Todd Zeile was a UCLA grad who was chosen by the Cardinals in the second round of the 1986 draft, a catcher at the time. He was instantly a top prospect for the Cardinals. Assigned to Erie in the New York Penn League, he hit .258/.352/.492 with 14 home runs in 70 games, a damned impressive showing for a catcher.
The Cardinals moved him up slowly through the system, spending a year at each level and utterly dominating. He hit 25 home runs in 1987 at A-level Springfield, hitting .292/.380/.511. In 1988, he moved up to AA Arkansas and slugged 19 home runs with a .272/.388/.491 line. As a catcher. Yeah, the guy was one hell of a prospect – the Cardinals’ top prospect, in fact, by 1989, when he got a chance to join the Cardinals for Spring Training and promptly mashed the hell out of the ball, but the team didn’t want to rush him and smartly sent him back to the minors, AAA Louisville, where he hit another 19 home runs and hit .289/.350/.486, proving he was the real deal. He earned a call-up in August, 1989, and was there to stay.
In 28 games with the Cards in 1989, he hit .256/.326/.354 with one home run, and was on everyone’s radar as a hot rookie to watch for 1990.
I hadn’t seen the guy until I saw this card at another meeting of our card club, and though I had heard whispers of him being good, I had no idea HOW good until I saw the numbers on the back of the card. I knew I had to have this, and while it took quite some finessing, I finally got it.
Zeile’s 1990, of course, was not very stunning. Sure, he hit 15 home runs, but he got moved to third base, and hit .244/.333/.398, hardly living up to the hype of his minor league numbers. His career was, in fact, pretty much a disappointment. He ended up being a journeyman third baseman, bouncing around from team to team, not great but good, a decent warm body to fill a spot. His career year would be 1997 with the Dodgers, when he hit .268/.365/.459. He retired in 2004, with a .265/.346/.423 career line and 253 career homers.