A place where Colorado Rockies baseball card collectors (all 3 of us) can waste some time reading about our favorite sport. The Rockies and their cards will be the primary focus, but I like to go off on tangents as well so anything and everything baseball related may be covered here.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Rating the Rookie Cups 2.0 - 2016

Good evening all. Tonight I am presenting the most recent team I have analyzed thus far, the 2015 team.  This team has a couple of oddities that make it stand out.

The most obvious is that it has more players than any other year up to this point.  Not only did Topps continue with its usual relief pitcher addendum, but it also tacked on a DH spot for the first time since Eddie Murray in 1978 and only the second time ever.  I specifically used the words "tacked on" because Miguel Sano was not really worthy of a spot anywhere else, but he got hot in September and I guess Topps just wanted to get him in too.  But I'll get into my disdain for Topps with this set a little later.

This was the first time in 21 years that the same team placed 3 players on the Rookie All Star Team.  The Atlanta Braves accomplished the feat in the strike shortened 1994 season.  In 2015 it was the Chicago Cubs sending a trio.  Perhaps not so coincidentally, both teams won the World Series the next year.  The only time a team placed more than 3 players on a team in a year was in 1991 when the Houston Astros had 4 players on the team.

As far as the set design goes, 2016 is probably my least favorite Topps set of all time.  Most significantly it was the beginning of the "Stadium Club" years which featured no borders.  In place of borders, some genius at Topps though it would be better to just put a fog bank on a pair of opposing corners and call it a day.  Just awful.  The nameplate just reeked of something ESPN would have used to identify Craig Kilborn or Stuart Scott in the late 1990s.  Finally, all of it was pulled together with a logo slash that obscured half the logo.  Just awful.  Moving on.

Let's take a look at the 2015 Topps Rookie All Star Team.

J.T. Realmuto - C - Marlins - Season Rank (21 of 61) - Career Rank (21 of 61)

Justin Bour - 1B - Marlins - Season Rank (36 of 61) - Career Rank (47 of 61)

Addison Russell - 2B - Cubs - Season Rank (35 of 61) - Career Rank (42 of 61)


Kris Bryant - 3B - Cubs - Season Rank (4 of 61) - Career Rank (21 of 61)
Carlos Correa - SS - Astros - Season Rank (21 of 61) - Career Rank (29 of 60)
Miguel Sano - DH - Twins - Season Rank (4 of 4) - Career Rank (2 of 4)

Randal Grichuk - OF - Cardinals - Season Rank (122 of 184) - Career Rank (137 of 184)

Michael Conforto - OF - Mets - Season Rank (174 of 184) - Career Rank (130 of 184)

Kyle Schwarber - OF - Cubs - Season Rank (164 of 184) - Career Rank (145 of 184)


Noah Syndergaard - RHP - Mets - Season Rank (29 of 50) - Career Rank (11 of 50)

Carlos Rodon - LHP - White Sox - Season Rank (37 of 49) - Career Rank (27 of 49)

Roberto Osuna - RP - Blue Jays - Season Rank (9 of 34) - Career Rank (6 of 34)




Here are the players I feel should have made the team.  This is based solely on rookie years stats and is a straight up "battle of the stats" with my opinion not factoring into the decision.  I give a chance to all rookies from that season that either played in 100 games or started 15 games.  With relievers the requirements are 10 saves and/or 65 games pitched in relief.  If there happen to be less than 2 rookies that meet those qualifications at a position, then I will just compare the top two that don't meet parameters.  In this case, I will be eliminating the DH position. If you don't play the field, you don't deserve a spot on the team.

Catcher - J.T. Realmuto - Marlins

This is the position with the fewest candidates available to meet parameters.  There were only two rookie catchers that appeared in 100 games, J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins and James McCann of the Tigers.  Realmuto and McCann are currently rivals in the NL East, starting for the Phillies and Mets respectively, but in their rookie years Realmuto was easily better.

First Base - Mark Canha - Athletics

First base was a position that had several candidates, and while none of them were particularly great, they were all fairly similar.  There were four players that met criteria in Justin Bour of the Marlins, Mark Canha of the Athletics, Ben Paulsen of the Rockies, and Clint Robinson of the Nationals.  Bour and Canha proved to be slightly ahead of the other two with Canha narrowly taking the spot from Topps's choice Bour.

Second Base - Jace Peterson - Braves

Second base, along with most of the infield, was fairly loaded in 2015.  There were 5 candidates at the position including Cory Spangenberg of the Padres, Yolmer Sanchez of the White Sox, and Taylor Featherston of the Angels.  But in the end it was basically a two man race between Addison Russell of the Cubs and Jace Peterson of the Braves.  Somewhat shockingly, Peterson narrowly edged Russell in the end to claim the spot. 

Third Base - Kris Bryant - Cubs

Third base in 2015 was a very loaded position.  There were 5 candidates for the spot including Kris Bryant of the Cubs, Matt Duffy of the Giants, Jung Ho Kang of the Pirates, Jake Lamb of the Diamondbacks, and Hernan Perez who played with both the Brewers and Tigers.  I also included the player Topps wedged in at DH, Miguel Sano of the Twins.  Duffy would have won a spot at any other position, but in 2015 there was no stopping Kris Bryant.

Shortstop - Jung Ho Kang - Pirates

Shortstop was yet another loaded position in the infield in 2015.  There were actually only 2 players that qualified at shortstop to play in 100 games, Jung Ho Kang of the Pirates and Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks.  However, I always include Topps's choice so I lowered the bar all the way down to 99 games and added both Carlos Correa of the Astros and Francisco Lindor of the Indians.  In one of the biggest surprises I have had since I started doing these comparisons, Jung Ho Kang edged out both Correa and Lindor for the spot. 

