Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's Been Swell

These past few months have been some of the best for me as a collector. I started blogging and found a new way to yammer at strangers about nothing, I found several new team collectors I can dump my unwanted cards onto, and I've also gotten some of the best cards and support I could've ever hoped to get from this wonderful blogosphere.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. I'll be sure to remember all of the fun and excitement most of this whole run has brought me And I'd like to thank all of you who made it possible and as enjoyable as the experience could've been. Thank you.

I am of course talking about how my streak of consecutive weeks with a TTM return came to a halt this week. After what felt like an glorious infinite number of weeks where I got at least one TTM return in my mailbox, I didn't get one in the final week of November. But I suppose that is to be expected when one stops sending out TTM requests in mid-August. And even if my 2014 TTM haul ended with last week's Saltalamacchia return, I'd say that this run and this year in general was a huge success. Especially since one of my goals this year was to get more returns than I got in 2013 (which I did :)). Of course it's going to be hard to top this year come 2015 but thankfully I already have a stack of potential MiLB TTMs with more on the way when I get my hands on the soon to be released Bowman Draft and Elite Extra Edition (provided that Panini releases it). And I do genuinely want to thank all the players who signed for me and those of you who left positive comments on my TTM posts. It really means a lot to me since a lot of the posts were admittedly rushed and kind of air-mailed and yet you guys kept coming and left comments.

Now with that I'd like to make this announcement.
I'll be sending most of out my year-end Holiday Zaps a little earlier than usual this year. Reason being that I'm going to be spending the holidays overseas and I'll be too busy to really send packages out during mid-December. I sent wave one of these Holiday Zaps out yesterday to ten different zip codes. Wave two is ready and will be shipped out on either Monday or Tuesday. I'm putting the finishing touches on wave three but I'm waiting on a few pieces to arrive from COMC so those of you in wave three might have to wait until the second or third week of December. Sorry.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Yankees' Insane International Free Agent Haul

Masahiro Tanaka

In early 2014 the Yankees made headlines for bringing in Masahiro Tanaka. However, Tanaka wasn't the only international free agent the Yankees brought in in 2014.

In early July the Yankees went HAM on the international prospect market and scooped up nine of the top 25 international prospects in the first day alone (they added their tenth recently). They later went on to sign a bunch of other guys too (several of which haven't even been reported yet). Here's a rough list of some of the players who have signed with the Yankees. I've typed the more highly touted players in bold.

Dermis Garcia
Nelson Gomez
Juan De Leon
Jonathan Amundaray
Wilkerman Garcia
Hyo-Jun Park
Antonio Arias
Diego Castillo
Frederick Cuevas
Servando Hernandez
Leobaldo Cabrera
Jason Lopez
Lisandro Blanco
Wander Hernandez
Raymundo Moreno
Alexander Vargas
Adolfo Morillo
Pablo Olivares
Bismar Nunez
Luis Pache
Danienger Perez
Gilmael Troya
Griffin Garabito
Yossty Vargas
Jose Polonia
Erick Mendez
Bryan Emery

Now obviously this move did come with it's fair share of repercussions. The Yankees only had a signing pool of roughly $2.2 million and will face extremely heavy penalties for whatever they spent over that amount. According to RAB they'll have to pay at least $12.31 million in taxes. And they will not be allowed to sign an international free agent to a signing bonus worth more than $300,000 from 2015 to 2017.

Despite that this was a bold and (IMO) very good move for the Yankees. Like any prospect these international free agents are gambles, but as the past few years have shown the Yankees are putting an increased emphasis on player development. Plus it's not like the Yankees are going to be able to get another top 10 first rounder in the draft any time soon so they might as well flex their financial muscle to scoop up top tier foreign talent. And yes, I'm painfully aware that the Yankees have had a pretty bad track record of developing players in recent years but they are improving. They've added layer after layer of depth in just these past two years and also took another minor league affiliate, the Pulaski Yankees, under their umbrella giving them a total of 10 minor league teams to work with for the foreseeable future.

