Thursday, February 25, 2016

Spring Training Preview - Tampa Bay Rays (Guest Post)

A few weeks back I made the ambitious claim that I was going to do a Spring Training preview for all 30 Clubs in what at the time was 67 days until Opening Day. Well here we are a few days before Spring games start up and i've posted zero, none, zilch. That's not to say I won't do any or try to do as many as possible, I'll be attending more than a couple Spring games and will do a report on the teams I see there with photos and such.

A little help from Europe has got me jump started though, as my good friend Kyle who lives in Belgium volunteered to do a write up on the Rays. Kyle is an english teacher over there and a much better writer than myself. Without further ado here's a 2016 Preview of the Rays from a fan stuck in Belgium................

There's a lot of optimism rolling into the 16' campaign this year. Despite Longo being Longo, there's much improvement in the Rays lineup. Dare I say, a couple of people are long overdue for a breakout year (like Forsythe last year) there a couple of names that really need mentioning. 

T. Bex and Souza are the two that immediately stand out in my mind. Souza has been a huge disappointment thus far and has a high ceiling that could really add to his value but has yet to be seen. He has flashed power at moments and is overall average left fielder (this is what you get for trading with the Nats).

Needless to say, there's also Nick Franklin who is inhabiting a roster spot that should be given to another person that has more potential. Franklin has simply not lived up to the “super utility” type that he was projected to be and should be left at a 7-11 in Boston.

Now that we've gotten the negativity out of the way...let's take a look at the outfield options. Desmond Jennings doesn't seem to be one built for the hard turf at The Trop and has paid for this. Needless to say, Desmond is a solid option (when healthy) and is a very good bat. In a perfect world, he would be our lead off man but that has now been taken over by Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier. The outfield has many option including newly acquired Corey Dickerson. The others would include Brandon Guyer and Mikie Mahtook. I was surprised to see they didn't lock up Sizemore but our farm system continues to produce. Taylor Motter is another interesting option that could be added (depending on who gets injured).

It finally seems that we have depth in the catcher's position! I like the addition of Conger for multiple reasons, mainly, because he has that competitive fierceness about him (like he displayed against the Rangers) and hopefully can bring the noise during a Yankees or Red Sox game because they are the enemy. Casali is also a nice fit too, when healthy, he has flashed very good power and sub par defense. Then there's Rene Rivera. We acquired him from the Padres a year ago and has been equivalent to how Souza has performed. His first half was reasonably good (including one walk off against Boston) but his second half isn't even worth writing about. He simply fell off the face of the earth (thanks Hit Show). Luke Maile is a dark horse to me and we'll see how he pans out. All in all, I feel good here. 

The infield has a bit of a jam. There's Loney who is lingering in purgatory (and will probably get traded at some point) then you have options with Lomo and Pearce too. Forsythe is locked in at second so this leaves a bit of a mystery in the field. Longo should be moved to 1B and letting Shaffer get some time at the hot spot (in order to spare the knees of our star). Still though, Longo has been proven durable despite his declining numbers. Now let's take a look at Brad Miller. I really like him and I think he fits the Rays mantra quite well in fact. High striped socks, solid defense man and good bat, I think he will thrive and ideally he will slot in at short stop, which leaves Tim Beckham and Nick Franklin in a do or die situation. I will skip Franklin entirely as I feel he has been a waste of a roster spot, so let's jump to Beckham. There's a lot of mystery surrounding him and his capabilities. It seems every time I watched him, he was striking out alongside his buddies Souza and Franklin. Despite this though, he has character that makes him fit our roster just the reality is, he hasn't lived up to the potential they thought he had. For him as well, it's do or die this year. What Kevin Cash will do with this logjam in the infield will be interesting. Pearce needs playing time at The Trop seeing his bat really goes a long way there but still needs to slot in Lomo, Shaffer and Loney...somehow. I will be sad to see Loney go (if he does) seeing he's really revamped his career with us but his numbers have declined and is simply too expensive for Sternberg's wallet. I forsee a David DeJesus situation like last year happen with Loney.

Now, the most important part of the Rays system...our pitching. Archer is our man, that goes without even saying actually. He is a guiding force that has taken the throne from our forefathers, Shield and Price. He embodies everything in which I love about the Rays. He is intelligent, doesn't have some Big Papi ego and goes out there and does his job. He inspires and makes every Rays fan a proud believer of why our philosophy is so great. Topkin recently reported that Smyly is highly contagious for the Tommy John bug and hopefully he is wrong. I really like Smyly (when he is healthy) but he has been pretty up and down with his stint with the Rays, so it'll be cool to see how his season pans out. Then we have the strong Matty Moore ready to slot in. He finished his seasons strong and was apparent his control was fully back. Can he regain that previous form and dominate? YES!

