Monday, February 27, 2017

2015 Austin Meadows

Today I am looking into the current top prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization: Austin Meadows.  The reason I chose Meadows was the I have heard his name so many times as a top end prospect, but never knew why.  And that’s sort of the point of this blog, isn’t it?  To get to know the next generation of players in this game.  

One of the things that surprised me when I was researching was that Meadows has not had a shot at the Big Leagues yet.  I had naturally assumed that since I was so aware of his name for a couple of years that he would have at least gotten a September call-up.  But I was wrong.  

Looking into his scouting reports and Minor League career, I definitely got excited about what kind of player he will be when he does get his opportunity.  And aside from Meadows’ career, the card itself is definitely different than what I have looked at in previous posts.   

Player History:

If memory serves me correct, I remember reading in either ESPN or Sports Illustrated an article that highlighted the connection between Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier as top prospects coming out of Georgia before the 2013 MLB draft.  That’s how long Meadow’s has been in my  mental baseball orbit, even if I had never heard of Bowman Inception or cared about prospects at all up to that point in my life.  

Meadows was the 9th overall pick int he 2013 draft, coming out of Georgia.  Most of the research I did focused on what was being said about him leading into that draft.  Of interesting note was the comment that his dad was a college football and baseball player while his mom played softball in college.  Someday I would love to do a more in depth study of the correlation between college athletes and whether or not their parents were also collegiate athletes.  If anything, it will be fun to have a reason to type the word collegiate more often, it has such an old-school feel to it, no?

Here are the common threads about Meadows that I found from scouts describing his baseball potential:

  • Meadows has harnessed his athleticism to become a pure hitter with a short, smooth stroke who sprays line drives to all fields. 
  • He remains in the process of unlocking his raw power as he continues to get comfortable turning on pitches and learning when it is wise to sell out for power
  • Defensively, he is a fluid outfielder with outstanding instincts that allow him to get good jumps in center field and run down fly balls from gap to gap. 
  • His arm is slightly above-average, which will allow him to play right field if needed. 
  • Meadows wins high marks for his makeup as a hard worker with a great attitude and leadership capabilities. 
The one of there major point of emphasis was his overall speed.  Apparently Meadows scores high marks in all the categories scouts looks for, even if his power at the plate is something that they can only project will pan out.  
Meadows first put himself on the radar of scouts at the IBAF World Championships in 2011while playing for Team USA.  Among his impressive stats were three straight games with four hits and 28 RBI, propelling him to be named Co-MVP of the tournament.  
One of the more interesting aspects of scouts takes on Meadows that I found were the Major League player comparisons.  The names I saw most strongly associated with Meadows were: Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus, Andre Eithier and Jacoby Ellsbury.  I laugh because obviously it’s a great thing to be compared to guys who have made it to sustained careers in the Majors, but those guys?  As someone who watched a lot of Colby Ramus over the last two years in Houston…yikes.  
Probably a better prophecy of Meadow’s future was this comment: “Meadows projects to be a star-caliber player and probably will follow in the footsteps of such outfielders as Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.”  I imagine anyone would take that as high praise!  
When I first started reading through Meadow’s stats, I admit that I was not overly impressed.  Nothing jumped out at me the way some things have with other prospects.  It was weird to know in my head that he has made it to being the top prospect for the Pirates without anything eye popping in my opinion.  Even his stolen base numbers are very low for a guy touted as a speedy player.  
But the more I soaked in the numbers, the more I realized that his overall game is very much ready to take on the MLB.  Here is what his numbers look like beginning in 2013 Rookie and Short Season A level ball:
  • 2013 Stats (Rookie and SS A): G: 48, HR: 5, RBI: 22, BB: 29 , SO: 46 AVG: .316, OBP: .424
  • 2014 Stats (Rookie and Full Season A) : G: 45, HR: 3, RBI: 16, BB: 19, SO: 33 AVG: .317, OBP: .394
  • 2015 Stats (A Advanced and AA): G: 127, HR, 7, RBI: 55, BB: 43, SO: 84, AVG: .310, OPB: .360
  • 2016 Stats (SS A, AA and AAA): G: 87, HR: 12, RBI: 47, BB: 33, SO: 67, AVG: .266 OBP: .333
  • Overall in Minors: G: 307, HR: 29, RBI: 140, BB: 124, SO: 230, AVG: .300 OBP: .368
These numbers garnered him a number of recognitions by Baseball America over the last three years, most notably a nod to the Futures Game in 2016, which unfortunately he had to miss with an injury.
In the end, injuries have been the one major blip on his career that I can seen. Hamstring injuries have been the primary culprit, cutting short his development in 2014 and 2016.  

