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, February 26, 2021

Rating the Rookie Cups 2.0 - 2012


This week has been pretty busy for me which is why I have posted more sporadically.  I guess when you spend eleven days trapped indoors the errands you need to run your day to day life really pile up on you.  Nevertheless, I do not intend to ever skip my Friday posts because I like writing these Rating the Rookie Cups posts more than anything.  I hope you enjoy reading them as much.

Today's team is the most modern team that I have ever reviewed, the 2011 Topps Rookie All Star team as shown on the 2012 Topps set.  There are several interesting notations about this particular team.  The biggest is that this is the only time in history that Topps did not choose both a right handed and a left handed pitcher to the team.  They switched things up and chose a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher only.  I believe it was a way to wedge Craig Kimbrel onto the team.  This was not as blatant as the previous year's wedging in of Stephen Strasburg, but it was still fairly obvious. 

Another point of interest with this team is that it included a second generation rookie cup winner in Dee Gordon (I'm not using his new hyphenated name).  Tom Gordon, Dee's father, was the RHP on the 1989 Topps Rookie All Star Team shown on 1990 Topps.  I have not researched the total number of father/son combos on RASTs, but I know for a fact there is at least one more along with at least one set of siblings.  I'll do the research and let you all know next week.

The third interesting aspect of this team is the inclusion of so many rookies that did not play full seasons.  Four of the eight position players played less than 90 games in 2011.  I can't remember another instance of that many short term rookies taking a place on an All Star team.  We'll have to see if Topps made the right call on those choices.

The cards are on the 2012 Topps design, which is not one of their better ones.  It's not horrible, but the rookie cup cards suffer the same fate as a lot of the other cards in the set, photos that are zoomed in way too much.  It gives you good detail on faces, but it removes the context of the photo in most cases.  Background imagery is almost as important to me as the main focus of the photos.  The "surfboard" name plate is not horrible, but not one of my favorites either.  Some of the RAST players also suffer from Topps using the rookie cups as short prints, including one where Josh Reddick is photoshopped into an Oakland uniform.  I do not count those SP cards as part of a rookie cup collection, so I am using the regular base card sans cup for a couple of players.  Overall, this set is by far my least favorite of the 2011-2015 era. 

Let's take a look at the 2011 Topps Rookie All Star Team.


J.P Arencibia - C - Blue Jays - Season Rank (23 of 61) - Career Rank (45 of 61)

Mark Trumbo - 1B - Angels - Season Rank (15 of 61) - Career Rank (35 of 61)

Danny Espinosa - 2B - Nationals - Season Rank (12 of 61) - Career Rank (35 of 61)

Brett Lawrie - 3B - Blue Jays - Season Rank (41 of 61) - Career Rank (43 of 61)
Dee Gordon - SS - Dodgers - Season Rank (51 of 61) - Career Rank (27 of 60)


Desmond Jennings - OF - Rays - Season Rank (157 of 184) - Career Rank (141 of 184)

Ben Revere - OF - Twins - Season Rank (158 of 184) - Career Rank (123 of 184)

Josh Reddick - OF - Red Sox - Season Rank (169 of 184) - Career Rank (91 of 184)


Jeremy Hellickson - RHP - Rays - Season Rank (31 of 50) - Career Rank (27 of 50)

Craig Kimbrel - RP - Braves - Season Rank (3 of 34) - Career Rank (2 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, started 15 games, or had at least 10 saves.  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, and all cases before 2011, I am retroactively adding a relief pitcher spot to the team.

Catcher - Wilson Ramos - Nationals

Here we had a simple one on one battle between the only two players to meet the qualifications in 2012, Topps' choice Arencibia and Wilson Ramos of the Nationals.  It was close, but according to my data, Ramos should have been the choice. 

First Base - Freddie Freeman - Braves

First base was one of the two most competitive positions in 2012.  There were four strong candidates for this spot in original pick Trumbo, Freddie Freeman of the Braves, Eric Hosmer of the Royals, and Lucas Duda of the Mets.  When was all was said and done, Freeman should have been the winner over second best Trumbo.  The only thing Trumbo really had over Freeman were the power numbers, Freeman was better in every other facet.

Second Base - Danny Espinosa - Nationals

Of all the 2011 battles, second base was probably the easiest to decide.  There were 2 challengers for Danny Espinosa's spot in Darwin Barney of the Cubs and Justin Turner of the Mets.  Turner eventually shifted to third for the Dodgers, but in his rookie year he was exclusively at second.  Regardless, Espinosa's strong rookie year easily dispatched his two competitors.

Third Base - Brent Morel - White Sox

Here we come to the first original winner that would not even meet qualifications by my standards as Lawrie only played 43 games.  In this instance I did include Lawrie in the competition with the other two players that met qualifications, Brent Morel of the White Sox and Daniel Descalso of the Cardinals.  Despite his limited games, Lawrie did hold his own.  But in the end, the career year of Brent Morel proved to just a little better than the other two.

Shortstop - Eduardo Nunez - Yankees

This would be the second spot where the original winner did not meet parameters as Gordon only played 56 games.  Unlike third base, only one player had over 100 games so I lowered the bar to 80 games and still included Gordon.  I ended up with 4 players in Eduardo Nunez of the Yankees, Mike McCoy of the Blue Jays, Dee Gordon of the Dodgers, and Trevor Plouffe of the Twins.  Nunez ended up winning the battle over Plouffe and Gordon came in third.