And as many have noted this also showed how flawed the current system is. The Yankees spent a little under $30 million (and that's just what we know of) and nearly half of that went to penalties and taxes. The deep-pocketed Yankees can afford to do that, but small market teams like the Brewers couldn't possibly afford to pay those taxes. Hell, those teams can barely afford the players in the first place. Of course everybody has noticed these flaws and among the potential solutions there are currently plans for an international draft even though nearly every player (in the bigs) opposes it as the draft would likely take advantage of international draftees (like the MLB draft takes advantage of domestic draftees) with weird policies and whatnot. Whatever the MLB chooses to do, we can expect that their solution to this problem will undoubtedly just create more problems in the future (their track record for unexpected repercussions is impeccable).

In all the Yankees minor league system took huge steps forward in 2014. From top prospects improving their game, some previously unknowns having breakout years, to all of these new international additions, and to top it all off the new minor league club. Your average Yankee fan probably won't care, but these developments are huge and if lucky, the Yankees could benefit from them between 2017 to 2020 when the players have finally risen through the ranks and can make an impact on the big league club. Oh yes, that next dynasty is going to be here soon-ish.
Keep in mind though, there is still a month or so left here in 2014, there is still plenty of time for the Yankees to add one or two more names to their long list of foreign acquisitions (Yoan Moncada!).

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).


Monday, November 24, 2014

Cole World

A while back the Dime Box king overlord blogged about some cool cards he acquired that featured a lot of musicians. I was so intrigued that I decided to pull the trigger on a little something that was on my watch list. That something is this cool card of my favorite rapper, J. Cole (feat. Wale who's also a pretty good rapper IMO).
Growing up I was a pretty big fan of hip hop. Unfortunately when people think of hip hop they think of idiots reinforcing negative stereotypes and bragging about how much money they have and how much sex they have because in today's world it's only the negative aspects of a music genre that ever gets attention, but there is more to the genre than people (including a large number of hip hop fans) probably think.

One of my favorite mix-tapes of all time

Back in 2010, there was a brief moment of time where it looked like a new generation of rappers had arrived and were going to bring some much needed thought, depth and passion back into the mainstream hip hop scene, and J. Cole was going to be one of the spearheads of the movement and establish himself as one of the biggest names in the industry.
Unfortunately things did not go that way. Jermaine Lamarr Cole's momentum pretty much vanished by the time his second album dropped/this card was released and the rest of the movement dissolved into a bunch of sell-outs, b-listers and guys that disappeared entirely (although Kendrick Lamar turned out okay). Now I could go on and explain why I think that happened but I'll spare you all from my college thesis on the matter. I'll just say that despite the "what ifs" and a few missteps, I'm still a big fan of J. Cole.

I love this back so much

Anyway I love the back of this cool oddball. With the important details above like which event these cards were being distributed at, and some of J. Cole's bio. And yes, J. Cole was in fact born in Germany (he was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina though). I thought it was really cool how they presented the albums J. Cole released like stats on a baseball card. And of course no one can front on that cute little cartoon on the lower left hand corner.
Between this and the cool team issued Phillies cards The Phillies Room is always blogging about, I think I can safely say that Philadelphia sure makes some great cards.

Now to finish out this post I was going to share my top five favorite J. Cole songs but I figure I'd just randomly share a few songs I really like by him. Also I'd like to mention that his next album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, is going to be released next month on December 9th. I can't wait!

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weekend TTM Roundup 11/10-11/15

Well this was a slow week. This week was so slow that I almost prepared a post on how my streak of consecutive weeks with a TTM return came to a halt but then I got one at the very last possible minute. On Saturday around lunchtime.