Look of the Card:

I had originally considered looking at both the 2015 and 2014 versions of Meadows’ Inception cards, but then I thought that waiting a long while and revisiting him in a profile after he has had time in the Majors might prove very useful. So there is that.  

The look of the 2015 Inception remains my third favorite or the four, and this one if just really intriguing to me.  Of the players I have profiled, this is the first one that is a pre-action type of shot.  Instead of the follow through of Correa (at bat) or Berrios and De Leon (pitching), Meadows is in locked and loaded position before a pitch is delivered.  

The three things that pop out to me about this look are: 1) How different the feel is of the pictures since it is pre-action instead of mid- or post-action, 2) How dark the card looks overall because of the essentially all black jersey, and 3) How much of the word Inception is covered at the top of the card.   

This is the first card I have profiled in which the player isn’t facing the camera, and thus has his back turned for the photo.  There is something that feels so much less exciting about this than when Soler was in mid-jog or De Leon is staring at his pitch, willing it to cross the plate at the perfect spot.  I find myself almost wishing the signature was across his back, where a player’s last name usually is on a jersey, just because the whole-back side thing just doesn’t feel right.  Yes, I realize that once again I am talking about the feel of a photo on a baseball card.  

I think it may have something to do with the fact that it seems so much less personal.  It could be any ballplayer standing there for the picture because we don’t see his face at all.  Again, it’s lacking the personality of the previous cards I have looked at.  Nothing makes it stand out as Austin Meadows. 

One of the redeeming values, to me, is the fact that at least the A and M of his signature are easily identified and we get the bonus of the T in Austin.  In all honestly, this is pretty similar to how I sign my name and if my name were Austin Meadows, I would probably write it just like that. 

I love how the back of the card describes Meadows as a “smooth swinger.”  Isn’t funny how many times a left hander (no matter his overall level of talent) is described as having a smooth swing?  I’m not biased in any way though, as a left handed batter myself…

Card Value:
If I had to describe the value of this card in the simplest of terms, it would be that it’s generally more stable than most I have looked at and averages a slightly higher level of payout for the sellers than any except Correa that I researched.  

Curren eBay listings for this specific card range from $9.99-$13.49.  There is, however, a special 1/1 listing for $350 if you are interested in that sort of thing!  On COMC, there is only one available currently, and it is listed at $11.50, so right in line with eBay asking prices.  

As for sales, the lowest it has gone since December 18 is $4.02 on ebay.  The highest sale price for one card was $10.50, though a lot of 2 of these went for $17 (averaging $8.50 per card).  Surprisingly, there have only been seven of the base card sold on ebay in the last three months.  The top overall sale in that time frame was a graded (9.5) version of the Orange Parallel (counted at /25) that sold for $35.  On COMC, there have been 34 sales of the card since it debuted, and twice there have been 8 copies bought in one quarter.  
So all-in-all, it seems that the market shows a slightly higher expectation of success for Meadows (in terms of what people are willing to pay).  Though it is surprising that there are not as many ridiculous asking prices as some of the other cards, considering that Meadows still rates as the prospect most ready to come up for the Pirates. 
I can honestly say I am more excited about following Meadows this year after doing this profile.  As someone who has been compared to so many MLB contributors, as well as someone who is said will fit in with the line of amazing outfielders for the Pirates, there could be great things in store for Austin Meadows.  Sadly, it seems that it will take an injury or a trade of someone like McCutchen for Meadows to get a full blown shot at proving himself.  Here’s hoping they figure something out a different way!

Monday, February 20, 2017

2016 Jose Berrios /150 Purple Parallel

As I am only four card profiles into this adventure, it is very important to me that I keep the information as fresh as possible, for as long as possible.  One of the things that will change quickly is that I will have less and less to say about the actual cards I am writing about, since I have already covered the base versions of all four sets and that’s what I mostly collect.  