Then we have Jake Odorizzi. Why is he so great? Because he simply gets better and better. He acquired his split finger fast ball from a healing Alex Cobb and has utilized this pitch very effectively. Hopefully he can overcome Brian McCann this year, who has completely dominated him throughout his career. Erasmo Ramirez was a really pleasant surprise last year. I thought he would end up being like Erik Bedard (who was left at some coffee shop in Toronto) but really turned a lot of heads. He pitches strong and does it with a smile. It's refreshing. The last spots are a bit of a wild card, we have Blake Snell in the background but should not overlook top prospect Jaime Shultz. His numbers in Triple A were comparable with one Chris Archer. Very interesting...hopefully by this year, he will manage his command stronger while Blake Snell gets his feet wet with the first taste of Major League ball. What will be interesting with Snell is to see how he adapts to the major leagues. His numbers in Triple A were stupid (that's how good this kid is) and it'll be cool to see how he manages pitching to rival AL East teams.

The bullpen is my main concern (like every year). Boxy should be our closer and hopefully doesn't have a repeat of that disastrous second half. Alex Colome has also proven himself worthy and should be taken into consideration for a set up man slot or that could also belong to Xavier Cedeno and Steve Geltz. They both could be thrown into the mix, then we have the newly acquired Ryan Webb who is clearly hyped to be on the Rays. Enny Romero is in his do or die season, he simply hasn't found the control to handle major league pitching yet. One person I would like to bring up now would be Matt Andriese. Now, he has proven himself a solid starter and bullpen arm but I clearly prefer him as a starter. He usually gives a solid six innings and will probably give up a couple of runs but that is good for a fourth or fifth spot in my book. They need to use him more because he's clearly durable. More durable than former Ray, Nate Karns (who I was also sad to see leave). 

All in all, this season is going to be great and the Rays pose quite a threat in the thick of a very thick AL East.

Thanks a bunch Kyle. I am going to a Rays game in Sarasota and will try to get some photos and autographs of the Rays and Orioles. I plan on doing those crazy Diamondbacks next. If anyone would like to help me out with this project I would appreciate it. Well thanks for reading and enjoy Spring Training guys!

I know I will! 

I'm NOT A Night Owl - A Trade Post

Recieved a package in the mail from The Night Owl recently and just got around to snapping some pictures of the goodies inside last night. So in true Night Owl form late last night I added the pictures to this post and.... passed out while they were still uploading.

I'm the oldest 27 year old man alive apparently.  Ah well that's not going to stop me from writing these cards up. 

I guess there was a Dodger in Maddux's spot in the Night Binder because this is a pretty awesome Night Card at the soon to be vacant Turner Field. Still crazy to think that in 14 months I'll be attending a Braves game in a third home park. Like I said oldest 27 year old alive. 

I recently joined the Official Set Builders Club and chose 2015 Stadium Club to get started. Night Owl sent over a few needs including this Doc which was my favorite and an example of why this set is worthy of being built.  

In the end though I'm still a Braves hoarding maniac so this mini of PC guy and staff ace Julio was very much appreciated. Teheran got engaged over the offseason to former Miss Colombia competitor Yoselin Rincon

She's a former swimsuit model so this was a tame one for the blog

I follow a Colombian fan account of Julio on instagram and the guy is always posting Spanish tabloid clippings of the 2. Apparently Julio already knocked her up, good job! Now go pitch like a Papi this year. 

Anyways.... thanks for scanning my want lists Owl. I would've never known I needed this card,  I mean he's wearing a Red Sox uniform. 

More team set needs!  Thanks for all needed cards N.O. I'll be hitting you back very soon.

I was up late getting all these trade packages together,  14 in total. 9 bubblers and 5 PWEs going out later today. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tony Drops A Bomb - A Trade Post

Recieved a surprise package in the mail the other day from the man himself Tony of Off Hiatus lover of all things Brewers. 

Tony included a small note as if to brace me for what he had packed inside the helpless bubble mailer...

BEHOLD my first Smoltzy autograph.  All I can say is wow, the blogosphere and it's inhabitants generosity continues to amaze me.

 Thanks so much Tony, my favorite pitcher of all time now has a center piece to my PC.

Tony didn't stop there though he hit on a couple more of my PCs with these awesome Invincible cards I'd never seen until he offered them up on his blog a few weeks back.

But wait there's more, I had the fielding Chipper and mentioned that on Tony's giveaway post but he sent all four for good measure. 

Pretty sure this NASCAR card was included to protect the precious Smoltz auto within but why let it languish, any racing collectors want this metal Yarborough? 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Canada Strikes Back - A Trade Post

Douglas from Sportscards From The Dollar Store is trying to double me up folks. I am just now putting the finishing touches on the return package for our last trade and this loaded bubble mailer shows up from North of the Border.

As usual there were a bunch of great Lightning cards included like this rookie of Ondrej Palat. This card would carry a heavy premium at the few vendors that actually stock hockey cards around here so this one was much appreciated Doug! 