Received On: 11/15/2014

But oh what a return it was.
It was from Tyler Austin who was one of the seven prospects the Yankees sent over to the Arizona Fall League.
Tyler Austin first put himself on the map after a breakout 2012 but his 2013 was derailed by injuries and he found himself being overshadowed by newer, more promising prospects that have entered the system. In 2014 he managed to escape having another season being lost due to injuries and had himself a very good second half. Enough to put him back on a few radars.
Offensively Austin provides some pop and hits for a pretty high average. Defensively he's not great in right field but he's not terrible either.
Austin has played both the infield and outfield in his profession career so far. For all we know he could possibly offer some versatility between RF and 1st ala Nick Swisher.
Austin had himself a pretty great AFL-stint before it abruptly ended when he collided with Greg Bird and suffered what appeared to be a bone bruise. From what I've read it doesn't appear to be as serious as the wrist injury that slowed down Austin's progress in 2013.
Anyway if Austin being sent to the AFL is any indication, it appears as though the Yankees still see promise in Austin. At this point the Yankees' previous draft strategy of going after high risk high reward guys out of high school is gone and sooner or later Austin (as well as Williams and Heathcott to an extent) will just be remnants of that bygone era but I'm sure the Yankees will take anything they can still get from what's left. Hopefully Austin continues to progress and makes it to the bigs and doesn't have to suffer the fate of having the system pass him by.

Received On: 11/15/2014

I've heard stories of just how cool Austin is and finally experienced it first hand when I saw that he also signed the bonus card I sent to him as a gift for me.
Hopefully Austin makes a full recovery and sees some time in the bigs next year. After all, the Yankees have outfield issues that won't disappear even with Chris Young and Eury Perez in the mix.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

2014 TTM Count: 228


Thursday, November 13, 2014


As some of you may have heard, Francisco Cervelli (the guy this blog was named after) has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Justin Wilson.

Needless to say I'm pretty saddened by this. Cervelli is a fierce competitor with a great personality and immense passion for the game. He is an above average backup catcher (both offensively and defensively) and would probably even be a starter for terrible/mediocre teams. He was a homegrown product and was also a fan favorite amongst Yankees fans, which is quite an accomplishment given how most backup catchers are often completely ignored and how ignorant Yankee fans can be. In a way this move was sort of inevitable given how the Yankees had three catchers competing for the backup catcher job. But inevitable or not, it still hurts :'(.

In exchange for Cervelli the Yankees got reliever Justin Wilson. I already know I'll be biased against this guy regardless of how well he performs (and yes, I'm aware of Wilson's talent). Not just because he was traded for Cervelli but because he could also be a potential threat to the all-home grown Yankees bullpen. I don't want aliens from the 29 other farm systems in the bullpen anymore when the Yankees have the five-headed monster (and a few other guys) waiting in the wings.

So so long Cervelli, good luck in Pittsburgh. Hopefully you'll be reunited with fellow ex-Yankee Jose Tabata in Pittsburgh at various parts of the 2015 season.
And for those of you who are curious I will (sort of) continue to collect Cervelli. I don't hate the Pirates and wouldn't mind having his post-Yankees era cards in my collection. If Topps chooses to release a Cervelli card at all that is. Now that he's no longer with the big market Bankees and with the small market Pirates, it'll probably be a miracle if he gets a Topps Update card between now and when Cervelli hits free agency.

Also, before I forget, I looked at the feedback I got from you guys yesterday and I've gone and renamed my blog.
Everybody, I welcome you all to the not-really new and barely improved, Torren' Up Cards :). Grammatically it doesn't make sense but much like the classic 80's hit Take One Me, it sounds great doesn't it? Hopefully I'll be able to use this name a lot longer.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :). Also appreciate the players you like on your team while they're still there, you never know when they'll be out the door. #RIPCervelli

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Torren' Up Cards

So now that the baseball year is mainly over (the Arizona Fall League, and various winter leagues in Latin America are still going on) everybody and their grandmothers are doing year-in review posts for their favorite players/teams/farm systems etc... and I was going to do one as well, but gave up halfway through the post.
So instead I'll talk about one thing that's made me very happy recently. The "emergence" of Luis Torrens.