So the short term answer is to find the few parallels I have and focus on those in the coming weeks, just so I can have a slightly different angel to talk about with the coloring of the card.  Hopefully that will help keep me interested even if nobody else is!  

This week I chose to go with another prospect on the cusp of making it big, but who struggled with his first taste of Major League action last year: Jose Orlando (JO) Berrios.  I will be taking a look at his 2016 Inception card that is the Purple Parallel, limited to 150 copies.  

Player History:

Berrios is the second player born in Puerto Rico that I have profiled thus far (preceded by the great Carlos Correa). Like Correa, Berrios was chosen in the first round, but at the 32nd overall pick instead of the first.  Berrios was the second pick by the Twins that year, with Byron Buxton being the first.  Admittedly, I knew a lot about Buxton heading into that draft but had not heard of Jose Berrios until this past year when he was touted as one of the most MLB-ready prospects in the game.  
His first run in rookie ball went very well; he started 11 games, going 3-0 with 4 saves, 49 strikeouts and a 1.17 ERA.  This was exciting enough to land him as the Twins #9 ranked prospect heading into the 2013 season. 
Less than a year after being chosen by the Twins, Berrios pitched for his Puerto Rican national team in the World Baseball Classic. I could not find his statistics for the tournament, but I can only imagine he gained valuable experience and insight from being on a team that made it to and lost the finals against the Dominican Republic. 
Unfortunately for Jose, his 2013 campaign was not as spectacular as was expected.  In 19 games started (103.2 innings), his record was only 7-7 with an ERA of 3.99.  He did, however, continue to rack up the strikeouts with exactly 100 over the course of the season, giving him a strikeout to inning ration or just over 1 per inning.  
His work ethic and increasing command of his repertoire was continuing to impress scouts heading into the 2014 season, one in which he was the now the third ranked prospect in the system.  Some of the things scouts have said about Berrios during his time in the minors:
  • Berrios has a very lively and quick arm. 
  • He brings his fastball at 93-96 mph. 
  • Berrios' secondary pitches include a curveball that many have called a "slurve" and a changeup that he trusts [but] he has work to sharpen, and a changeup that is an out pitch for him.
  • Berrios has a solid three-pitch arsenal, leading with a fastball that can reach 97 mph, but typically sits 93-95 with late life.
  • Berrios is fearless and aggressive on the mound 
  • He overcomes his lack of height and weight with excellent athletic ability, quickness and very sound baseball instincts.
  • Berrios in a word: Focused
It’s hard not to root for a guy who is described as focused and willing to overcome any physical obstacle in his way to achieve his goal!  And it’s really great to read about a top prospect who is concerned about crafting pitches instead of relying on one great pitch.  
The 2014 and 2015 seasons were years in which Berrios really began to shine as a prospect.  Here are his basic statistics in mostlyh AA and AAA ball:
  • 2014: G: 25, Innings: 140, 12-8, SO: 140, ERA: 2.76 (6 ER in 3 Innings at AAA, 18 ERA)
  • 2015: G: 27, Innings: 166, 14-5 SO: 175, ERA: 2.87
As the competition level increased, it seemed Berrios always needed some time to adjust before settling in and raising his game to meet the demand.  He was so good at the end of 2015 that the Twins had a debate about whether to bring him up of the run at the playoffs, but ultimately held off because of the career high 166 innings he had pitched already that year.  
Going into 2016, Berrios had risen to the #2 prospect and the conversation was more of “when” not “if” he was going to get the call.  That call came against the Indians on April 27.  To that point, Berrios had amassed a ridiculous amount of awards and recognitions in the minors.  The list looked like this: 
  • Baseball America TRIPLE-A ALL-STAR
  • Baseball America MINOR LEAGUE ALL-STAR
  • Baseball America HIGH CLASS A ALL-STAR
  • Baseball America POST-SEASON ALL-STAR
To go along with these awards, Berrios was given the nod as a starting pitcher in the Futures Game at the All-Star Break in both 2014 and 2015.  It’s hard to imagine how anyone could have been more ready to make the leap to the Big Leagues after all of that!
Unfortunately, Berrios struggled out of the gate at the Major League level.  Against the Indians, Jose only pitched 4 innings, giving up 5 Earned Runs, 2 Walks with 5 strikeouts.  His final stats for his time in the Majors over the course of the season were not good:
  • 3-7, ERA: 8.02, G: 14, Innings: 58, SO: 49
So, yes, incredibly disappointing for the young man.  Yet the overall expectation is that he will right the ship (as he has on every single level he has pitched) and establish himself as a mainstay in the Twins pitching rotation.  He is also planning to pitch for his country again in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.  
According to an article on, “Berrios worked with pitching coach Neil Allen on his arm action late last season, as there was some worry he was tipping pitches, particularly his changeup; hitters could see his grip when he took the ball behind his back before his delivery. Berrios said he has cleaned that up and is feeling comfortable with his new arm path.”  So there really is a lot to look forward to with Jose!  Here’s to hoping he make a big impression during the WBC and gets another crack at MLB hitters all season long!  