PS I was literally about to buy tickets to tomorrow nights game when my buddy called  me up to tell me we have free club seats thanks to how doctor that has a crush on his mom. Yay hot moms!

Some more current guys, the Bolts went from 9th place Friday afternoon to tied for 2nd as of today. Crazy how tight the Eastern Conference is this year, should be an interesting post season. Matt Carle has been playing good lately filling in for the injured Jason Garrison.

Some new cards of the Cup winning trio, I love trophy cards. 

While I don't necessarily collect basketball I was glad to see these 2 former Gators fall out of the package.

Another former Gator who was fast as hell but didn't last in the NFL.

A super nice card of former Falcon Alge Crumpler #'d/50 

I only had the Devonta Freeman from this set, I really fell off on picking up new releases once the Falcons season was over. Here's to next year boys!

Topps Prime is the Stadium Club of football cards, Really hope Roddy stays with the Falcons even if he isn't a WR2 any more. 

Last but not least Doug sent over this auto of former top Braves prospect who has twice since been traded. Hope he works out in Cincinatti although he's blocked by Brandon Phillips stubborn self.

Thanks for all the great cards Douglas, I'll be hitting you back soon.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Nachos Grande Group Break Haul

I signed up for Nachos Grande 2016 case break at the last minute and got my haul in the mail earlier this week.

Of course I got a ton of Braves base cards. The Grilli is my favorite photo of them all. If you need any of these let me know if your working on the set or just want a Braves team set, I have extras of all of them. 

Chris pulled three rainbow parallels for me. I didn't pull any hits or gold parallels but these aren't bad since Freeman and Teheran are both guys I PC.

I did pretty good on buybacks with 2 coming from packs I opened as a kid, thanks for making me feel old Topps. I guess the red are common and the silver are scarce?  Good job putting a stamp right over Chippers face.

Hit on 3 of the Berger's Best inserts, I got 2 of the Aaron but ones for Tony. I don't even know if I have that '95 Smoltz..

Like me, Chris is trying to complete the much maligned set so when he offered to trade some team sets he got stuck with iwas quick to let him hold onto a Braves team set in exchange for the Pirates, Blue Jays & Red Sox. 

Cutch just looks weird without his dreads.

Love what looks like a walkoff shot of Josh Harrison.

This will probably be THE card of this set. I heard the pitcher that gave this one up was pissed about this card.

Didn't wanna leave the Red Sox out so this cool fielding shot of All Star utility man Brock Holt leaping out of the mist wins the best photo. 

Thanks for hosting the break Chris and for the extra cards towards my set!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

It's Not Subjective, the Guy's a Great Trader

Now while I haven't been keeping count I'd guess guess this is the 7th or 8th trade package I've gotten from Brian of HSCA fame.

This isn't just any old oddball of Bob Buhl folks...

It's a 1951 Johnston Cookies oddball and it is my new most favorite oddball in my collection. Thanks for this gem Brian!

The guy also sent over an unopened pack of Topps LASER, I opened it but all the cards are going to other bloggers so i'll hold off on showing them here.

This hologram of TP may be making the short trip up to Orlando with me in a couple weeks. Pendleton is a great signer and a nice guy to boot, hopefully he tosses me a couple more balls this year.

Nice mix of newish cards here, I particually like that Bowman refractor of Andruw.

I had seen these 1965 Topps Embossed All Star cards all over the blogs but never had one for myself until now. Torre's not a bad name for the first one either!

Of course being a package from Minnesota this one was jammed with great vintage from all over including these three needs for my Braves Team set project! Thank for all the great cards Brian, i've got something lined up  to shoot back your way just waiting til after the card show tomorrow to tape it up along with a ton of other trade packages that should be going out early next week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Breaking Down over a PWE from Gavin - A Trade Post

Sent my first trade package to Gavin over at Baseball Card Breakdown a couple weeks ago and got a return package early last week. I usually get trade posts up sooner but as of today I'm 5 behind so I've got some catching up to do. I went a whole week without blogging which felt way longer due to being sick, working a ton blah, blah, blah. 

Let's get to the cards Gavin sent me. 

This custom minors card of Hammerin' Hank was my favorite of the envelope and my first custom from the Custom King himself.

Some more minor leaguers with this Braxton Davidson 'Distinguished Debut' who was listed as #10 on Keith Law's Braves Top 10 Prospect list he just released. 

This horrible photo is my first of these tall minis from 2015 Bowman Chrome.  Such an odd shaped card..

Gavin busted a box of 2010 Pro Debut and was nice enough to send me most of the Braves from the set. 

Plus this awesome battery oddball of Primetime.

Closing it out with the closer as a prospect still. Thanks for all the great cards Gavin, check out his page for a CONTEST he has going on right now. I still owe him a prize from my Super Bowl contest he won by guessing the score,  I promise I'm working on it bud!