By that I don't mean that Luis Torrens finally became a good player. No that happened a long time ago. What I mean is that LUIIIIISSSSSSSSSSS has started getting more praise amongst prospectors doing those year-in-review posts. I mentioned a while back that he was picked as the fourth best prospect in the New York-Penn League by Baseball America. I forgot to mention that he's currently the tenth best prospect in the Yankees organization on's list. And now I'm going to bring up that he was also ranked ninth on Baseball America's Top 10 Yankees prospect list.
It's pretty surprising to see that it took this long for people to take notice of his greatness considering how he was basically the best international free-agent prospect the Yankees brought in in 2013. In terms of buzz he was, at best, one of the names people threw in when they wanted to illustrate how deep the Yankees' catching depth was. I guess everybody was too busy calling the Yankees farm system one of the most depleted and worst systems in the majors to care. Still, better late than never. Or more accurately it's better that Luis gets praise after I've acquired most of his cards while he's still undervalued hehe ;).

Now I said I wasn't going to do a recap, but I figure I'd do a brief one for LUIIIIISSSSSSSSSSS to at least explain why he's started to get attention.
Torrens' 2014 season didn't exactly begin on a high note. He was aggressively moved up to Charleston but looked a bit overmatched and shoulder injuries got him sent down to Staten Island on a rehab assignment. He spent a few games in the GCL and then stayed in Staten Island for the rest of the year. And in all honesty the NYPL was a more appropriate level for the catcher who had just turned 18, despite the fact that that's still well below the average age in the NYPL. He thrived in Staten Island and was easily the team's best player and had the highest ceiling out of everybody on the team. During his time as a Baby Bomber (48 games) he had a 20-game hitting streak and was batting a little below .400 which earned him a nod to the 2014 NYPL All Star Game. He cooled off a bit and finished the season with a .339 wOBA and 115 wRC+ (SI Yankee stats only from fangraphs) which means that his overall offensive production was above average and he created roughly 15% more runs than the average player in the league. His .135 ISO was a pretty nice stat as well that at least backed up the reports about how Torrens' bat has some pop in it, something that scouts questioned back in 2013.

Torrens himself said that defense was a big priority in 2014 and all reports indicate that he did take huge steps forward behind the plate. A vast majority of scouts have raved about his defense even though he's only been a full time catcher for two years. Baseball America even picked him as the best defensive catcher in the Yankees org this year. According to Baseball Reference he gunned down 39% of would-be base stealers throughout the year (Charleston & Staten Island combined). And although his stint in Charleston wasn't exactly a bright one he did have a 1.000 fielding percentage and did not commit a single error. Of course those don't really mean anything given the small sample size but I just wanted to share those very pretty numbers. His fielding percentage as a Staten Island Yankee was a very good .992 BTW.

Overall Torrens did slow down during the final stretch (most likely due to fatigue) which most scouts were expecting since he hasn't filled out yet. Much like last year scouts will observe how much more strength Torrens can add to prepare himself for longer, more physically demanding seasons as a catcher. However his progress in 2014 indicates that his bat is coming along and he's at least proven that he does have a future behind the plate.

Oh and for those of you who don't know Torrens was originally an infielder (I think some referred to him as David Wright-lite) before the Yankees converted him into a catcher after signing him. Hence why he still works on his defense (especially blocking pitches and reducing passed balls).

Torrens will most likely start 2015 in either Charleston or Tampa. A lot of professional scouts say that he'll probably be in Charleston with a promotion to Tampa later in the season, but when I last spoke to Torrens about where he plans on going next he said he has his sights set on Tampa. And who knows, the Yankees might aggressively push Torrens again if he has a great spring.

While I admit that it's usually best to take minor league numbers and praise with a grain of salt (especially when it comes to the lower levels of the minors like the NYPL), I don't care. I'm all for calling Luis Torrens Posada's heir and saying that he'll join Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada in the proud lineage of great Yankees catchers. I'm calling it right now. He will succeed where Dioner Navarro, Francisco Cervelli (*tear*), Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, John Ryan Murphy and Gary Sanchez (too early?) all failed.

With that I'd like to ask you all this question. Should I just go ahead and rename this blog Torren' Up Cards?