Outfield - John Mayberry Jr. - Phillies, Eric Thames - Blue Jays, Ben Revere - Twins

Two outfield spots were also awarded by Topps to players appearing in fewer than 100 games in Desmond Jennings and Josh Reddick.  In this unusually weak year for outfielders, only three players met the 100 game criteria so I lowered the bar to 75 games and still included Jennings and his 63 games.  The two that stood out above the rest were not chosen by Topps in John Mayberry Jr of the Phillies and Eric Thames of the Blue Jays.  That left the final spot to be decided between the original three choices by Topps along with 4 others including Jason Pridie of the Mets and Allen Craig of the Cardinals.  Ben Revere rose to the top and justified his selection.

RH Starter - Alexi Ogando - Rangers

This was the second of the two most competitive positions in 2011.  There were a ton of qualifying starters among rookies, so I upper the bar to 21 starts and was still left with 10 guys.  Best among the bottom 6 that weren't in contention were Josh Collmenter of the Diamondbacks and Ivan Nova of the Yankees.  There was a very close race between the top 4 in Alexi Ogando of the Rangers, 2011 AL ROY Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays, Michael Pineda of the Mariners, and Vance Worley of the Phillies, The underrated Ogando, who didn't even receive a ROY vote, surprisingly beat out Hellickson with walks being the major difference between the two. 

LH Starter - Cory Luebke - Padres

For some stupid reason, Topps decided to eliminate the LHP in 2011.  This was not a strong class of LHPs, but there have been weaker ones in the past.  But I will right the wrong now.  There are only three candidates in Zack Britton of the Orioles, Danny Duffy of the Royals, and hybrid starter/reliever Cory Luebke of the Padres.  Going into this I figured Britton, who began as a starter, with 11 wins would be the easy winner.  But it was Luebke with his high strikeout, low ERA season that pulled ahead.

Relief Pitcher - Craig Kimbrel - Braves

The easiest battle of the year was relief pitcher.  2011 NL ROY Craig Kimbrel had one of the better seasons of all time for a rookie reliever.  Even so, there was some tough competition among Jordan Walden of the Angels, Fernando Salas of the Cardinals, Javy Guerra of the Dodgers, and Mark Melancon of the Astros.  The real strength of this rookie class was in the non-qualifying relievers.  Future formidable closers Aroldis Chapman of the Reds, Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers, Greg Holland of the Royals, along with future ace starter Chris Sale of the White Sox each began their careers as middle relievers in 2011.


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


Well, I guess Topps's streak of perfection had to end at 1.  I didn't choose this team because they were poorly selected, it really was just coincidental.  But it ended up being a pretty cool coincidence.  That being said, there is really no putting a good face on only getting 3 out of 10 correct, and if they chose a LHP it likely would have been Zack Britton and made this 3 out of 11.  But I can't really fault them for a decision they didn't make.  Besides, there is plenty of fault for the decisions they did make.
Some of the choices were close, but in most cases Topps ignored full season players over flashy shorter term rookies and it just didn't work out.  In my opinion, it is almost always preferable to go with the full season guy over the half season guy because the full guy had to deal with the rookie wall.  A player that has a season ending injury at the end of May is never in contention for awards, but for some reason rookie that don't come up until August are.  Two months is two months and these awards are for the best of the year. 

Final Thoughts on the Team

Strongest Team Members (rookie) - Craig Kimbrel, Danny Espinosa, Mark Trumbo
Strongest Team Members (career) - Craig Kimbrel, Jeremy Hellickson, Dee Gordon
Weakest Team Members (rookie) - Josh Reddick, Ben Revere, Desmond Jennings
Weakest Team Members (career) - Desmond Jennings, J.P. Arencibia, Brett Lawrie
Rockies on the team (Present and future) - 0 (although Kimbrel seems like he could be an end of the career Rockie)
Best Card (IMHO) - J.P. Arencibia (no cup, but the best of a bland lot of photos)
Worst Card (IMHO) - Josh Reddick (no cup + he isn't the player in focus)

This team is likely to go down as one of the weakest Rookie All Star Teams of all time.  Seven of the ten members of the team were out of the league as of right now.  Gordon is on a minor league deal and Reddick remains a free agent.  Only Kimbrel is currently on a big league deal and his past two years have been awful, so who knows how much longer he will last.  If Kimbrel has a comeback and another 4-5 years as a solid closer, he might have an argument for the Hall of Fame.  But no one else on this team is getting into the Cooperstown museum without a ticket.  That being said, Trumbo and Hellickson did have decent, albeit shortened, careers.  As have Gordon and Reddick.  Regardless, right now I would rate this team as a bottom 5 team of all time. 


The 1981 team pictured on 1982 Topps cards.

Thanx for reading.


The Diamond King said...

Weak year! But I'm looking forward to the 82 cards.

Nick said...

Lots of guys I haven't heard/thought about in a long time here. Brent Morel! Alexi Ogando! Desmond Jennings! Definitely not the greatest Rookie Cup team ever assembled.

Also, looking at it now, the 2012 design seems downright majestic considering what we've seen from Topps lately.

Fuji said...

I actually like the Reddick... although it would have been better seeing him make a catch at the wall like he usually does.

hiflew said...

@Fuji - The Reddick would be fine for a veteran player that everyone already kind of knows what he looks like. But as a rookie he might have never gotten another card, and I think a player deserves better than having the focus of the card be on another player (David Ortiz in this case).

Fuji said...

Good point... on being the focus of your own rookie card.