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 16, 2021

Rating the Rookie Cups 2.0 - 2008

Good evening guys.  This is my first post in a week and I barely had time to finish it.  I have a lot of work at home due to good weather and my puppies getting close to "giveaway age."  Plus, I was a little bit under the weather this week as well.  Nothing major, personally I think it was just too little sleep because once I got several hours in a nap on Wednesday, I felt much better.  But you aren't here to have me talk about my week, you are here to read about the Topps Rookie All Star Team.

This week we are taking a look at the 2007 team featured on 2008 Topps.  As of 2021, this team is the most recent team to seem to be fully retired.  Ryan Braun and Hunter Pence both played in 2020, but Pence has officially retired and Braun is unsigned and he is said to be strongly considering retirement as well.  Dustin Pedroia who lingered the past few years mostly on the IL in Boston also hung them up this season.  So this team has just about officially reached the history books.

This team also features a rare appearance of an Arizona Diamondbacks player.  In the 23 year history of the franchise, Arizona has only placed 4 players on Topps Rookie All Star Teams, by far the fewest in the league.  Currently, the Diamondbacks have not had a player included since Wade Miley in 2013 Topps.  Only the Giants have had a longer wait.  They have not had a Rookie All Star since Buster Posey appeared in 2011 Topps.

As far as the set goes, I never hated 2008 Topps as much as many bloggers did when it came out.  I don't know how time has altered the minds of others, but I still have a little love for the "bubbles and bump" set.  That being said, there were obvious flaws, especially the aforementioned bump.  The pimple, or bump, or udder, or whatever you want to call it that included the Topps logo was very intrusive in the top center of an already small photo.  The Topps basketball set which used the same design actually moved the bump to the bottom of the photo and put the player name in it.  It worked so much better.  I would show an example, but I don't have one scanned right now.  But if you haven't seen it, Google it and see how much better it could have been

The real star of the set for me was the colored bubbles.  I have always loved sets that featured a large colorful team name at the top of the card with 1964, 1977, and 1986 among my favorite sets of all time.  The alternating team colored bubbles was just something never seen before or since.  I loved them from the moment I first saw them.  And honestly not even a godawful intrusive bump could make me really not love the set.

Let's take a look at the 2007 Topps Rookie All Star Team.

Carlos Ruiz - C - Phillies- Season Rank (22 of 61) - Career Rank (19 of 61)

James Loney - 1B - Dodgers - Season Rank (23 of 61) - Career Rank (28 of 61)

Dustin Pedroia - 2B - Red Sox - Season Rank (6 of 61) - Career Rank (11 of 61)


Ryan Braun - 3B - Brewers - Season Rank (10 of 61) - Career Rank (6 of 61)
Troy Tulowitzki - SS - Rockies - Season Rank (4 of 61) - Career Rank (11 of 60)

Hunter Pence - OF - Astros - Season Rank (39 of 184) - Career Rank (43 of 184)

Chris Young - OF - Diamondbacks - Season Rank (58 of 184) - Career Rank (85 of 184)

Delmon Young - OF - Rays - Season Rank (79 of 184) - Career Rank (115 of 184)


Brian Bannister - RHP - Royals - Season Rank (47 of 50) - Career Rank (47 of 50)

Hideki Okajima - LHP (RP) - Red Sox - Season Rank (8 of 34) - Career Rank (19 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, and all cases before 2011, I am retroactively adding a relief pitcher spot to the team which as I mentioned above means moving Hideki Okajima to the reliever category and adding a LH starter to the team. 

Catcher - Carlos Ruiz - Phillies

Only one catcher actually met the requirement of 100 games played and that was Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies.  So I lowered the bar to 81 to get a couple of challengers.  They were Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks and Jarrod Saltalamacchia who split the year between the Braves and Rangers.  Ruiz easily won the spot over both challengers.

First Base - James Loney - Dodgers

First base was another position that was not particularly deep in 2007.  There was also only one first baseman that met the 100 game requirement, Scott Thorman of the Braves.  So I lowered the bar to 90 to include both James Loney of the Dodgers and Billy Butler of the Royals.  Butler was mostly a DH, but I don't select DHs and 1B was the only other position he played in 2007.  Loney held his spot with ease over the mostly pinch hitter Thorman and glorified pinch hitter Butler.

Second Base - Dustin Pedroia - Red Sox

Second base was another position that was not deep.  In fact, Dustin Pedroia was the only qualified rookie, period.  There was no lowering the bar here because there were no other rookies.  I did add in shortstop Brendan Harris of the Rays, who played a handful of games at second, just for competition's sake.  AL ROY Pedroia easily won the spot. 

Third Base - Ryan Braun - Brewers

Third base was without a doubt the strongest position in 2007.  Most people forget Braun started out at third and he was joined by 5 other contenders including future Gold Glove OF Alex Gordon of the Royals, Akinori Iwamura of the Rays, Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres, Josh Fields of the White Sox, and Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks.  It was a tough competition but NL ROY Braun proved to be too much for the rest.