Look of the Card:

So as I said at the top of the article, one of the reasons I chose this card was because it is a numbered parallel and so has a slightly different color scheme to discuss.  In all honesty, though, the purple parallel is probably the least interesting of the 2016 parallels since is just a purple and black  background, instead of purple, blue and black. 

This is another instance of the card looking better in person than on a screen; the depth of the colors and the way they play against the color of the jersey just does not come through on the screen at all.  That being said, my mind is biased with this card because the Twins are always a purple color in my mind’s eye.  So there is just something about the “purple on purple” that just feels strange about this particular card.  

I do think the silver stamp on the bottom left tends to stand out better with the Purple Parallel though. 

The pose that Berrios strikes in this card is very similar to Jose De Leon from my previous post.  It shows the righty in a state of follow-through after throwing a pitch.  Whereas De Leon’s face was rigid with incredibly focused eyes, Berrios’s mouth is open as if exhaling to give his pitch a little extra “umph.” His eyes are not staring straight up from the card, as were De Leon’s, but the focus and intensity is no less.  

The ripples on his jersey, as well as the obvious momentum he has from his push-off leg give credence to the idea that the ball jumps from his hand.  

I like Jose’s signature better than most that I have looked at so far.  The big looping J is something I identify with, and at least you can make out the better portion of his name for the duration of the of the ink.

All-in-all, I have mixed feelings about the Purple Parallel.  I like that it’s not a crazy departure in color (like the 2014 /50 Pink Parallel), but at the same time the purple just does not do it for me.  It’s possible I am just over-influenced by the Twins purple connection, so I will have to see if I have any other Purple Parallels to compare to down the road. 

Card Value:

Since I am writing about the /150 parallel, I decided to include that particular card in my research into the purchase history of the 2016 Berrios Inception.  Here is what I found. 
The range of current asking prices on Ebay  looks like this: 
  • Base: $4.24-$12
  • /150: $9.99-$15
So obviously the asking price on Berrios can fluctuate according to typical Inception standards, though I would venture to say the range does not feel quite as large as others I have looked at. As for completed, the various final prices for these continues to amaze me.  For the Purple Parallel (/150) final prices were as low as $0.99 to a Best Offer accepted on a listing that was $9.99.  The base version has sold from $2.99 to $4.25 since mid November.  Overall there were 9 sales of the base and/or Purple Parallel over Berrios in that time frame, while the /5 card count Inception Origin card sold for only $26.88.
Honestly it feels like those of us who have bought low on Berrios are in for a great deal by the time all is said and done!
Right now on COMC, there are only a few listings for this card.   
  • Base - 2 listed for $4.24 and $4.50
  • Purple Parallel (/150) - 1 listed for  $9.99
I have to buy more credit on COMC before I can look at sales history again, sadly.  Hopefully I can set aside some money to do that in the very near future.  I am down to just a few cards left to finish the 2013 set, but only one is available on COMC for an acceptable price!  

In the end, Jose Berrios is another Inception prospect that I really believe will be big time.  His track record proves that he always rises to the occasion, even if the beginning is bumpy or ugly.  And yes, last year was very ugly for him in the Majors.  I am very excited to watch him this year; to see if he earns a spot out of the gate or if he will work himself into a spot once the season has started.  Either way, it should be fun to watch!

Monday, February 13, 2017

2016 Jose De Leon

It’s almost baseball season!  As much as I enjoy the football season, there is something about the start of a new year of baseball that really makes me smile.  And of course, this goes hand in hand with baseball cards.  