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Card From... Amazon?

When you read the words "I picked this/these card(s) up online" you probably think of eBay, COMC or JustCommons. And until recently the first two sites were basically where my online pick-ups all originated from. Then last week happened and I picked up this on Amazon.

This is a Red Prizms parallel of Luis Torrens from 2013 Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks. It's numbered 82/100 and it's very shiny.

I'm still not sure how I found this. I guess I was bored and decided to see if Amazon had any of the Torrens cards I needed and by sheer luck I found this. Four dollars later (shipping fees included), this baby was mine. With this I've obtained two sixths of the Torrens 2013 PPPDP rainbow and three of the other four I need are on my radar (for now).

Moving on, I'd like to take this time to make an announcement. A while back I mentioned that I would be hosting another contest, unfortunately I'll have to cancel it. I will host a contest eventually, but it'll probably be sometime in early 2015. The reason for that is that I just don't have any decent prizes to give away right now, so I'll have to wait until I get some kick-ass cards worthy of being prizes.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Two Years Later, Some Progress...

This year I somehow managed to make progress on a lot of tasks that I had started but never finished in Japan. I managed to finish off the 2012 Sega Card Gen set and I also managed to pick-up a 2009 Konami BBH Derek Jeter rare foil card, two things that I didn't think would ever happen after I came back to the US.

I also managed to make some progress on one more project that came to a screeching halt nearly two years ago.

Japan, like any country, has it's fair share of perverts as evidenced by the vast number of weird fetish porn it's produced. Japan is also a place that loves trading cards. So somewhere along the line somebody came along and decided to print attractive women on cards. Fast forward to today there are close to a dozen different sets released every year from telephone cards to gaming cards to ordinary trading cards that move quite a lot of units. Sex sells, forsooth. Now some of those sets are focused on one person. That person is usually an "idol" or at the very least some sort of model (fashion, swimwear, etc...).

Anyway I would go into more detail about those sets but unfortunately I don't have the will-power to do so. Plus I need to get this post back on track.

You all remember this particular lady right? She was laying down half-naked in my banner a few weeks ago before I switched it to the less-hot mess you see today.
Well in Japan she's a pretty popular model/actress/singer. I'd write out her name but I don't want people who google searched her to come here. Besides, you can see her name clearly written on the cards I'm going to show. Anyway she's so popular/attractive that she has SIX different trading card sets devoted entirely to her. She's not a part of six different sets like Benchwarmers, she's the sole subject of six different sets. All with base cards, short prints, autographs, relics, the works.

I picked up this relic card of her during the waning days of October on eBay (of all places). It's a piece of cloth that was once part of a get-up she wore when they were taking photographs for the base cards.

This is from her third set (released by a company called Produce in 2010), which was actually the first box of an idol card set I ever picked up. I couldn't help it, the store gave me a discount and it was right when my penis was still telling my brain what to do (actually it still does that). My "hit" was one of the relics in this subset and ever since then I've slowly been building it.  Out of the eleven cards in this relic set I had managed to obtain eight of them pretty quickly but had trouble finding the remaining three and I gave up. Two years later in another country, I found one.

Hopefully I'll be able to find the other two and complete the set one day but until then, I'll just wait and see what happens. At the very least I've witnessed that anything can happen first-hand now.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Monday, November 3, 2014

More Backstops

Got another batch of catchers in recently. Let's dive in shall we?

First up is Luis Alfonso (Saez) Torrens' first mainstream card here in 2014, a blue refractor parallel from the newly released 2014 Leaf Metal Draft. This one is numbered 28/50 and uses the same picture that Panini used for LUIIIIISSSSSSSSSSS' base card in 2013 Panini Perennial Prizm Draft. A picture which Panini and Leaf most likely purchased from Four Seam Images.
Interestingly enough I had my eyes set on the base/normal version of this card but some sniper outbid me at the last second by going fifty cents over my max bid. Unfortunately for whoever set that sniper, my max bid was a sky-high $20, roughly quadruple what Luis Torrens autographs usually go for, so they most likely ended up overpaying. And to put things in perspective, I was able to add the blue there for $10.50 (shipping included). I'm winning so much that people call me Charlie Sheen #datedreference.

