Category Archives: History

1992 Mets Draft Class Autographs

The Mets get less than you would expect but more than you think

Full list of 1992 Mets draft picks

Tonight’s big story is about the 6th overall pick in 1992. After a 20-year career, he will be walking off into the sunset, a sunset called Fenway Park. Yeah, I don’t get it either. In honor of the cream of the 1992 draft class crop, we’re taking a look back at the Mets’ picks in 1992. Those weren’t quite as creamy. Or much of anything else. Combined, all of the players drafted by the Mets in 1992 appeared in just eight games with the team. Only three made the majors with any club. And yet, the Mets’ 1992 draft was key in bringing another iconic player to New York.

     
1 Preston Wilson 1C Chris Roberts 1S Jon Ward 2 Steve Lyons

The autographs for this draft class begin and end with Preston Wilson. The nephew / adopted son of fan-favorite Mookie Wilson, Preston had name recognition working for him in addition to his prospect status. With the big guy off the board three picks before the Mets made the first of their three first-round picks (they received two comp picks for the loss of Frank Viola), Wilson was a reasonable choice. Looking through the rest of the names in this draft, it becomes apparent that there just wasn’t much elite talent on the board.

So what of those other two first-round picks? Um, not much. With plenty of players who would at least prove useful over their careers still available, the Mets walked away with absolutely nothing. Of their remaining picks, the only one who became a star player (albeit briefly) was Darin Erstad, who didn’t sign with the Mets. The third pick that would reach the majors was 20th-rounder Allen McDill, who did so with the Royals and didn’t do much. Neither did the players he was traded for. The Mets weren’t alone in failing to sign a future star at least; the Padres failed with Todd Helton, who would go on to become a franchise player for the newly-created Colorado Rockies. Of the players who did sign, the only big stars the Mets passed on were Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, who would both spend time as teammates of a certain someone on the Yankees.

Viewed on its own, it sure looks like the Mets made the worst of a mediocre draft class. Only 8 games in the majors for the entire bunch? It’s hard to do much worse than that. But things look a bit different when you realize why Preston Wilson’s Mets career ended after just 8 games. On May 22, 1998, after just two weeks in the majors, Wilson was the centerpiece in the trade that brought Mike Piazza to the Mets. Piazza would nearly take the Mets to the postseason in 1998 before signing a 7-year contract extension. With Piazza behind the plate, the Mets ended a decade-long playoff drought and made it as far as the World Series in 2000. He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 2013 and should be enshrined in Cooperstown soon (well, he should be there already…). And that’s how Preston Wilson (plus $91 million) helped to make history in Queens.

The 2013 Topps Series 2 Mets: Where Are They Now?

13 faces you may have forgotten

2014 Topps Series 2 launches today with cards featuring many of your favorite Mets, from David Wright to, um, Vic Black? Gonzalez Germen gets to celebrate doubly today; not only is this his first day back after being activated from the DL, but it is also the day his first Rookie Card is officially released. That is in stark contrast to last year’s Series 2 rookie Collin McHugh, who was beginning life in Colorado on the day he first graced a Rookie Card solo. As for the rest of last year’s crop of Mets in Series 2, their fates varied but most found themselves somewhere other than with the Mets within the year. At the time, I predicted that the team set image would be part of a “Where are they now?” article. One year later, I have made it a reality.


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2008 Mets Draft Class Autographs

A promising draft class goes down in flames

Full list of 2008 Mets draft picks

The 2006 Mets were just one big swing away from a trip to the World Series and possibly the third championship in the team’s history. Along the way to that painful defeat in Game 7 of the NLCS, the team’s flaws were clearly exposed. The game logs of 2006 are littered with the remains of Mets players who couldn’t go the distance and prospects who just couldn’t cut it. When your big hope is that Orlando Hernandez can be in shape to start in the next round of the playoffs, you know you’re in trouble. That round never came, but there’s always next year…

As we saw in 2004, drafting poorly can put you in quite a jam a few years later. The draft itself isn’t a quick fix, but it can save you from making desperate quick fixes down the road that cripple the team under a mountain of long-term contracts. With the consequences of failing to obtain and develop prospects never more apparent than they were after just falling short in 2006 and then utterly collapsing down the stretch in 2007, it was critical that the Mets got things right in 2008. Their first pick didn’t come until number 18, but that was followed by two more picks in the first/comp rounds and five total in the first 100 picks. They had to be able to get something out of all this, right?