Shortstop - Troy Tulowitzki - Rockies

Shortstop was another position with several strong challengers for the choice by Topps.  There were 5 contenders for the crown including Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies, Brendan Harris of the Rays, Yunel Escobar of the Braves, Tony Pena Jr. of the Royals, and Josh Wilson who split time with the Nationals and Rays.  Escobar had a strong shortened season, but there was no one touching Tulo, who should have been NL ROY (sorry personal grudge). 

Outfield - Hunter Pence - Astros, Chris Young - Diamondbacks, Delmon Young - Rays

Like many other positions in 2007, the outfield did not have a very deep rookie class.  Normally, I easily get to my maximum of 10 players, but in 2007 I had to lower the bar to 90 games just to get to seven challengers.  The contenders were Hunter Pence of the Astros, Chris Young of the Diamondbacks, Delmon Young of the Rays, speedster Reggie Willits of the Angels, Norris Hopper of the Reds, Jerry Owens of the White Sox, and future MVP Josh Hamilton of the Reds.  Topps's three choices proved to be the correct ones with Delmon Young holding off strong challenges from Willits and Hamilton.

RH Starter - Jeremy Guthrie - Orioles

As usual, in 2007 there were quite a few rookie right handed starters in contention for the spot.  I had to raise the bar up to 19 starts in order to get down to a reasonable 10 pitchers.  Among the non contenders were Micah Owings of the Diamondbacks, Justin Germano of the Padres, Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies, and Andy Sonnanstine of the Rays.  This left a close 4 way battle between Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles, Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Red Sox, Brian Bannister of the Royals and future 2 time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum of the Giants.  Matsuzaka had the hype, Bannister was Topps's choice, Lincecum had the future success, but in a very close battle Jeremy Guthrie had the best overall rookie season of the group and should have been the pick.

LH Starter - Matt Chico - Nationals

This was arguably the weakest class of left handed starters I have run across since I have started reviewing these teams.  There were only 4 starters that met the 15 start minimum, but I lowered the bar to 14 to pick up a 5th.  The contenders are Matt Chico of the Nationals, Kason Gabbard who split between the Red Sox and Rangers, John Danks of the White Sox, Brian Burres of the Orioles, and Dallas Braden of the Athletics.  Danks and Braden had the best careers of the quintet, but their rookie years were nothing special.  One year wonder Chico ended up winning a close battle over Gabbard. 
Relief Pitcher - Joakim Soria - Royals

With LHP winner Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox added to the mix, this was a fairly strong class of rookie relievers.  Included were closers Joakim Soria of the Royals and Manny Corpas of the Rockies along with middle relievers Okajima, Peter Moylan of the Braves, Tony Pena (no relation to the SS) of the Diamondbacks, and Marlins teammates Matt Lindstrom and Taylor Tankersley.  In a very close three way battle, Soria edged out Okajima with Corpas putting up a strong third place finish.


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


This turned out to be one of the better efforts by Topps overall.  They got the entire position player slate correct.  Pitchers, not so much, but you can kind of see their point of view on selecting both Bannister and Okajima, even if they are opposing viewpoints for each.  To be honest, I am shocked that Topps did not pick ultra-hyped Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka as the RHP.  Choosing Okajima as the LHP was especially understandable since lefty starters were exceptionally weak in 2007.  That being said, 2007 was not a deep class of rookies so it really would have been hard to mess this one up too badly.  Most of the picks made themselves.  But I'll still give Topps credit for making good selections.

Final Thoughts on the Team

Strongest Team Members (rookie) - Troy Tulowitzki, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun
Strongest Team Members (career) - Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Dustin Pedroia
Weakest Team Members (rookie) - Brian Bannister, Delmon Young, James Loney
Weakest Team Members (career) - Brian Bannister, Delmon Young, Hideki Okajima
Rockies on the team (Present and future) - 1 (Tulowitzki)
Best Card (IMHO) - Carlos Ruiz (several good ones up there, but gotta go with the catcher here)
Worst Card (IMHO) - Hunter Pence (I almost picked this as the best because it is kind of cool, but Pence looking at the bump just accentuates the biggest flaw of the set.)

With Braun and Pence not playing yet this year and everyone else retired, this team has pretty much entered the history books as they sit.  It is very hard to see any Hall of Famers coming from this team.  The best shots have big flaws attached with injuries for Tulo and Pedroia and the PEDs for Braun.  To be honest, I am not really sure if Braun would be a strong contender for the Hall even without his scandals.  That being said, all three of those player had great careers.  And the rest of the team, aside from the pitchers, all had solid big league careers that lasted a decade or more.  So for the career, this team comes up a bit short at the top, but altogether they are probably a top 25 team of all time.  For the rookie season, they might even be better than that.  Maybe top 15.  Overall, a very good team here, just with a lower ceiling than some other teams.


The 1971 team pictured on 1972 Topps cards.

Thanx for reading.


The Lost Collector said...

I forgot Braun was originally a 3B.

Jon said...

Some of us are here to hear you talk about your week :)

And I think just about every human would have trouble blogging with a bunch of puppies running around.