Next is the purple version numbered 18/25.
This fantastic specimen was sent to me by frequent trader Matt, the guy who runs the fantastic blog Bob Walk The Plank. He suddenly emailed me out of the blue and asked me if I was interested in this card. Which I was and we struck a deal, although in hindsight I probably do owe him a few more cards.
According to Beckett, I have two sixths of the Luis Torrens 2014 Leaf Metal Draft rainbow now (plates excluded). I should be tempted to go after the rest of the pieces but in all honesty I'd rather not. I don't need another big semi-expensive project on my hand. Especially after I've let most of the key pieces slip by already. But despite that I'm extremely grateful that I have this in my possession. Thanks Matt :)!
BTW, Matt recently got himself a local minor league team, a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate at that, known as the West Virginia Black Bears. They're a New York-Penn League team that's going to fill the void left after the departure of the Jamestown Jammers which can only mean one thing, a good old fashioned rivalry between the Staten Island Yankees and the West Virginia Black Bears on this blogosphere. Bring it on! ;).

Next up is Trent Garrison, another former SI Yankee that I had the pleasure of meeting.
Trent H. Garrison was drafted by the Yankees in the 28th round of the 2013 MLB Player Draft and is the twin brother or Taylor Garrison who was also drafted by the Yankees one year earlier. Stat-wise Garrison was good in 2014 but not really that great, although to be fair when you're in an organization loaded with catching depth it's tough to make a name for yourself. But he is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. For whatever it's worth he improved his walk-rate immensely in 2014 and also improved his on-base percentage.
Interestingly enough midway through the season Trent got reunited with his brother as Taylor Garrison spent some time with the Tampa Yankees. Trent currently has a wife and two kids, graduated college with a 3.0 GPA, likes Bull Durham and his first job was a pizza maker at a restaurant.

Wesley Taylor Wilson had an interesting game this season. On May 16th, Wilson played a big role in a 18-inning long marathon between the Tampa Yankees and the Palm Beach Cardinals. In that game Wilson caught the first 14 innings but came in to pitch the next four innings. He faced 13 batters, struck out three batters and held the Cardinals scoreless. Interestingly enough by that time the Cardinals were also having a position player pitch for them. Cardinals third baseman Bruce Caldwell pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless relief before allowing an unearned run to Dante Bichette Jr. and gave the Tampa Yankees a 7-6 walk off win.

Next up is a signed 2014 Pro Debut card of former Yankees farmhand, Peter Robert O'Brien.
Now one interesting thing about this card is A). the photo has already been used for O'Brien's 2012 Elite Extra Edition card and B). actually uses a picture of O'Brien as a Staten Island Yankee.
Don't believe me? Check out the patch on O'Brien's left sleeve. It is the SINY (Staten Island New York) patch. Plus the original photo, which can be found on Four Seam Images, explicitly states that it was taken during O'Brien's time as a Staten Island Yankee.
So this isn't a Tampa Yankees card of O'Brien, but instead a Staten Island Yankees card of O'Brien. I'll have to do something about that logo on the lower left-hand corner but I'll take what I can get.

And of course we have Peter O'Brien again. I really do wish he was still in the Yankees organization.
His unclear future at the plate aside, he has a ton of potential. And all that potential comes from his power. You wanna know how much power this guy has? For most of 2014 the only hitters in all of the minors who had more homers than him were Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo. That's how much power he has.

So those were some of my newest catchers.
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

Saturday, November 1, 2014

OT: 10th Anniversary

Although I'm a little late on this, I just found out that one of my favorite albums of all time just celebrated it's 10th anniversary. That album is,

Hot Fuss by The Killers.

I was going to write a long post about how great this album is but every draft ended up making me look like a wannabe music critic who just comes off as a pretentious snob so I'll just say this.
I like this album, and it's ten years old now. Here's to another ten.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).