1 Ike Davis 1 Reese Havens 1c Bradley Holt 2 Javier Rodriguez
3 Kirk Nieuwenhuis 4 Sean Ratliff 5 Dock Doyle 6 Josh Satin
7 Michael Hebert 8 Eric Campbell 9 Eric Beaulac 10 Brian Valenzuela
11 Jeff Kaplan 12 Mark Cohoon 18 Collin McHugh 22 Chris Schwinden

So far, what we’ve gotten is 10 autograph cards. The only player from this draft class who has been of any significant value to the Mets has been Ike Davis, whose 5.9bWAR with the team is better than all but three players picked later in the 2008 draft. For now. Davis was traded to the Pirates after two disappointing seasons, leaving questions about whether he can be anything more than replacement level going forward. At least we don’t have to play “Why didn’t the Mets draft [player] instead?” with this one, the only standout players drafted after Ike are Craig Kimbrel, who went 96th overall, and Jason Kipnis, 135th overall. At the time though, Davis looked like a good pick and was the only Mets pick with an autograph in 2008 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects.

Havens and Holt would have to wait a while for their autographs, an ominous sign given how the players around them fared. Javier Rodriguez was next up with autographs in 2008 Bowman Sterling (and later 2009 Bowman Chrome), followed by Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Sean Ratliff, Eric Beaulac, and Mark Cohoon in 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition. Nieuwenhuis would get his own Bowman Chrome autograph in 2010, but the remainder of the 2008 top 5, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, wouldn’t get theirs until 2011. Chris Schwinden made an appearance in 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition and Collin McHugh rounds out the bunch with his first autographs in 2013 Panini Pinnacle after he had been traded for Eric Young Jr.

That last bit makes Collin McHugh indirectly the most valuable player from this draft for the current Mets team. In less than a year since the trade, Young has been worth 1.6 bWAR. Of the players the Mets drafted in 2008, only Josh Satin (0.9bWAR) is currently on the team and only Kirk Nieuwenhuis (0.3 bWAR) and Eric Campbell are still with the organization, both at AAA Las Vegas. Davis and McHugh are the only notable trades, with the rest retiring or being released by the club.

And so, this entire draft comes down to six players and not the six you might have expected in 2008. Instead of overall picks #22 and #33 having an impact at the major league level, we got picks #554 and #674, though they be best known for a player they were traded for and a waiver claim merry-go-round, respectively. The top pick did produce as expected for a short while but didn’t turn into the much-needed franchise player to man the corner opposite David Wright. Three back-ups and part-timers complete the set, leaving the 2011-2013 Mets short on premium talent to call on from the minors. Eric Young Jr. was the prize of the 2008 draft for the Mets and he was drafted in 2003 by the Rockies.

2014 Mets Card Spring Preview

What’s in the cardboard for the 2014 Mets

Another offseason is coming to an end, so it’s time to take a look at what it all means for card collecting. 2014 was supposed to be the year Sandy Alderson’s plan came together, but significant gaps and questions put that in jeopardy even before Matt Harvey was lost for the season. In terms of cards, the lack of notable veterans has left most sets a mix of David Wright and various prospects and young stars. Are there enough new veterans and rising stars to give the Mets respectable representation in this year’s products? Or, like the master plan, will it take another year for everything to fall into place?

Farewells

Alderson’s big trade of 2013 sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh for infielder Dilson Herrera and MLB-ready reliever Vic Black. Byrd and Buck went on to the postseason and, as expected, didn’t return to the Mets. Buck was no longer necessary with the arrival of Travis d’Arnaud, but Byrd was the Mets’ top outfielder offensively.

As I predicted, the 2013 Topps Series 2 Mets team set is a “Where are they now?” article waiting to happen…

The non-tender deadline gave us another batch of departures. Jordany Valdespin, Omar Quintanilla, and Scott Atchison were cut as expected, with Justin Turner and the injured Jeremy Hefner joining them unexpectedly. Hefner and Quintanilla were re-signed, Jordany Valdespin gave in to destiny and signed with the Marlins, Scott Atchison signed with the Indians, and Justin Turner joined teammate Mike Baxter with the Dodgers.

On top of that, oft-injured pitchers Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum also landed elsewhere, Santana with the Orioles and Marcum with the Indians. Santana missed all of 2013 after his second shoulder surgery and Marcum saw his season end early after a shoulder surgery of his own.

Hails

As mentioned before, the Mets bolstered the ranks of their top 20 prospects with the acquisition of Dilson Herrera and Vic Black from the Pirates in August. Black should get a good amount of work as a late-inning reliever this year while Herrera is still a few years out. Not a bad return for a few weeks of a couple of players who wouldn’t be back this year anyway.

And here are the big offseason acquisitions. If nothing else, these guys bring a veteran presence in cardboard dating back to the late ’90s. More on that later.

Autographs

The last few months have given us plenty of new autographs. Bowman Sterling closed out 2013 with the first autographs from L.J. Mazzilli. Panini Elite Extra Edition started 2014 with the first autographs from Jared King and Akeel Morris, plus the first live autographs from Rainy Lara. Last month’s 2014 Donruss was largely a bust but did give us Andrew Brown’s first autographs. Notably absent is Juan Lagares, who should be in line for a lot of attention after his performance in 2013.

Autographs are also plentiful further up in the system. Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero should get called up sometime in 2014 and will hopefully get some more autographs along the way. Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores are the first of the top Mets prospects with autographs in 2014 products.

Notable autographs in upcoming products include the first from Dallas Green and Frank Lary in 2014 Topps Heritage (though not as Mets) and the first from Jeremy Hefner in 2014 Topps Gypsy Queen. More will hopefully follow in 2014 Bowman and 2014 Topps Archives, though the lack of Mets autographs in Heritage is troubling.

Game-Used

One of the big surpises so far this year was the pair of Rookie pinstripe jersey cards in 2013 Panini America’s Pastime. These (along with camo patch variants) are the first memorabilia cards from Juan Lagares and Scott Rice and mark the first time that multiple current Mets have had Mets pinstripe jersey cards in the same year since 2009. Travis d’Arnaud was the first 2014 Rookie with his first MLB-worn material in 2014 Topps Series 1 and 2014 Topps Tribute. It’s a good start after some pretty rough years, but there’s still more ground to cover.

2014 Donruss has given us the first oddity of the year in the form of pinstripe jersey cards from Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, and Jon Niese. Their Game Gear cards all contain a type of pinstripe only seen at the MLB level back in the ’90s. This would mean that they could only be from the 1993 throwback home jersey worn on the road in Colorado on April 16, 2013.

Autographed Game-Used

Leaf had a couple surprises of its own in 2013 Leaf Trinity. In addition to autographs from Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, Dominic Smith, and Domingo Tapia, Leaf released autographed cards with memorabilia from Smith and Tapia. These all included piping or patches, a rarity for minor league players.

At the big league level, Travis d’Arnaud had his first autographed patch cards in the Strata insert set in 2014 Topps Series 1. Numbered to just 25 (and released as redemptions), these are not easy to get a hold of. Hopefully we’ll see more from him later in the year.

Playing Pepper 2014: New York Mets

Like last year, Daniel Shoptaw from C70 At the Bat polled the Mets blog community to get a picture of where the team stands as of spring training. Also like last year, I offered up my unique insight that may or may not be particularly insightful.

You can read all of the responses here: Playing Pepper 2014: New York Mets.

1) How would you grade the offseason?

It’s hard to go much higher than a B considering that the team still has some big holes and big questions, but the moves the team made should be at least enough for a B, so… It’s another year in a holding pattern, so a B it is. The outfield needed an overhaul, which it got in the form of Curtis Granderson and, to a lesser extent, the other Chris Young. The rotation needed a veteran and some Mejia insurance, which Bartolo Colon, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lannan should provide. The bullpen has a few cheap new options, which is probably the best that could be expected. First base is still unresolved and shortstop… No shortstop solution equals a B.

In a different light though, this offseason earned an A for filling some of the Mets’ most glaring holes: All-Star memorabilia. Since All-Star workout jerseys started getting sold into tiny cardboard prisons in 2000, the Mets have had a representative from each AL All-Star team no later than the following spring each year. Sometimes it was a former player stepping up with a new team (Jason Isringhausen ’00, Melvin Mora ’05, Ty Wigginton ’10), other times it was a big-name offseason acquisition (Johan Santana ’07, Francisco Rodriguez ’08, Jason Bay ’09). This ended with the start of the Alderson regime. With no big free agent signings and an emphasis on building the farm system, there were no former or future Mets to be found on the AL All-Star Roster. It looked like 2013 would turn things around with both Jose Reyes and R.A. Dickey in Toronto, but that didn’t quite work out.

That all changed with this past offseason. In the span of a few days, Sandy Alderson checked off the 2011 (Curtis Granderson), 2012 (also CG), and 2013 (Bartolo Colon) AL All-Star teams and threw in the first Met from the 2005 Futures Game USA team (Chris Young) for good measure. Later, the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league deal added a possible second 2011 AL All-Star. A bounceback season from Reyes and/or Dickey could put us back on track to have a Met on every AL All-Star team.

2) Can Zack Wheeler step up and fill the gap left by Matt Harvey’s surgery?

Yeah, about that… Over the years (well, two of them at least), I have identified two predictors of doom that can be found in cardboard. From 2010 to 2013, only one player each year appeared with the Mets and had a Mets pinstripe jersey card released in the same year. None of the first three played a game with the Mets in the following year. The fourth is Zack Wheeler. In 2013, I noticed that a lot of Mets pitchers who signed a lot of autographs that year suffered from arm injuries. Zack Wheeler was one of the few who has, so far, remained injury free. Does this mean Zack Wheeler is now cursed and has no chance of throwing a pitch in 2014? Of course not. But with the run of injuries Mets pitchers suffered in 2013, nothing is certain.

Seriously though, you can’t really look at it is having a gap to be filled. With or without Harvey, the rotation needs five pitchers to start with and some depth to fill in as needed. The Colon signing added a much-needed veteran and 200 innings from Wheeler would certainly help, as would strong seasons from Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. That just leaves the #5 spot, which has some decent (and cheap) options that could also provide depth later in the season. Add in possible appearances by Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and/or Jacob deGrom in the second half and the Mets might just have a legitimate group of starting pitchers to work with while Harvey rehabs.

3) Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?

I’m not really intrigued by it, but the one everyone seems to be interested in is who will be batting leadoff. “Leadoff Hitter” isn’t really a position, but you wouldn’t know that from the reporting these days. Eric Young Jr., the reigning NL stolen base champ, is the favorite for the job, but he’s a 4th outfielder at best. Do the Mets demote Juan Lagares to give EY a starting job to put him (and his mediocre OBP) at the top of the order? Or do they keep EY as a potent weapon off the bench and pick a leadoff hitter from the remaining options? This is the classic case of logic (EY’s value is highest as a bench player) vs. emotion (stolen bases!).

4) What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?

That would be Travis d’Arnaud. Wilmer Flores will probably start the season in AAA and there’s little chance of seeing any of the big pitching prospects until late June or July. That puts d’Arnaud in the rare position of spending a full season with Rookie eligibility. He has already shown that he is ready behind the plate, but he didn’t impress much with the bat in his brief stint in the majors last year. If his bat comes around (and if he can put injury questions to rest), he could provide significant value at a position that hasn’t produced much for the Mets in recent years.

5) What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?

I’ll go out on a limb and go with 80-82, 3rd place in the NL East.  As with last year, this will depend more on how the other teams in the division perform than how the Mets perform.  Will the Phillies continue to falter?  Is the Marlins’ emergence still another year away?  Did the Braves and Nationals make the right moves to stay at the top of the NL East?  If everything breaks right, the Mets could stay relevant past the All-Star break.  If not, well, pick any recent year to see the result.  I’m not quite sold on 90 wins, but 80 is still in play.  Of course, so is 70.

6) Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?

Sigh. Will Matt Harvey’s rehab be televised?

Best Mets Cards of 2013

Pitching dominates this year’s awards

It’s 2014, which means I’m running a bit behind on my 2013 wrap-up articles. The last few posts have covered most of the interesting cards from the last year, so now it’s time to narrow things down to just the best of the best so you don’t have to dig through 5,000 words for just the few things you’re interested in. Only 1,800 words…

Best Manufactured Material

2013 Topps Series 2 Tom Seaver Proven Mettle Coin

Not much has improved in this category since last year, so this award goes to a Seaver coin again. At least there was more player diversity this year and it wasn’t just all Seaver all the time.

Worst Manufactured Material

2013 Topps Pro Debut Travis d’Arnaud Hat Logo Patch

So many things are going on here, all of them wrong. Wrong team, wrong logo, wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t know what Topps was going for with this one, but it sure wasn’t anything that made sense.

Best Parallel Insert Set

2013 Topps Archives Orange Parallel

Last year, I went with the Archives gold parallel here. This year, Topps changed the formula and the gold parallel just didn’t look that good. The orange parallel on the other hand was something unique among the multitudes of parallels released in 2013. Available only one per pack in 25 cent Archives packs at participating hobby shops, these cards fluoresce in UV light. Unfortunately, I didn’t pull a single Met out of more than 100 packs and had to go to eBay for these…

Best Base Insert

2013 Bowman Inception Jose Reyes Sapphire Reprint

With parallels, autographs, game-used, and manufactured material accounting for most of the inserts out there, it can be hard to find contenders for this category. I found three: the Jose Reyes sapphire rookie reprint from Bowman Inception, the Tom Seaver Cut to the Chase die-cut chrome insert from Topps Series 2, and the Matt Harvey Prodigies die-cut refractor from Topps Finest. I’ll give Reyes the edge here, though it should be noted that a David Wright version could be found in Bowman Sterling (the Reyes looks better).

Best Rookie Card

2013 Panini Prizm Scott Rice

Five Mets had Rookie Cards in 2013: Jeurys Familia, Collin McHugh, Zack Wheeler, Scott Rice, and Juan Lagares. All of them had at least a Rookie Card (and all of the standard parallels) in base Topps except for Scott Rice. After 14 years in professional baseball, Rice made his MLB debut with the Mets in 2013 and received Rookie Cards in just 2013 Panini Prizm.

Best Sticker Autograph

2013 Topps Opening Day Mr. Met Mascot Autograph

An autograph from the best sports mascot ever? Nothing else even comes close.

Best On-Card Autograph

2011 Bowman Platinum Matt Harvey

How does a card from 2011 Bowman Platinum qualify for the 2013 awards? Well, when it takes two full years for the cards to just be signed, you can’t really call these 2011 autograph cards. Harvey autographs were some of the hottest cards released this year and none were dated 2013. It’s been a strange year.

If you insist on having autographs from the actual 2013 product year in this category, here are a few worth noting.  Shown here are the first Mets autographs from Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, the last Mets autograph from R.A. Dickey, and an autograph on a thick slab of clear plastic.

Worst Autograph

2013 Topps Series 2 Collin Cowgill Chasing History Autograph

Sticker autograph, photoshopped black jersey, player who was traded shortly after the card was released. And then Topps made a second attempt in Topps Update that at least fixed the jersey issue. This card has no reason to exist.

Best Uniform Memorabilia Card

2013 Topps Tier One Matt Harvey
2013 Topps Triple Threads Jeurys Familia
2013 Topps Five Star David Wright Jumbo Jersey (blue jersey variant)

Technically, this should probably go to the 2013 Topps Triple Threads Harvey/Wright/Wheeler triple jersey card, but that was out of my price range. Instead, have a bunch of blue jerseys. Except for the Wright, which I haven’t been able to get yet…

Best Patch Card

2012 Panini National Treasures Matt Harvey

Depending on the variant, this one could qualify for best jersey or patch. Either way, this is one of those cards that was a must-have regardless of the price before Harvey’s card prices went through the roof. Because now you sure can’t afford it.

Best Bat Card

2013 Topps Triple Threads R.A. Dickey

Bat cards just aren’t very common anymore. This year, the only Mets bat card worthy of this award isn’t a Mets bat card at all. R.A. Dickey’s first bat cards came after all of his cards had been changed over to the Blue Jays, but I’ll let that slide.

Worst Memorabilia Card

2013 Topps Triple Threads Kirk Nieuwenhuis

Poor Kirk Nieuwenhuis. After being all over 2012′s autograph and memorabilia cards, he found himself with very little MLB playing time in 2013 and far too many cards. He got September off after the AAA season ended and then had loads of memorabilia cards in Triple Threads. After already having triple jersey autograph cards in last year’s Triple Threads. As if the unnecessary Future Phenoms card weren’t enough, Nieuwenhuis had three single jersey autograph cards. The green jersey cards I can see, but everything else is just filler. I suppose it isn’t really fair to single out Kirk when so much of Triple Threads was unnecessary filler, but the award has to go to someone.

Best Hobby Shop Promotion

Panini Black Friday

Every year, card companies try to find ways to get people to visit their local hobby shops. 2013 was filled with various promotions, from the Topps Series 1 Spring Fever redemption packs to Panini’s Boxing Day packs. Topps Archives had the most with vintage card redemptions, 25 cent packs, and ’80s card redemption packs with Topps Series 2 base, blue sparkle, and silver slate parallels. The best of the bunch, as usual, was Panini’s Black Friday promotion that combines discounts on Panini products with bonus packs containing cards featuring some of the hottest players in four sports with parallels, autographs, and unique memorabilia. Matt Harvey was the lone Met featured in this promotion.

Best New Product

2013 Bowman Inception

Coming into 2013, I thought the last thing the hobby needed was another Bowman product. With five Bowman products on the market already, what more was there to cover? Bowman Inception brought premium thick autograph cards and no filler. All on-card autographs, no chipping problems, no base cards, and no chrome. In other words, something different. Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia are the only two Mets in the base autograph sets, about average for the 62 total cards between the rookie and prospect autographs. As an added bonus, Jose Reyes was also among the sapphire reprints in this product.

Most Improved Product

2013 Bowman Sterling

Elsewhere in the Bowman franchise, Sterling was in sorry shape in 2012. With some of the most boring and uninspired autograph cards on the market and little else going for it, Bowman Sterling was a product without a purpose. For 2013, Sterling kept much of the same structure as the previous year’s product with a few key changes. Autograph orientation switched from landscape to portrait, a minor change that greatly improved the design. Other design changes improved how the base cards scanned to the point that the signatures no longer blended into the background. The biggest change though was with the refractor parallels. 2012 Bowman Sterling had six refractor parallels and none between base refractors (numbered to 199) and gold refractors (numbered to 50). The 2013 edition reduced the numbering on base refractors (now numbered to 150) and added three tiers above gold: green (numbered to 125), ruby (numbered to 99), and orange (numbered to 75). Canary diamond print runs were also increased from 1 to 3 and 1/1 superfractors were added. On top of that, the autograph checklist was increased from 88 to 106 with the Mets representation including the first certified autographs from L.J. Mazzilli and the first Mets autographs from Noah Syndergaard. More players and more parallels with a better design made 2013 Bowman Sterling a welcome improvement over last year’s afterthought.

Most Disappointing Product

2013 Panini Hometown Heroes

I’m tempted here to go with 2013 Topps Finest, but at this point I have no expectations for a product with lots of history and no real direction. Panini Hometown Heroes on the other hand was a new product that promised a new take on the formula that brought us Topps Archives and Leaf Memories. What it delivered was a bland design filled with autographs that have been done better by Topps over the last two years. While it did bring a few new or hard-to-find autographs, the design deficiencies made it hard to get excited about any of them.

Autograph Product of the Year

2013 Topps Archives

No surprises here. With 15 former Mets in the Fan Favorites Autographs set, including 8 shown as Mets (and the first autographs from Keith Miller), nothing else comes close. What’s even more impressive is that Topps featured an entirely new group of autographs in the second year of the new incarnation of Archives, for a total of 32 former Mets (15 shown as Mets) over two years of Fan Favorites Autographs. That’s still well under ten percent of the former Mets with certified autograph cards, so there’s plenty of room for next year’s Archives to keep the streak going.

Honorable Mention

2013 Leaf Memories

Leaf is no slouch in the autograph department and Leaf Memories combines 1990-style autographs from their three prospects, Rafael Montero, Domingo Tapia, and Dominic Smith, with buyback autographs from players from the 1980s and early 1990s. Among the buyback autographs are the first from Kevin Elster and Rick Aguilera, plus countless favorites from some of the best Mets teams in recent memory. Well, relatively recent at least. The large number of redemption cards though keeps Leaf Memories from threatening to dethrone Archives.

Game-Used Product of the Year

2013 Topps Museum Collection

Now in its third year (though only its second under the Museum Collection brand), some of the shine is beginning to wear off Topps Museum Collection. It has all of the memorabilia variety we’ve come to expect: jumbo jersey and bat relics, autographed memorabilia cards, quad relics, four-player relics, etc. This year, the highlights were jumbo bat cards from Darryl Strawberry, autographed double and triple memorabilia cards from R.A. Dickey, and jumbo Matt Harvey jersey cards. Jumbo jerseys from Johan Santana and Ike Davis weren’t quite as exciting and the usual assortment from David Wright seemed like a repeat of last year. Still, this year’s cards sold better than last year’s counterparts, which may be why I wasn’t quite as interested in them this year.

Honorable Mention

2012 Panini National Treasures

As usual, nothing could match the quality and player/material diversity of Museum Collection. Panini made a good showing though with 2012 Panini National Treasures. With autographed jersey and patch cards from Dwight Gooden, David Wright, Matt Harvey, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, plus various booklets featuring Tom Seaver, Gary Carter, and David Wright and plenty of other former Mets like Duke Snider, Richie Ashburn, Keith Hernandez, and Jose Reyes featured in the other memorabilia sets, it should be obvious why National Treasures was a big hit.

The Essentials: 2013 Mets Autographs

Return of the Prospects

A lot of baseball cards have been released in 2013.  Between Topps (MLB and MLBPA licenses), Panini (MLBPA license), Leaf (no licenses), and Upper Deck (MLBPA license but strict MLB oversight), more than 40 baseball products have been released this year.  So which cards stand out from the rest?  To answer that question, we’ll break down the key Mets cards from 2013 in The Essentials.

2013 was filled with new Mets autographs from the first days of the year all the way to the last.  Add in a few current stars (well, as much as the current team has stars) and loads of former favorites and you’ve got a pretty decent bunch of cards for one year.  Best of all, 2012′s prospect drought didn’t carry over to 2013.  Instead, we were treated to a bountiful prospect crop, so let’s start there.

Prospects

Aside from a few 2011 draft picks in Elite Extra Edition and a couple of 2012 draft picks in Bowman Draft, the prospect autographs in 2012 were limited to, well, Chris Schwinden.  And maybe some Reese Havens, if he and/or SP Signature count.  Things started off much the same in 2013 with the first Panini-branded Elite Extra Edition.

EEE gave us the first autographs from 2012 draft picks Branden Kaupe, Logan Taylor, Matt Koch, and Matt Reynolds (Reynolds was supposed to have his first autographs in 2012 Bowman Sterling, but redemptions were issued instead and the cards were released in 2013 Bowman Chrome).  Gavin Cecchini also made an appearance with Kevin Plawecki showing up as redemptions (that have yet to be fulfilled as of the end of 2013).

Coming into 2013, two dozen Mets prospects had been featured on Bowman Chrome autographs in Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft, from Bob Keppel in 2001 to Kevin Plawecki in 2012.  2013 Bowman had just Jeurys Familia RC autographs, but Bowman Chrome picked up the slack with Luis Mateo, Matt Reynolds (now signing with just his first initial instead of the full name) and Rafael Montero.  Bowman Draft added 2013 draft picks Dominic Smith and Andrew Church.  Mateo, Reynolds, and Smith had their first autographs in other products (2013 Bowman Platinum, 2012 Panini EEE, and 2013 Panini Perennial Draft Picks, respectively), but Bowman Chrome is king of the prospect autographs.

Not that Panini is going down without a fight.  They may not have a license from MLB Properties, but they’re still making a big push to get a piece of the baseball card market.  Traditionally, Panini wouldn’t put out autographs from draft picks until January’s EEE.  This year, Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks was positioned to challenge the prospect aspects of Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects (hence the overly alliterative name).  Not only did Panini get top pick Dominic Smith, but they also landed autographs from third round pick Ivan Wilson and past picks Jayce Boyd and Cory Vaughn.  Rainy Lara and Amed Rosario were included as redemptions, but there’s no word on when those will be fulfilled (Panini’s got a lot of signing to do…).

Without licenses from either MLB Properties or the MLBPA, Leaf didn’t have much to work with except retired players and prospects.  They did an impressive job with that limitation, getting Dominic Smith and Rafael Montero to sign for them in multiple products alongside their one exclusive signer, Domingo Tapia.  All three had autographs in Leaf Metal, Leaf Memories, and Leaf Trinity, the latter of which featured thick plastic slabs, memorabilia, or inscriptions on all of its cards.  Though limited in its scope, Leaf’s offering in 2013 was quite noteworthy.  Hopefully the MLBPA is paying attention, too bad MLB Properties has hitched itself to Topps for the foreseeable future.

Not that Topps has been all that bad lately.  In addition to the players with Bowman Chrome autos, Topps also managed to get signatures from 2012 7th round pick Corey Oswalt (winner of the “Most random prospect to have an autograph card in 2013″ award that doesn’t exist) and 2013 4th round pick L.J. Mazzilli, son of former Met Lee Mazzilli.  On top of that, they also produced the first Mets autographs of top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  That leaves most of the Mets’ top 20 or so prospects with autograph cards of some soft except for Jacob deGrom and Gabriel Ynoa.

Rookie Cards

When it comes to Rookie Card autographs in 2013, the big name was Jeurys Familia.  Seriously, he was in just about everything for the first 8 months of the year, at which point Zack Wheeler took over and finished off the year’s RC auto appearances.  The pair accounted for all of the Mets RC autos released by Topps in 2013.

But not all of the Mets RC autos in 2013.  Panini Pinnacle was perfectly positioned to provide the premier penmanship piece from recently departed Mets pitcher Collin McHugh.  Familia was in there too because, well, just because.

2012 Rookies

Last year’s default rookie signers Jordany Valdespin and Kirk Nieuwenhuis were back again in 2013, though JV1′s first autograph this year will probably also be his last as a Met.  Things aren’t looking too good for Nieuwenhuis, who wasn’t even called up in September.  He still had a bunch of autographs in Gypsy Queen, Tier One, and Triple Threads.

2013 All-Stars

Both of the Mets All-Stars from 2013 had autographs released in 2013, though all of Matt Harvey’s were dated either 2012 (all of his Panini autos) or 2011 (Bowman Platinum redemptions that finally made it out two years late).  Hopefully you got your fill of Harvey autos early because prices spiked in April and haven’t cooled off all that much since then.

New Old Mets

A few new faces we’ve already forgotten also managed to get some autographs out in 2013.  Collin Cowgill and Shaun Marcum were featured in Topps Series 2, then Cowgill came back in Topps Update to commemorate the one thing of significance he did in his very brief Mets career.  Marcum also had a few autographs in Topps Tier One alongside Kirk Nieuwenhuis and (of course) Jeurys Familia.

Dickey

R.A. Dickey continued to have Mets autographs into 2013, including these three on-card beauties.  The Gypsy Queen and Tribute Dickey autos were released as redemption cards and were sent out shortly after the Museum Collection card was released (Museum Collection also included several cards with Dickey sticker autos).

Fan Favorites

This year had another good haul of Mets autographs in Topps Archives.  Gregg Jefferies, Howard Johnson, Jesse Orosco, Kevin McReynolds, Keith Miller, Mookie Wilson, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez were all featured in the Fan Favorites Autographs set, though several of these were in card styles that were used in previous Fan Favorites Autographs sets.  This is Keith Miller’s first autograph card because, well, he’s Keith Miller.

Hometown Heroes

Panini’s attempt at an Archives clone didn’t come out all that well but still managed to include autographs from several Mets favorites including Darryl Strawberry, Lee Mazzilli, Lenny Dykstra, Ron Darling, Mookie Wilson, Dave Kingman, and Tom Seaver.  Pat Tabler, not shown as a Met, has his first certified autographs here.

Memories

Leaf’s Archives clone on the other hand is starting to come into its own in its second year.  In addition to the previously mentioned prospects, Leaf Memories was loaded with buyback autographs from retired favorites like Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Sid Fernandez, Kevin Mitchell, Dave Magadan, Kevin Elster (his first certified autographs), and Barry Lyons.  Many others Mets were shown in other uniforms, including Rick Aguilera with his first certified autographs.  Unfortunately, many of the buybacks were issued as redemption cards, some of which couldn’t be entered into the online redemption system and had to be redeemed through Leaf customer service.  As of the end of 2013, only the Elster autos are known to have been fulfilled.

Chasing History

As usual, Topps threw a few sticker autographs from retired Mets in its main base autograph insert, Chasing History.  Gary Carter, Dwight Gooden, and Howard Johnson are featured here in autographs from Series 1 (Carter and Gooden) and Update (Johnson).  Carter autographs are getting harder to find and his Chasing History Autograph insert was available at surprisingly low prices.

Heritage

After having only one Mets autograph last year, 2013 Heritage was loaded with Mets.  Al Moran, Amado Samuel, Jay Hook, Mike Joyce (never actually played for the Mets), Pumpsie Green, and Tim Harkness represented the biggest Mets contingent in Heritage history (though at this point the Mets have only existed for three years).  Ken MacKenzie has his first certified autographs in 2013 Heritage as a Giant.

New Ink Colors

In 2013, Topps expanded its use of various colored markers into more products than ever before.  While the use of different colors has been common in Tier One and Museum Collection Framed Autographs from their start, Topps Chrome and Topps Triple Threads have added metallic marker variants for the first time.  Tier One itself added a new color, copper rose, to replace the white that was easily confused with silver in the past.

And that will do it for this year’s installment of The Essentials.  The remainder of 2013′s wrap-up posts will go up later this week.  Happy New Year!