toledo) when he got the call to fill in when injuries struck Dan Gladden and Rob Deer. He was hitting .378 in part time action and was sent down so Mark Carreon could stay in the bigs. When he was called back up in September, he got just nine more at bats for a losing ball club (because you gotta play Mark Carreon and Dan Gladden, for reasons) and wound up with a .407 average.
Out of options, the Tigers proved they weren’t so ept. He was waived by the Tigers in early April (gotta keep the old men, right?) and the Padres scooped him up. Playing catcher, first, third, outfield, and pinch hitting, Clark had a great benchie season. Alas, it didn’t last, and he wound up in Japan in the late 90s. There he had three solid years before retiring and becoming a long time minor league coach. DREAM for Japan, I guess!
Ed Pierce – Royals – After being drafted in 1989, he zoomed up the ladder and pitched 5 1/3 September innings for Kansas City in 1992. His ERA of 3.38 hid something – the fact he gave up nine hits and four walks in those 5 1/3 innings. Sent down in 1993, he never solved the American Association and traveled between Omaha and Memphis for three years before ending up pitching 21 nondescript innings for Bowie of the EL in 1995. That was a quick exit. DUD
Jose Valentin – Brewers – Never an All-Star, but he played a pretty good shortstop and second base, was a regular for 11 seasons and played in 16, and had good power and decent on-base skills. Definitely a DREAM.
Terry Jorgensen – Twins – Got this status by Topps after hitting an empty .310 in 22 games at age 25. Played third in the minors and had decent on-base skills, but never hit more than 14 home runs. Slashed .224/.270/.289 in 59 games in 1993, and the Twins moved on. Would have had all of the support of the Lutherans, could he have stuck. DUD
Mark Hutton – Yankees – Signed out of Australia, Hutton moved up quickly and hit the majors at age 23 in 1993. Had a great first start against the Angels (8 IP, 3 H, 2R) but gave up 13 runs in the other 14 innings he threw for the big club that year. Ran into injury problems, then within 15 months was traded three times (for David Weathers, Craig Counsell, and Curtis Goodwin). Last seen in the majors in 1998. Crikey, but he’ll have that first start. DUD.
Troy Neel – Athletics – A DUD of a human being if there ever was one and the motherfucker basically got away with it too.
Bret Boone – Mariners – His age 27 and 28 seasons were not good, not at all, and it cost the Reds Dan Wilson. Somehow he pulled out of it, and had a legendary three-year run for Seattle in his early 30’s. The prodigal returned. This is a case of being a DREAM the second time around for a club.
Cris Colon – Rangers – A Venezuelan shortstop, and the nephew of Chico Carrasquel, Cris went six for 36 in his only big league stint in 1992. The Rangers drafted Benji Gil in 1992, and tried to move Colon to third. He hit .300 but his defense at both third and short at Tulsa was abysmal. After 1995, he toured the globe (playing in Mexico and Italy, and for his home country), Middle America (Fargo and Sioux City), and Texas (Corpus Christi and San Angelo) for independent ball work. DUD.
Domingo Martinez – Blue Jays – The Dominican first baseman was in a stacked Toronto organization. He spent three years in AA and three seasons in Syracuse thanks to guys named Molitor and Olerud. The White Sox got him 1994, but he was blocked, again, by Frank Thomas and Julio Franco. Spent his 30’s in Japan kicking it for Seibu and Yomiuri. There was no reason to suspect he was a DUD, except that he never really got a chance to prove otherwise.
