Unfinished business (scanning last year’s cards…)
Well, it’s that time of year again… Florida is relevant for baseball, prospect lists are coming out left and right, and I’m still digging through a backlog of 2015 cards to scan in the hopes of closing out 2015 before Opening Day (probably not happening…). But the card releases don’t stop, so I have to let you know what to expect in 2016. One thing’s for sure – there’s going to be a lot for Mets fans to chase in 2016.
Um, yeah. Jenrry Mejia, due to make about $1 million once his suspension was up, tested positive a third time and got the boot from MLB, and not the kind of boot that most Mets players get (most recently Brandon Nimmo…). Other than that, Michael Cuddyer retired, Daniel Murphy signed with the Nationals, Jon Niese was dealt to Pittsburgh, and a bunch of minor league and/or bench/bullpen players found new teams in the offseason.
The biggest free agent signings of the offseason were Yoenis Cespedes and Bartolo Colon, so nothing new there. Newcomers include Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alejandro De Aza, and Antonio Bastardo. While that might leave the defense up the middle a bit lacking, it gives the Mets a full roster of competent players. I know, shocking. Quick, trade someone for a reliever to make room for a replacement-level AAAA player!
Autographs to Expect When You’re Prospecting
Last year, Topps did a spectacular job with the Mets choices for Bowman Chrome prospect autographs, typically a players premiere autograph. Between the three base Bowman brands (Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft), they delivered the top two Mets prospects with no prior certified autograph cards (Marcos Molina and Jhoan Urena), the top two Mets picks in the 2014 draft (Michael Conforto and Milton Ramos), the top two Mets picks in the 2015 draft (Desmond Lindsay and Max Wotell), and two top Mets prospects who had previously only signed for Panini (Amed Rosario and Akeel Morris). Luis Guillorme also managed to sneak in with a retail paper autograph in 2015 Bowman. Panini added two more 2014 draft picks (Josh Prevost and Eudor Garcia) and two more 2015 draft picks (David Thompson and Thomas Szapucki), closing out the year with the first autographs from Gregory Guerrero.
If things repeat in 2016, that means we could see the first autographs from Wuilmer Becerra and Luis Carpio in addition to some top picks from the 2016 draft. Ali Sanchez should also be in the mix, but some surprises could be lurking beyond that. With so much turnover in the minor league ranks from trades, waiver claims, and the Rule 5 pick of Matt Bowman, it’s anyone’s guess who Topps and Panini will go with in 2016.
RC Autos You Can’t Avoid
2015 had a solid crop of Mets RC autograph subjects; Dilson Herrera started the year as the team’s default signer and he was eventually joined by Noah Syndergaard, Kevin Plawecki, and Steven Matz (plus Danny Muno in Panini Immaculate). 2016 started off with the first autographed Rookie Cards from Sean Gilmartin in 2015 Panini National Treasures. If there was one constant in 2015, it was that there would probably be a Dilson Herrera or Kevin Plawecki autograph in just about everything.
This one is a bit easier to call. Topps held Michael Conforto back for a 2016 Rookie Card debut, so we’ll be seeing him in just about every Topps product. Matt Reynolds, despite having yet to appear in an MLB game, already has two RC autographs in 2016 (and no base RCs, in true Matt Reynolds fashion). Brandon Nimmo should join them later in the year, but there aren’t really any other big-name prospects who are likely to reach the majors by the end of July. Maybe we’ll see some Travis Taijeron RC autographs from Panini? Akeel Morris could be another option, otherwise only Dario Alvarez is currently RC-eligible for 2016.
Everything Else and Cespedes’s Ink
2016 Topps Heritage gave us four first-time signers (Bill Hepler, Ed Bressoud, and John Sullivan as Mets plus George Altman as a Cub), but that might be it for the year if 2015 is anything to go by. Expect a few typical retired signers in various Topps products, mostly from the 2000 Mets team. Or Topps could surprise us and bring in some new ink; one prime target spends half the season standing over by third base at Citi Field…
On the active side, one promising development is that Yoenis Cespedes has gone back to the better version of his signature. Hopefully it will make it onto some licensed cards later this year. The Matt Harvey redemptions continue to pile up, but it might be another couple of years before those get signed. Otherwise, it looks like more of the same, which isn’t that bad with this team.
