Thursday, June 29, 2017

2014 Mark Appel Pink Parallel

It was so good to get back into the groove of writing about Inception last week!  Admittedly after a long layoff it is really hard to find the motivation to sit down and get back into the swing of things.  But it was so much fun!  
So this week I decided to come back with a very familiar name, one that elicits groans from many Astros fans and snickers from just about everyone else (especially Cubs fans): Mark Appel. For the those of you who don’t know why, the Astros chose Appel over Kris Bryant in the 2013 MLB Draft.  That’s really all that needs to be said about that.
Even with all the controversy surrounding that pick and Appel’s inability to live up to projections, he is still a player that a lot of people root for, myself included.  In fact, for a while, I was intending on chasing down the whole rainbow of Appel Inception cards but abandoned pursuit because chasing the base set of Inception alone is challenging enough! 
I think the reasons so many people still hold out hope for Appel is simple: he has been open and honest about the struggles on his journey.  He hasn’t made perfect decisions nor has he had a smile on his face the whole time, but he has never given up and that resonates with a lot of people.

Player History:

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the facts and figures with Appel today.  If you follow baseball even a little more than the average fan, you know that Appel has been statistically a disappointment.  To this point in his career, he has yet to make an appearance in the Big Leagues, and here are his Minor League stats:

Wins: 24 L:17 ERA: 5.04 G:76 CG:2 Batting AVG Against: .276 WHIP: 1.48

What makes these pedestrian numbers so frustrating? Appel “owns the career school record [at Standord] for strikeouts (372), ranks fourth in innings pitched (377.2) and sixth in wins (28).” And during his senio year, he went “10-4 with four complete games and a 2.12 ERA (25ER/106.1IP)...recorded 130 strikeouts in his 106.1 innings pitched and allowed just a .203 opponent's batting average.”  I was actually able to watch one of those four losses in person, as he opened the season with a loss to my Rice Owls in Houston!  

Overall, Appel was obviously a top notch prospect with “Big League Pitcher" written all over him by scouts and fans alike.  He had been drafted out of high school, then again after his junior year (8th overall by the PIrates) before coming back for his senior year.  And then the Astros took him first overall. 

  • A Baseball America report in the wake of the selection praised Appel’s “ideal” mechanics and “bulldog” mentality. He could dial his fastball up into the high 90s, and complemented it with a nasty slider that could generate whiffs and a promising changeup to keep opponents off balance. With a lean 6’5″ build ideal for starting and an advanced arsenal of potential plus pitches, Appel appeared the rare high-ceiling, high-floor pitching prospect, a polished Pac-12 product with frontline potential. 

And the GM of the Astros, Jeff Lunhow, was quoted as calling Appel “a future ace” after taking him the draft.  Unfortunately for Appel and his fans, all of the accolades and potential has just not panned out.

Yet, I still root for him.  Why?  I am going to post some quotes from Appel’s blog, specifically what he wrote in a letter to Astros fans after being traded to the Phillies.  I think they illustrate what kind of person he is and exactly why I will ALWAYS root for him:

  • “That’s a bunch of stuff that I’ve learned over the last few years, going through this process: Struggling — struggling a lot — then getting traded, and then having surgery, it seems like every year it’s something different. But I’m learning through it all, and I trust that the Lord’s making me a better person and a better teammate and a better player for the organization.”

  • [One lesson I learned] is how little you can control life…sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we don’t. I believe how you react defines your character. Lesson number two has to do with expectation…If I had a definitive answer, I would tell you. But I don’t. Life doesn’t always go as expected, and that is okay. However, I think I have learned a little bit dealing with expectation over my time being a professional ballplayer. Keeping things in perspective is a huge first step…The second step is simply to have fun. Don’t take yourself seriously. Take your craft seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. There is a difference in attitude, not work ethic. 

  • [The final lesson] is to be thankful. Appreciate what God has given you and the people He has placed in your life to make your experience uniquely yours. 

On June 19th, Appel threw 8.1 scoreless innings for the Phillies AAA team (the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs).  Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come for him!

Look of the Card:

Probably the first thing any of you might notice is that this is currently my only /50 Pink Parallel. I also had the /99 Gold Parallel but let that go when I decided I was not going to attempt the rainbow of this card.  I am not a huge fan of the Pink Parallel in general just because I think it looks awkward as a whole, but it’s fun to have one because it definitely stands out!  
Just a couple of notes about today’s card.  I’m going to get all artsy for this first comment: I feel like the photo that was chosen of Appel is symbolic of his career.  The way his body is contorted looks uncomfortable - even though it’s all a part of a motion that propelled him to being the number one overall pick - it does not have the sense of fluidity of any of the other pitchers I have profiled thus far.  And the look on his face seems to hold a lot of tension, it harkens back to the sense that he said he was always trying too hard to live up to the expectations of being the top overall pick.  He is focused and determined, but also seems to be straining very hard to stay that way.  Appels work ethic has never been in doubt, so really this all seems emblematic of the mental struggles he has faced since the day he was drafted.  