Last week was a really interesting look into a player that seems to have almost all the pieces put together but is just missing that special something to put him over the top: Matt Olson (his 2015 Inception card, to be exact).  This week I wanted to delve into a player whose name had been tossed around a lot over the last year, and who was traded just a few weeks ago.  Today I am looking at the 2016 Jose De Leon card.  

Player History:

Unlike the previous three players I have profiled, De Leon was not highly touted heading into the first year player draft.  Coming out of Souther University, he was not chosen until the 24th round of the 2013 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

After impressing in workouts, De Leon’s debut was not impressive in Rookie Ball.  In 14 games, he posted a 6.96 ERA and a record of 3 wins, 5 losses.  Not exactly setting the world on fire.  

Yet, he came into the 2014 season as the tenth ranked prospect in the organization.  In between Rookie and Full Season A teams, he went 7-0 in 14 games with 119 strikeouts.  To say he was much improved would be a huge understatement!  And it’s the strikeout numbers that really garnered attention as he has improved and progressed. 

The strikeout numbers in particular were what projected him as the #7 prospect with the Dodgers heading into 2015.   Some of the things being said about De Leon as a potential Big Leaguer by scouts were:

  • With the way De Leon has taken off the past two seasons, his ceiling is that of a no. 2 starter, possibly the ace of a second-division team.
  • He has an impressive three-pitch arsenal, a strong mental approach to pitching, and enough durability to remain a starter long term. 
And it was during this time that people whose opinions seem to matter started really taking a look at De Leon’s mechanics.  What people saw was that:
  • He gets an aggressive push off the rubber, starting his weight transfer early and dropping his center of gravity rapidly [which] creates a bunch of deception.
  • The ball absolutely jumps out of his hand from a three-quarter slot. His fastball worked 90-94 (t95), primarily hovering around 91-92 early and ticking up to the higher end of the velocity band as he got ahead.

Splitting his season between Advanced A and AA minor league teams, De Leon faced tougher competition but still managed to strikeout 163 batters in 23 games, averaging just over 7 strikeouts a game!  That’s just crazy!  His ERA took a bit of a hit, rising to 2.99, but the overall body of work was obviously something to be excited about!  

The excitement carried over into 2016, with De Leon positioned as the third overall prospect for the Dodgers. Scouts were writing that not only was De Leon still devastating with his fastball, but he had worked hard to make his change up had become a major weapon against batters from both sides of the plate.  One quote in particular was great:

  • De Leon's delivery produces extension and deception, which makes the whole package play up. But don't take our word for it, just ask Cal and Texas League hitters, who struck out 35 percent of the time against De Leon last season.
Does that make anyone else think of Reading Rainbow? Anyone…?
Sticking with the strikeout theme, De Leon had a ridiculous 111 strikeouts in 16 AAA games.  By the end of the season, his minor league career could be summed up as follows:
  • G: 67 W: 23, ERA: 3.35, IP: 330.2, SO: 446, WHIP: 1.13, HR: 30, AVG: .221
  • 2016: AAA All-Star, PCL Pitcher of the Week
  • 2015: Mid-Season All-Star, Pitcher of the Week
  • 2014: Organization All-Star, Pitcher of the Week x2, Post Season All Star, PIO Pitcher of the Year
This was worthy for a September call-up and Major League debut against the Padres on September 4th.  De Leon struck out 9 batters in 6 innings, but gave up four runs on five hits and never really seemed to hit his stride.  The following three games were not much better, giving the overall impression of a disappointing first cup of coffee for the highly touted strikeout machine.  
So with the tantalizing number of strikeouts and strong progression through the minors, why was De Leon traded to the Rays on January 23rd of this year?  A lot of speculation was centered around the overall depth of the Dodgers pitching; they started something like 17 different pitchers last season at the big league level and still won the division.  With great depth comes a surplus and De Leon still carried big name value and potential despite his struggles in four games at the professional level.  With the trade the Dodgers definitely got a player that filled a hole (even though Chase Utley resigned about a month later), and the Rays got a guy who projects to be their top overall prospect and a challenger for a rotation spot during Spring Training.  
Look of the Card:

Originally I had no desire whatsoever to collect the 2016 Inception set.  When it came out I was knee deep in and focused on completing the 2013 and 2014 sets.  And the simple fact is that the look of the card was not super appealing to me to begin with, even less so than the 2015 version.

The first thing that I did not like was the deep blues and purples in the background.  To me, those thick, dark colors were nothing at all like the lighter toned colors of the previous three years.  Obviously the goal as a card company is to not be the same every year, but this just seemed a jump way too far away from the color schemes that had been so amazing.

The whole space theme in the background was also not something that really appealed to me.  The clouds of 2013, the woodgrain of 2014 and even the baseball theme of 2015 were all so simple compared to the space images of 2016.  Nothing about the background of 2016 says “Inception” the way the first three did.  It just didn’t seem to fit. And in general, the space reserved for the autograph is not nearly as integrated into the theme as the previous years.  My eyes are drawn to the space more than the actual autograph.

It was not until I held the De Leon in my hand that I felt any differently.  A friend on Twitter sent me a couple of the cards and Jose was the first one I pulled out of the envelope.  Admittedly, I immediately thought they were much cooler in person than in pictures.  So my bleak opinion of the set was immediately upgraded to “ok, not bad.”

I am disappointed that the backside of the card no longer has interesting facts about the player.  

What changed for me was when I realized I was starting to look at prices of 2016 cards and realizing I was just as excited about them as I was for the other two years.

As for the De Leon picture, its interesting that I like it so much considering I really don’t like how the Dodger blue works on the background of black, blue and purple.  Even the gray hat just doesn’t look like it quite fits.

What I absolutely love, though, is the intensity on De Leon’s face in the picture.  It’s like he is trying to will the ball in mid-flight to cross the plate with pinpoint precision.  The obvious twisting of the jersey and his arm highlight the violent velocity with which he has hurled the ball. Without ever having seem him pitch, I would have expected more of a leg kick on the follow through, but maybe he is really that much in control of his body motion. 

As for the autograph, I am pretty sure I would never have known that it said Jose De Leon.  As someone who has a J to start his name, I can attest that it’s not easy to make a good looking cursive capital J when you are in a hurry or tired…but this is just not good looking at all. I like the capital D in the middle, but again, a disappointing signature on the whole. 

Card Value:

When I looked at the offerings of listings and sales for this card, I had two main thoughts: 1) The wide range of prices reflects the differing opinions on whether or not De Leon has a bright future or not, and 2) I love that an autograph of a guy who could be a starter on a Major League team for a very long time could be bought for a very small investment (thank you Bowman!).

The listings on eBay range from $7.99-$53.72 right now with 5 listed between $20-$25.  That’s where the highest concentration was in terms of market value of supply.  The sales bear out that buyers is not exactly demanding De Leon at those prices.

Here are some final sale prices recently:
  • Lot of 6 De Leon base autos sold for $21.50 $20, 
  • A lot of De Leon and two other Inception cards sold for $20, $15, 
  • Lot of 3 sold for $14,
  • Lot of 2 for $12, 
  • Lot of 2 for $11.50, 
  • Lot of 2 for $3.56, $2.24, /99 for $3.27
  • Some of the single sale prices: $20, $15, and lower
  • A /99 parallel sold for $3.27

There was no specific trend of prices being up at certain times and down at others.  Overall on eBay, there were 60 sales of the base card since Nov. 10.  That doesn’t include parallels or Origins, of which there were quite a few as well.  

And as for COMC Listings: 
  • 14 listed from $9-$19.99 (reflecting a slightly cheaper demand than eBay)

  • Sales: 34 total, up to $4.99…15 sold in the first quarter of release

So again, as with a lot of Inception, the expectations for De Leon vary but it would seem that card prospectors are not foreseeing great things for career.  

I personally am excited to see how things work out for Jose down in Tampa.  Tampa has a history of being ultra-careful with their high octane, high potential arms; it could just the change of scenery De Leon needs to make the jump from big time prospect to big time MLB pitcher (funny how many times I have already written that for this blog!).  

Monday, February 6, 2017

2015 Matt Olson

For my third installment of A Very Simple Idea, I wanted to go with one of the cards that I knew was not holding much value.  I chose the 2015 Matt Olson card because I have had about five of them in my possession at various times over the last couple of years, and I wanted to know why.  I know that the card has always been on the low end of the price spectrum, but I also know that Olson had a card in 2013 that was holding value at a slightly better pace.  

