Category Archives: Boston Red Sox

I Was a Teenage Prospector: Mickey Pina

Pina UD

1990 Upper Deck

1990 was the first year I followed Spring Training as a baseball fan, and I dug into with both hands, enjoying the younger players that got playing time, hoping that I would get some clues as to future stars. Mickey was the first guy that grabbed my attention. I had never heard of him, but he showed up in ST and started hitting moonshots off of established players. This was well before I understood how Spring Training stats worked, so I thought I had found a diamond in the rough. This articlefrom that year says it all:

“WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – There is rapidly becoming one story in spring training. He is 6 feet tall with bulging muscles. He grew up in Bridgewater, played for Bridgewater-Raynham High School and the Bridgewater Legion. One of his idols was Jim Rice. He adored Carl Yastrzemski and respected the ability of Dwight Evans.

He’s got a made-for-Fenway Park swing. Short, compact and sweet. Some think he will someday rule the Wall. The question now is: Will Mickey Pina supplant Evans as the right fielder, with the veteran’s back flareups too unpredictable for the Sox to count on him?”

Of course, he didn’t make the team in 1990, went back to Pawtucket, and somehow degenerated. His career was gone after that. But that’s not what we’re concerned with here. I was more concerned with not being able to find ANY of his cards in 1990. The first to hit was his 1990 ProCards issue, the first regular minor league set I was able to afford, but this beauty is the one I always remember when I think of that guy. It’s a shame he became another in a long line of Red Sox outfield disappointments, because I thought for sure I had the next Yastrzemski. Instead it was just another Sam Horn.

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I Was a Teenage Prospector: Phil Plantier

Plantier 90 Debut

1991 Topps 1990 Debut

I’m starting off the blog with this guy, as he represented a whole approach to collecting and baseball in general for me at one period in my life. Phil Plantier sums up everything about my teenage prospecting years: killer power numbers in the minors with a horrific OBP (we didn’t know any better back then). I’m amazed when I look at how far things have come when predicting the success of young players, though there’s still quite some ways to go.

Still, over the years since Plantier’s debut (and even further back), I’ve played the what-if game: what if Plantier had mastered his strikeout issues? What if he had learned to take a walk? That kind of fun has kept these prospects alive in my hearts over the years, and it’s what inspired me to create this site.

So, to Plantier himself. I don’t remember exactly where I read about him first, but I think it was in a magazine that touted rookies of the upcoming year issued in 1989. From my first time in baseball card collecting, I had been fascinated with young players because while the older players were great, I felt they belonged to a time that wasn’t mine. These were my kids, my generation, even though I was much, much younger than them. So I read these magazines and memorized the names and tried to imagine what they looked like – what their batting stances might be, or their pitching motion. I flipped out when I would see them on cardboard and buy up or trade for every copy I could find. I still remember when I first found out Ray Lankford was black…it was those moments that made my prospecting worthwhile.

When I first saw a Plantier card in the 1990 Procards minor league set, I flipped out and got as many as I could, then scooped up his 91 cards as they were issued, breathlessly waiting for the guy’s major league debut. After all, he’d knocked 33 homers in AAA in 1990 at the age of 21. How on earth could the guy miss? Then he came up and tore the cover off the baseball in limited time…I thought that I’d found the star of the future, and I had the corner on his rookie cards.

Well, then we know what happened. He had a great year with San Diego in 1993, hitting 34 homers, but that .240 average was troubling (still, he OPS+ed 121, so he was doing something right). Then I think the strikeouts and low average got to the teams he played with, even though he was hitting well enough, way above league average. He was finished by 1997 at age 28, even though he had a career 103 OPS+. Not outstanding for a corner outfielder, but surely enough to stick around. I blame the low OBP partially and partially also an ignorance of how players like him worked back then. I think he would have a much longer career today, and those rookie cards…well, they’d still be worthless because of the era they were issued in, but such was our ignorance back then.

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