The other note is about the signature.  There are a number of features about his signature that I really like.  The first is the large M and A at the beginning of his first and last name.  In general it is a look that I think looks very classy.  The flourish of the line under the name that curves back around to the bottom of the A really creates a sense of balance and care by the signee.  

And then there is the verse of scripture.  I am sure that any time an athlete or celebrity signs their autograph with a Bible verse they are met with eye rolls or skepticism.  It can seem very cliche or disingenuous for sure. The thing that I like about Appel is that he signed all of his Inception cards with a verse and used multiple verses; instead of just throwing out John 3:16 or the same verse as sort of a “calling card,” I count at least seven different verses on the cards listed on ebay.  To me that says he has invested some time in knowing and understanding what he is doing, and I will always appreciate that kind of thoughtfulness and care in an athlete.  

Card Value:

Here is the basic information about the market value of the card as seen on ebay and  

For eBay, there are five copies of the base version listed.  They range in asking price from $6.25 to 19.99.  My favorite listing has “Super Prospect! Astros” in the title; I definitely L-O-Led when I saw that.  It was definitely one of those moments where I wonder just how much attention some of these sellers pay to the product they are listing.  I realize there are tons of sellers out there with way too much product to give each listing individual attention, but that doesn’t I won’t laugh at something ridiculous like this.  And as for the parallels, you can get the /10 red parallel for only $179.99 or $149.99 right now!  
In the last three months on eBay, only 4 copies of the base version have sold, ranging from $2.30-$6.25.  One copy of the /75 blue parallel did sell for $5.99.  There was an auction that ended recently for the /25 Silver Signings Inception; the starting bid was only $5.27 but it had a reserve.  I would have liked to bid on the card but with no idea what the reserve was, there was no point.
On, there are currently 17 copies of the base version available for purchase, with the cheapest going for $6.25 and the most expensive being $34.75. Since the card first came available on the site, there have been 32 sales, but I do not have access to the selling point prices as my History Points all expired on the site!
That’s it for this week!  Hopefully you liked the slightly different tone of the profile!  Going to try something a little different next week too!  Thanks!

As always, thanks a lot to Gibson Sports Memorabilia for their continued sponsorship! Please check out their inventory at:


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

2013 Bowman Inception Complete Set

Before I get into the completion of the 2013 Bowman Inception Set, I wanted to let you know that the blog has an official sponsor!  A big thanks to Gibson Sports Memorabilia for partnering with me on this project!  Please check out their inventory at:


Ok, so even though I have not been able to write about cards over the last two months, I have still been collecting.  I am excited to show you the completed 2013 Bowman Inception set! It is almost completely filled with base versions, but the exceptions I made were very much acceptable in my book! 

A huge thanks to @lorivansanten and @odiegoat for their help in completing the set!  

Pictures of the set are below.  Let me know which cards you would like to see profiled soon!  

2013 and 2014 Jorge Bonifacio


It’s not often that you hear about a guy making his Major League debut almost 8 years after signing his first contract.  But that’s exactly what we have in Jorge Bonifacio.  I chose him because he was recently called up by the Royals for his first taste of the bigs, and because his first home run came off of Yu Darvish!  An added bonus is that Bonifacio has cards in 2013 and 2014 to compare! 

Player History:

[The information below was collected during April/May and does not reflect Bonifacio’s extended stay in the MLB and surprising success according to “experts”]

Jorge Bonifacio is the younger brother of Braves left fielder Emilio Bonifacio, and was signed by the Royals out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, when he was 16 years old.  Since then, he has given the Royals flashes of potential, but a lot of average baseball statistics.  
Bonifacio has been ranked anywhere from being the Royals No. 15 ranked prospect going into a season (2012), to their No. 4 ranked prospect (2013 and 2014).  Injuries have smothered break out years and he has had struggles, yet he has persisted and obviously done enough to earn a cup of coffee at least for now.  Here is a progression of comments by scouts and reviewers about Bonifacio over the last seven years:
  • 2013: Raw tools suggest potential plus hitter but approach has to come along to allow that to manifest
    • Generates plus bat speed and can really drive FB to all fields. Lacks hard contact on secondary pitches. Swing is line-drive oriented and lacks loft.
    • Nothing really stands out 
    • Potential MLB piece late in the 2015 season, but more likely 2016.

  • 2015: 
    • Bonifacio possesses above-average bat speed and laces the ball to all fields thanks to his combination of quick wrists and a line-drive stroke. 
    • He shows the potential for a solid-average hit tool at maturity, though that will also depend on whether he can make swift adjustments in his approach. 
    • batter’s power hasn’t emerged as many believed it would have by now, but there’s still some thump in his bat yet to be harvested.
    • Bonifacio has a solid shot at developing into an average or better right-fielder at the big league level.