My apologies to the nine of you that read the last post for missing a week.  When a new foster child comes into the home, the required dentist and doctor visits start to pile up alongside other events that were not apart of life a few weeks ago.  Personally, I really missed spending the time researching and writing, so I hope that I won’t be missing any more time with this blog.  Thanks for sticking with me!

Player History:

Drafted out of a Georgia high school in the first round (47th overall) by the Oakland Athletics, Matt Olson has a long list of accolades accumulated during his minor league career.  He played in the 2015 Future’s Game during the All-Star Break and was on the Oakland A’s 2014 and 2015 Organization All-Star teams.  

In 2014 the list of accomplishments was quite impressive: MiLB All-Star, All-Prospect Team, he won the Minor League Home Run Award and more.  So obviously he led the Oakland minor league system in home runs, along with slugging percentage and total bases.  That year he also ranked second in the system in on-base percentage, as well as fifth in doubles and sixth in hits.  By all means, Matt Olson is a very distinguished ballplayer in the minors.  And he led the minor leagues in walks!

How did he do all of that?  Well, the fact that he is currently listed at 6’5” and 230 pounds is a good start!  Here are some quotes from scouting reports about Olson on offense:

  • Fits into Beane’s new philosophy, which in addition to the long-standing reverence of patience and power,  puts a premium on defense
  • Tree trunk legs
  • He showed outstanding patience and plate discipline, and he hit with tremendous power [in the 2014 AZ Fall League]
  • [Takes] advantage of his quick hands and strong wrists, Olson feasts on fastballs, getting the barrel of the bat out front and driving the ball to his pull side. 
  • Big, strong and athletic, Olson has above-average pitch recognition and is selective in offering at pitches. His big arms cover the plate well. 
  • Olson's swing is short and compact
  • Raw power is the focal point of Olson's game, and even more power should be on the way - an asset on the base paths 
  • Olson in a word: Disciplined
In all honestly, it’s hard to fathom a guy who is described like this and with the minor league career to back it up not having an impact in the majors.  Keeping in mind his card value, my next thought was to look at what has been said about him on the defensive side of the ball: 
  • Scouted as a pitcher out of high school, his arm is an asset as well.  
  • As a former pitcher, Olson has the arm strength and accuracy to play any of the three outfield positions  
  • A near complete lack of footspeed will relegate Olson to first base, but he has the plus hands and reaction time to be an elite defender there
This is where it starts to get murky.  Olson has played 586 games in the minors to date.  Of those, 385 came at first base and the rest were in the outfield (primarily right field).  In the games he played at first base, he had only 21 Errors (Put Outs is a hard stat to do anything with when it comes to first basemen), but only 10 Errors in his time in the OF with 292 Put Outs.  So it seems he is a top notch defender no matter where he is stationed.  

Coming into the 2013 season (his first time to be featured on an Inception card), he was the fifth ranked prospect in the A’s organization.  By the 2016 season, he had moved up to third and made it onto the Top 100 Prospects list in all of baseball.  But coming into 2017, he has moved down to being the eighth overall prospect for the club, even though he made his Major League debut this past season.

So what gives?  Why is he not more highly regarded as a prospect?  Here are his stats in the minors:

G: 586 AB: 2111 H: 520 HR: 103 RBI: 370 SO: 606 AVG: .246 OBP: .364

He made his major league debut this past Septemeber against the Royals and recorded a walk and a run scored.  It took him six games to get his first hit.  By the end of the year, his stats looked like this:

G: 11 B: 21 H: 2 RBI: 0 SO: 4 AVG: .095 OBP: .321 BB: 7


For a guy who has done the things he has, something has to give, right?  I mean, the fact that he struggles against lefties should not singularly account for the struggle Olson is having reaching the majors.  He is one of only a small handful of players to hit 35 HRs in a season before turning 21 (Stanton, Gallo, and Baez are the other recent examples).

If I were a guy with more time and more statistical analysis in my blood, I would probably look to see if maybe he peaked in 2014.  I would spend time comparing stats from that year to 2015 and 2016 to see what the trend is.  But honestly, this time I am going to leave it to the expert.

This quote from Chris Welsh, aka The Welsh, from the In This League and Prospect One podcasts pretty much sums it all up:

"Matt Olsen came in 3rd in the minors Home Runs in 2014 only behind Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo...good company right? Olsen’s problem though is 2 straight years of regression following that. Olsen’s average dropped over 20 points, and the last 2 years homer numbers don’t even equal 2014. Yikes! There is still some hope, as he doesn’t turn 23 until March 29th, but Olsen is trending down in the eyes of scouts, but possibly could be a late bloomer. Probably with a new team though"
I will be very interested to see if he can overcome the last two year’s worth of regression in his stats and be the guy he was drafted to be.  The overall feel of the baseball and baseball card industries seems to point to the belief that he will not, but I am not ready to give up on him yet. 

Look of the Card:

2015 was the year that my relationship with Inception became complicated.  In all honesty, I did not love the look when it first came out.  This might have been colored by the fact that I loved 2013 and 2014 so much and it was the first time that I saw the card and the retail prices upon release.  Maybe it created some bias, I am not sure. I even went as far as to assume I would never chase the full set but only try and acquire the guys that I liked from the set.  A terrible assumption, to be sure!

As for the overall look of the 2015 cards, I think the idea is pretty cool but it just does not have the magic of the first two sets.  This time around the background is quite clearly a baseball.  In the upper left hand corner of the card are about 8 stitches from what looks to be a well used baseball.  That is one of the redeeming aspects of the look, it’s got a very strong sense of nostalgia because it feels like it was made with a baseball in my garage from when I was a kid.  

The outer rim of the card has the texture and color of an old baseball; it starts fairly dark on the rim and by half way to the picture of the player the color is significantly lighter.  The green on Olson’s Athletics hat looks really awesome up against the dark cream color.  

In the bottom left corner of the card is the basic information about Olson in a silver stamp, and the bottom right has a silver stamp with the A’s logo.  I honestly cannot tell you if 2013 or 2014 has the same logo stamp without going and checking; that means it definitely stands out and was a great addition to the overall look of the card in 2015.  

Olson’s signature leaves a lot to be desired on the example I have in my hand.  It is essentially an M followed by a dash, then an O and l that sort of trails off.  Not the most exciting signature, but probably not the worst overall. 

As for the picture of Olson, the word that comes to mind when I see it is “ballplayer.”  The colored sunglasses, the athletic stance with the first base mitt up at his thigh and the look on his face all say “athlete” to me.  The look on his face - even with the sunglasses - radiates intensity and focus, which pretty much follows with what I read about Olson on defense. 

The back of the card states that Olson “Produces huge raw power with violent, well-leveraged cut” and that same type of description, I think, applies to his defensive pose on the card.  There is a strong sense of contained power/athleticism.  Unfortunately it seems in the end that it is a bit too well contained to ever end up with a career in the majors.

Small caveat: I played first base pretty much my entire baseball career and so I may be a little biased when reading into his body language and positioning.  

Card Value:

So like I mentioned earlier, it seemed to me that this particular card was always on the lower end of the spectrum of value.  And the sales data pretty much bears that out.  It’s not the cheapest card in the 2015 set, but it ranks down there with the best values for sure. Here is the data from eBay:

The range of prices for sold items was pretty steady at $1.29-$4.99. There was a parallel ( /150) that went $0.99, and another at /50 that sold for only $5.95.  That’s pretty crazy.  For me though, the best indicator of the overall lack of market value for Olson is that his Inception Origins card (numbered to 25) sold for $5.99.  Compared to most other Origins that I have seen, that’s a steal.

The current listings for the base card run at $1.99-$10.99, on up $50 for the parallel numbered to /5.  Good luck on that!  

The COMC listings prove pretty much the same expectation: $1.99-$4.24 in general with a /50 parallel listed at $8.65, but it could probably go for less.

As for sales on COMC, there have been 34 total sold since the release, with prices ranging up to $4.99.  There were 15 sold in the first quarter of release, so even when it first came out it was not an expensive card as far as Inception goes. 

So honestly I don't know what I learned about Olson during all of this.  He seems to me to almost be one of those "AAAA" players.  Excellent in the minors but just does not have what it takes to have a career in the Bigs.