2015 was one of the best years ever for Mets memorabilia and things are showing no signs of slowing down. With the white jersey retired prior to the 2015 season and the camo jersey now retired for 2016, pinstripe swatches are starting to become the norm. We got them from more than a dozen current or former Mets in 2015 and have already seen then from Matt Harvey, Kevin Plawecki, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz (plus Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, and Sean Gilmartin if you count 2015 Panini National Treasures) in 2016. Making it to the World Series sure helps; the Postseason Performance Relics set in 2016 Topps Series 1 featured 13 Mets, many with premium swatches. Camo and blue jersey swatches are also plentiful, putting the plain white or gray jersey swatch firmly into the minority. It should be a fun year.
The Future is, Where?
But when it comes to Futures Game material, things are getting a bit confusing. After the flood of 2013 Futures Game swatches in 2014 Bowman and minor league products, 2015 gave us one card (numbered to 25) with swatches of Kevin Plawecki’s 2014 Futures Game jersey and one card (numbered to 50) with swatches of Brandon Nimmo’s 2015 Futures Game jersey. With Noah Syndergaard swatches finally surfacing in some of his Postseason Performance Relics cards, things may be moving on that front. But don’t get your hopes up.
That still doesn’t explain Panini. Panini released a variety of different swatches of Kevin Plawecki’s 2014 Futures Game Jersey in 2015 Panini Diamond Kings. These were clearly marked “game-worn,” but similar swatches in 2015 Panini National Treasures were marked “player-used.” This isn’t the first time Panini has mixed up its markings (it happens with stunning regularity), but it certainly calls into question the authenticity of the material in Diamond Kings. Expect more confusion and plenty more “player-worn” or “player-used” (what does that even mean?) material from Panini in 2016. Always check the back of the card before buying any Panini memorabilia and even then, don’t trust what it says.
Playing Pepper 2016: New York Mets
Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At The Bat sent along another list of questions this year. I wrote some answers. You get the picture.
What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?
The Mets have an active roster filled with actual Major League Baseball players. That’s a step up over last year, at least until late July. A few more bullpen options couldn’t hurt, but all the main pieces are there. On top of that, they placated fans by bringing payroll up to a more respectable level. Payroll isn’t everything, but it shouldn’t keep you from bringing in necessary talent, especially considering where the Mets were starting from (in terms of dollars), where they ended last season (in terms of games), and where they play. Alejandro De Aza may be a perfectly competent 5th outfielder, but you’re going to have a hard time selling season tickets to long-suffering fans if he’s your starting center fielder. I only regret that I was never able to get a $5 Cespedes shirsey…
What are the expectations among the fans this year? Will there be significant disappointment if there’s not another World Series?
There will be disappointment in any case; these are Mets fans we’re talking about. And some will be recovering Yankees fans, so not winning the World Series will be seen as a bit of a let down to them. Forget the outcome though, we still get to see Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon, or (eventually) Zack Wheeler pitch on any given day (barring the inevitable injury). If you can’t be happy with that, you’re following the wrong sport.
So who, if anyone, makes room for Zack Wheeler in this stacked rotation and how is that room created?
Six man rotation, injury, or Bartolo Colon to the pen. Not much to figure out here, you can never have too much starting pitching and Bartolo Colon can do anything.
What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
Bartolo Colon at the plate – he’s due for a home run! Seriously though, most of these guys just went to the World Series. We’ve seen what they can do, it’s just a matter of doing it consistently, staying healthy, and making necessary adjustments along the way. Great strides will be the domain of the minors. Can Dom Smith handle high-level pitching? Were Gavin Cecchini’s perceived defensive issues real? Is Brandon Nimmo destined for more than a backup role in the majors? Will a top pitching prospect emerge? Amid all of that, it could be Amed Rosario who is poised to make the greatest strides and take over as the organization’s top prospect by the end of the year. He has already taken Twitter by storm, Binghamton is next.
What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
That’s a tough one. For the last three years, the Mets have outperformed my division ranking prediction by one spot each year. I would like to pick them to win the division, but if the pattern holds, where would that put them? I guess I’ll have to play the pessimist and pick them to finish second so they’ll finish first. 89-73 should do it, just behind the improbable 90-win Marlins.
Which team in the division do you most enjoy beating and how do you think you’ll fare against them in 2016?
There’s not much better than sweeping the division favorites. Unfortunately, with the Mets now the favorites… Let’s just say the Phillies. Who doesn’t enjoy beating the Phillies? It will probably happen a whole lot, but it never gets old. Case in point…