Javy Lopez – Braves – The only black mark against him was that Greg Maddux didn’t like to pitch to him. His defense wasn’t THAT bad, though. He’s not a HOF, but a damn fine player that I’m sure I’d rather have in my lineup than Eddie Perez. Take that, Perfesser Maddux. DREAM
Matt Walbeck – Cubs – He hit .301 in AA in 1992 and made the Cubs out of Spring Training in 1993. From there, he was a journeyman who played until 2003 despite a negative WAR, thanks to the Backup Catcher’s Union Local #596. DUD
Dan Wilson – Reds – Catchers are always tough to rate, because a lot of what they do has been previously un-measurable (and still is to some extent). Wilson didn’t hit much (but had a positive career WAR on offense), and the defensive metrics tell me he was an average catcher. But his Mariners teammates and fans loved him, and there’s got to be some value for being a catcher that the entire pitching staff respects, besides the nearly $30 million he earned in salary. DREAM
Scooter Tucker – Astros – Topps must have thought it was the year for the rookie catchers. Unfortunately, Scooter didn’t get his union card and was totally out of baseball by 1996, despite slugging .522 in AAA Tuscon in 1994. Well, that was the PCL at one of its offensive peaks – with high elevation and dry air. DUD
Billy Ashley – Dodgers – He was supposed to be the next big thing in Los Angeles – visions of raw power dancing in the heads of Dodgers execs. They waited for him in 1993 and 1994, and then LA made room for him by trading Henry Rodriguez in 1995. He couldn’t stay in the lineup despite flashes of his power since he never learned the strike zone, couldn’t run to save his life, and was an awful outfielder. Other than that…DUD
Tim Laker – Expos – Yep, another catcher. Made the bigs in 1992 after slashing .231/.280/.333 in the Florida State League the year before. Never played more than 64 games in a big league season, and soon became a Crash Davis type AAA catcher, whacking home runs and schooling youngsters (though he did usually have a cuppa joe in the bigs each season). Was mentioned in the Mitchell Report, but no one cared about his 22 home run season in Buffalo in 2001. DUD
Bobby Jones – Mets – We were on the tail end of the Mike Smith epoch in MLB when two pitchers named Bobby Jones were drafted in the 1991 draft. This Bobby Jones was a first rounder for the Mets, and made the bigs for good in mid-season of 1993. He had two pretty decent seasons in 1994 and 1997, and a good WAR season in 1998 (tied for his highest). But he never became a star, and his peripherals were always meh. He’s in between, but I’d say a 10-year career as a 3rd or 4th starter is a DREAM more than anything. (The other Bobby Jones toiled for the pre-humidor Rockies, poor guy…)
Brad Brink – Phillies – I am sure that the Phillies didn’t expect the seventh overall pick in 1986 to not hit the bigs until 1992, especially when they started him in AA after drafting him. (They really don’t do that much anymore, thank goodness). Brink pitched in 30 games, total, from 1988-1991 thanks to injuries, and then threw only 55 2/3 big league innings before shutting it down in 1995. Injuries cemented his DUD-dom, but he really didn’t have the goods when healthy anyway.
William Pennyfeather – Pirates. Well, the name’s a dream. He beat the odds in that he was undrafted, and made the bigs anyway. He had just 47 at bats over three seasons for Pittsburgh, but lasted 19 seasons in the minors and independent ball (on 21 ballclubs) before finally hanging it up in 2006. A DUD for the MLB, but an All-Timer in the Atlantic League.
Stan Royer – Cardinals. Many players here hung on and played wherever they could after their MLB dream died. Not Royer. A first round pick out of Eastern Illinois by Oakland, he was traded to the Cardinals in the Willie McGee deal. Royer was a decent hitter in AAA and had three mighty fine cups of coffee for the Redbirds from 1991-93. But he was just two years younger than Todd Zeile and only one year younger than Gregg Jefferies so he was effectively blocked. He got off to a poor start in 1994 as a benchie, was waived and picked up by Boston, and had nine at bats there when the strike was called. He never came back after the strike and now runs a highly successful wealth management firm in St. Louis. DUD on the field, but a dream businessman.
Doug Brocail – Padres. Drafted in 1986, he didn’t make the bigs for good until 1993 and had the misfortune of pitching for an awful San Diego team (sounds familiar). He was traded to Houston in the mega-deal that gave the Padres Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley, and settled into being a reliable bullpen piece for Houston and Detroit. Injuries stopped him cold for three whole seasons, but against the odds came back and did yeoman’s work for six more years before retiring at age 42. Oh, and he had an angioplasty in 2006 as well. DREAM for perseverance.
Kevin Rogers – Giants. After climbing the ranks as a starter, the Giants converted him to the bullpen in the Spring of 1993 and he formed a potent lefty / righty set-up duo with Mike Jackson in service of closer Rod Beck. On May 1, 1994, he threw two innings against the Phillies and never returned to the bigs again thanks to a blood clot in his left shoulder. It wasn’t without effort, as he was in the minors for a few years after, but that clot sapped the thunderbolt energy from his arm. Never get too attached to young relief pitchers. DUD, but only due to injuries.
Topps didn’t have that great of a luck with this series, with a lot more ‘duds’ thannot. Some teams didn’t have that great of prospects coming up, or Topps had used them on other series in the set. Still, you’d think they’d have known better than to expect 27-year old journeymen to become stars. I mean, pick up a Baseball America, Topps.