Outfield - Odubel Herrera - Phillies, Billy Burns - Athletics, Joc Pederson - Dodgers

Topps usually misses on one outfield spot.  It's fairly easy to find the top spot in any competition, but it's harder to get the top 3 right.  Usually the race for third is a bit tighter than the race for the top spot.  However, this is the first time that Topps has missed on all three outfield spots in the same year.  There were 10 rookie outfielders that qualified including Delino DeShields of the Rangers, Eddie Rosario of the Twins, Yasmany Tomas of the Diamondbacks, and Michael Taylor of the Nationals.  Topps's two most questionable choices, Kyle Schwarber and Michael Conforto came in 9th and 10th respectively in this 10 man competition.  Only Randal Grichuk's 4th place finish came close to making it.  But even then Herrera, Burns, and Pederson were clearly ahead of the pack in 2015.

RH Starter - Noah Syndergaard - Mets

Like most years, the right handed starter spot in 2015 had no dearth of candidates for the spot.  I raised the bar up to 19 starts this year to get to 10 pitchers.  Among them were Chris Heston of the Giants, Lance McCullers of the Astros, Nate Karns of the Rays, Anthony DeSclafani of the Reds, and Kendall Graveman of the Athletics.  They were all decent competition, but Syndergaard was still relatively dominant and easily held his spot.

LH Starter - Andrew Heaney - Angels

As usual, the left handed starter position has far fewer candidates.  Six pitchers met the fifteen start requirement including Andrew Heaney of the Angels, Eduardo Rodriguez of the Red Sox, Carlos Rodon of the White Sox, Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks, Adam Morgan of the Phillies, and Mike Montgomery of the Mariners.  It ended up being a very tight race among the top four, but Heaney rose to the top over Rodriguez, Rodon, and Ray.
Relief Pitcher - Carson Smith - Mariners

I have amended the requirements for relievers.  In addition to 10 saves, pitchers can also get in by pitching in at least 65 games.  It's only fair for middle relievers to get a chance as well, since they are just as important as closers.  There were seven relievers in the mix here including Steve Geltz of the Rays, Keone Kela of the Rangers, Arquimedes Canizaro of the Pirates, Andrew Chafin of the Diamondbacks, and Arodys Vizcaino of the Braves.  When all was said and done, it did end up coming down to the two eligible closers, Roberto Osuna of the Blue Jays and Carson Smith of the Mariners.  Despite having fewer saves than Osuna, Smith was better in almost every other category and took the spot.


100% - Perfect, 80-90% - Great, 60-70% - Good, 40-50% - Poor, < 40% - Utter Failure


Topps had occasionally chosen a few members based on prospect status instead of actual rookie accomplishments, but this was the year they officially jumped on the prospect bandwagon.  I am not a fan of that.  The Rookie Cup All Star Team is almost sacred to me.  Choosing teams based on prospect status instead of results is definitely trendy, but to me it just makes actually playing the season unnecessary.  If all we are going to do is just pick the team based on who Baseball America thinks will be good in 10 years, then why play the games now?  It may end up going that way permanently, if it hasn't already, but I will vehemently disagree with that outlook as long as I draw breath. Simply put, Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber had no Earthly reason to be on this team.  I would much rather see a "surprise rookie" like Billy Burns or Odubel Herrera get recognition over a prospect that MIGHT be good later any day.
The rest of the "misses" were all toss ups because 2015 had a lot of similar rookies.  It really was amazing how close a lot of these battles were.  I have never been as surprised running the numbers as when Russell lost to Peterson and when Correa (and Lindor) was beaten by Kang.  In that respect, I can't really hold those "mistakes" against Topps because I was baffled too.  Just goes to show that there is really nothing 100% concrete about any "system" including my own.  Someone else could easily choose a team and collect stats to back up their choices.  But here at the Quarry we are going by my system and everything else is wrong....Muuhahahaha.

Final Thoughts on the Team

Strongest Team Members (rookie) - Kris Bryant, Roberto Osuna, J.T. Realmuto
Strongest Team Members (career) - Noah Syndergaard, Kris Bryant, J.T. Realmuto
Weakest Team Members (rookie) - Michael Conforto, Kyle Schwarber, Miguel Sano
Weakest Team Members (career) - Kyle Schwarber, Justin Bour, Randal Grichuk
Rockies on the team (Present and future) - 0 (so far anyway although several seem like late career Rockies type players)
Best Card (IMHO) - Carlos Correa (the dirty uniform makes it the best of a weak lot)
Worst Card (IMHO) - Addison Russell (I like the photo, but he is listed as a SS, but given the 2B spot on the team.  At the very least label him as a 2B-SS.)

This team started out as basically Kris Bryant and a bunch of hopefuls.  Bryant was the only "great" rookie year.  The rest of the team had average to good rookie years, but held sizable prospect statuses.  That being said, some of Topps's choices have blossomed, specifically Conforto.  The career numbers for this team is obviously incomplete since most of the team is still active.  Based on what current career trajectories currently look like, I anticipate the weakest to end up being Bour, Russell, and probably Rodon when all is said and done.  The rest of the team is still active and thriving in most cases.  This could end up being a top 10 all time team.  There aren't any "no doubt" HOFers yet, but I could see several of these guys at least having a decent shot at it assuming their careers don't fall off a cliff or something. 


The 1984 team pictured on 1985 Topps cards.

Thanx for reading.


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