  • 2016: Bonifacio’s swing is a little loud, but when he’s performing, scouts see a natural hitter with a direct bat path, while he looks out of sorts when he struggles

  • 2017: Bonifacio’s calling card has long been his feel for contact which, despite evolving over the last two years, remains the most alluring aspect of his profile.

Jorge Bonifacio obviously has a strong feel for hitting a base ball, but does not seem to do anything great enough to merit consideration as a serious Major League contributor anymore. 

His Minor League career has spanned 728 games and 2751 at-bats.  He accumulated 737 hits (just over one per game) but also 660 strike outs (ouch).  

In seven games since his call-up, he has 7 hits (continuing his one-hit-per-game style) and five strikeouts, with the one home run coming off of Yu Darvish in his second game.  On the defensive side of the ball, he has played in Center Field and Right Field for the Royals, with eight successful put-outs in nine chances (with one error).  

So what will Bonifacio’s story look like at season’s end?  Will he continue to travel the path of “good but not great” and find a spot as an everyday contributor for the Royals?  Will his power finally unlock and combine with his above-average eye for the baseball to turn into something special?  I honestly don’t think so.  I believe that as long as Jorge Soler is injured or incapable of unlocking HIS potential, Bonifacio will have opportunities to put it all together.  I just don’t think it will happen in a spectacular enough fashion to warrant any big time opportunities for the young man.  He is still only 23 years old though.  Maybe he is still just a year away…

[Bonifacio is currently hitting .250 for the Royals with 23 RBI and 9 HRs]

Look of the Card:

As I believe I stated before, I love when a player has Inception cards across multiple years.  It adds the chance to compare and contrast as well as see a player’s physical changes (albeit captured in two or more single moments).

The 2013 card for Bonifacio is really intriguing to me, because it is one of the few that is not some sort of “action” shot.  I don’t know if the picture captures him in the on-deck circle, or stepping into the batter’s box or between pitches, but it’s obvious he is locked in on the pitcher. 

The scouts’ takes on Bonifacio suggest he has a real understanding of how to hit a baseball, and I submit that this picture show he is very much in the moment as he prepares to hit.  The look on his face suggests focus, concentration and mental preparedness.  And his body posture is one of controlled anticipation.  It’s like he knows he is about to get a hit and is just keeping calm and collected on the surface.  The way the bat is being loosely held in his does not betray any sort of anxiety; rather that he has confidence in what he is about to perform. 

Similar to the Cubs colors, the Royals colors look very good on the 2013 Inception.  The royal blue jersey on the cobalt background just really has an appealing look.  I like that he has his helmet on; the shine off the blue adds an intensity and depth that I don’t think would be there if it was a hat with it’s more muted reflection. 

I feel like Bonifacio’s signature on this edition of his card is one of the more fun and unique ones that I have noticed thus far.  It’s almost like a palindrome - it looks the same going forwards as backwards - which is not easy to pull of with a signature.  It is also reminiscent of a dollar sign, which may or may not be intentional (I would LOVE to know the truth about that!).   The 2014 signature is a little more wild, a little less tight, but he definitely did not change his approach between signing 2013 and 2014 cards.

The 2014 card overall is not as pleasing to the eye as the 2013, the white of the jersey just does not mesh with the background the way the 2013 jersey and background did.  But at least it still captures Bonifacio at what he does best: hitting.  

The 2014 card shows Bonifacio on the follow of a swing, his head obviously tracking the flight of the ball.  When I look at how his body is positioned, I want to watch the video of this specific swing to see how he ended up that way.  It’s very awkward looking to me the way he sort of bent over.  His tongue is half way sticking out his mouth too; I love little details like that on these cards! 

Overall, I like the look of both of Bonifacio’s cards.  2013 is definitely superior to 2014, but I have no qualms about either. 

Card Value:

[All of the information below was from research done in April/May and is not reflective of any recent trends in Bonifacio’s value]

Bonifacio is an example of why I really like collecting Inception.  It’s just really fun to be able to pick up on-card autographs of guys who do end up playing in the Majors for really cheap!  Here is the breakdown of the two cards of Bonifacio: 

eBay Listings:
COMC Listings
COMC Sales
$3.25-$14.99 (17)
63 sales up to $5.24
60 sales up to $3.24

Updated Inception Needs

Now that the 2013 set is complete, I figured it could possibly help to post my needs from the 2014-2016 sets.  I am currently 9 cards away from finishing the 2014 set!  Unfortunately that list of needs includes names like Kris Bryant, Gary Sanchez, Francisco Lindor…and Aaron Judge.  Yikes.  If anyone feels like donating a card to help with the cause, dont’ be shy!  Just kidding friends.  

Here are my needs for each set:

As always, thanks a lot to Gibson Sports Memorabilia for their continued sponsorship! Please check out their inventory at: