Player Spotlight: Juan Centeno

Two-time September call-up gets no love from Topps

As we await the announcement of the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, we can safely rule out Juan Centeno. We can probably rule him out for next year as well; he will carry his rookie eligibility into 2015. Still, someone who started the final game of the season for two consecutive years deserves some recognition, right?

Juan Centeno’s claim to fame may have come in just his second major league game. On September 25, 2013, he became the first MLB catcher to ever throw out Billy Hamilton. Hamilton would go on to be the early favorite for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014 while Centeno would spend most of that season in the minors, finishing with AA Binghamton before getting the call to Queens, his second of the year after a brief stint in May. Despite the appearances early in the season, Centeno apparently did not merit his own fake Topps card at the entrance to Citi Field on the final game of the season.

In fact, he wouldn’t get any real cards from Topps either. Wilfredo Tovar, also a two-time September call-up and the recipient of the throw that nabbed Hamilton, got half of a Rookie Card in 2014 Topps Heritage. He had all of 3 MLB plate appearances in 2014 and has yet to play in a single AAA game. Centeno just can’t catch a break. Well, with Topps at least.

Panini is a slightly different story. After a disappointing first series, Panini revamped the 2014 Donruss product in Series 2. It was still disappointing, but this time around all of the Mets autograph cards on the checklist actually existed. Among those were Centeno, Tovar, and fellow Rookie Matt den Dekker (plus David Wright for good measure). These are Juan Centeno’s first cards other than team issues. A proper Topps Rookie Card seemed like an inevitability after this, but it was not to be.

But Panini kept delivering in 2014 Panini Immaculate with Centeno’s first memorabilia cards. Included here are swatches from blue and black jerseys, plus patches, piping, and assorted odds and ends. Seems too good to be true, right? A guy who has played in just 14 MLB games with memorabilia cards? Well, it wasn’t true. The black jersey, which the Mets haven’t worn in a game since 2012, was the biggest clue. Well, that and the bit on the back that says “event-worn material” where most others say “game-worn material.” None of this material is from an actual game and I can’t even imagine what “event” it could be from. Seems fishy.

And that’s all there is for Juan Centeno. After helping the Mets make it to the finish line (well behind the NL East champs unfortunately…) in two straight seasons, the Brewers claimed him off waivers when the Mets moved him off the 40-man roster to clear space for prospects in need of protection. With plenty of catchers available as minor league free agents, the move made sense. Still, Centeno deserved better than a couple of sticker autographs and some sketchy memorabilia.

  1. He’s not the only rookie to get no love from Topps this year. The Phillie who finished fourth in the ROY voting, Ken Giles, appeared on a Bowman prospect card early in the year, but despite a June call-up was nowhere to be found in any other Topps product. It’s possible that he (as well as Centeno) might be in the Topps Heritage High Number Series when it comes out next week, but I’m not counting on it. I’m sure that Topps will hold both of them back so that they can have them as rookies in next year’s sets.

    • Looks like Ken Giles will be in 2014 Topps Heritage High Numbers. Still no Centeno, but Topps did include Eric Campbell, who was more in need of a Rookie Card and is still with the Mets. It’s strange to see Topps debuting Rookies this late in the year, but Topps doesn’t seem to have much of a clue these days.

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