Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shinnosuke Ogasawara & The Japanese Autograph Market

Out of all of the Dragons I've been blogging about on here, one of the few I talked about in the past was Shinnosuke Ogasawara. Which of course means that he was the only Dragons autograph I was unable to acquire.

Ogasawara is one of the Dragons' top pitching prospects (although his prospect status is pretty much gone) and one of the few players the team could call exciting.

As such, finding an autograph of his for a decent price was tough, at least in the winter of 2016-17. I remember Ryan (of This Card is Cool) telling me that his autographs on Yahoo Auction (which are generally much cheaper than via stores) go for 30,000 yen. That's approximately/over $300 in USD. So yeah no, I'm not paying an amount that could get me a Bryce Harper autograph.

P-Town Tom (of Eamus Catuli!) once asked me if the autograph market in Japan is cheaper than it is in the US. The answer is yes and no. The key (according to some shop employees) is that rookie autographs during a player's rookie year are expensive. After that they tend to plummet due to the hype dying down and also the supply going up as the player signs more as his career progresses.

So an Ogasawara autograph may have been $300+ last year, but by the next time I go to Japan chances are they've crashed down to Earth and I can acquire one for a fraction of the price. Of course it's a gamble but better to gamble on a cheaper price down the line than spending a lot of money on something and watch the value tank. The only exceptions to this have been players who almost never sign (like Masahiro Tanaka) or Shohei Ohtani. Or if you're basically at God status like Sadaharu Oh.

Even though I don't have an Ogasawara autograph, I do still want to see him succeed. The Dragons don't have a lot going for them and they suck at developing players, it'd be nice to see them actually deliver on a pitcher with a lot of promise. As opposed to watch players flush their potential down the toilet.

Ogasawara's currently recovering from having surgery done on his left elbow so his season debut won't be until mid-to-late May at the earliest. The Dragons stink so it's not like they're gonna be in a rush to bring him back anyway.

Anyway right now I have a list of names on my "Dragons autographs to acquire" list for when I return to Japan in the future. Ogasawara is right near the top. After that are other top prospects I missed like Yu Saito, Toshiki Abe, Yuya Yanagi, Yoda Kyoda, Yusuke Kinoshita and Masami Ishigaki. Sure, that shouldn't be a strain on my wallet at all (it will most likely).

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ode To A Dodgers Prospect (2017 Ed.)

It's that time of the year folks, the time where I let out my closet Dodgers fandom for a bit and write about a Dodgers prospect worth keeping an eye on.

This year's ode is about Dodgers right-handed pitcher, Yadier Alvarez.

Yadier Alvarez was signed in 2015 as an international amateur free agent as part of the Dodgers' bold "sign everybody in Cuba" strategy. Alvarez was seen as one of the best international free agents in the signing class and is still just 20 years old.

Video by Fangraphs

Alvarez is armed with a fastball that can reach triple digits. He also has a slider, curveball and change up. All three of those secondary pitches are currently work in progress pitches but if all goes well, the fastball and slider may be plus plus pitches, along with a plus curveball and average change up.

Alvarez impressed many in 2016 by refining his command and learning to take control of his pitches as the season went on. Even when he was promoted from rookie ball to low-A ball he still managed to keep his command in check and sustained his very good strikeout-to-walk ratio.

2016 was a massive success for Alvarez, and the Dodgers were very glad to see that his progress was better than they had expected. Of course the road ahead is still very long. The key for Alvarez will be continuing to work on his fastball command, refining his secondary pitches, and adding a little more body mass to his lanky 6'3, 175 pound frame.

As it stands right now, Alvarez is the Dodgers' top pitching prospect with the graduation of Julio Urias and the departure of Jose De Leon. He presents a high upside, and also fairly high risk return. Yadier may go on to be a very dominant number two starter (behind Kershaw) or a power reliever. I'd assume he falls somewhere in between like a third starter (behind Urias).

Either way, the Dodgers (and their fans) should monitor Alvarez's 2017 very closely. 2016 was a step in the right direction, 2017 will be a test about whether he takes it to another level. If he passes it, expect a 2018 MLB debut.

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


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Took A While But...

...I've finally acquired my first Luis Torrens card here in 2017.

Yes, I've finally acquired another Bowman Chrome (!) autograph of Luis Torrens. This time the refractor version.

These refractor autographs can be tricky because the key to acquiring them is waiting for the right price. I consider the price point for Torrens' 2013 BoChro autographs to be in the $3-5 range. Maybe a buck or two more (I'm including shipping and handling in these dollar amounts BTW).

Luckily I managed to get this for just the right price. Less than $10. I've seen some listings go for $20+, which is not a good price at all.

These refractor autographs are numbered to 500 and this just happened to be the 467th of it's kind.

I'm now up to 84 different Luis Torrens cards with this card.

With Spring Training pretty much underway, I expect more reports about Torrens to come out of Padres camp in the upcoming weeks. There's a lot of speculation about what Torrens' Padres tenure will be like but right now a lot of signs point to the Padres giving Torrens every chance they can give him for a big league job, but also having a plan in the event that that doesn't happen (because it likely won't happen this year).

If nothing else the last few weeks have brought us our first official pictures of Luis Torrens as a Padre. Seems weird, but oddly fitting.

Torrens has already mastered the art of the post-Yankees beard which makes him look ten years older than he actually is.

The Padres stink so having him as a backup catcher may actually not be the worst thing for the team. That said, the Padres do also have to consider other Rule 5 guys they picked up like Allen Cordoba and Miguel Diaz. Both are just as close (as in not very) to the big leagues as Torrens is. The Padres will have to get crafty or send back a few picks to their original teams. They can't trade Quakenbush for everybody.

At this point I've punted my Yankees fandom card to the newly discovered Earth-sized planets and I just hope Torrens makes it to the big leagues at all. A part of me even hopes he stays with San Diego. Although that's primarily because I tend to have a glorified image of California even though I've never been there (not even for a vacation) and I know the reality isn't what I'm hoping Cali is like.

So yeah, make Torrens the Padres legend happen Padres. If it means we see Torrens at the big league level, I'm all for it.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Shota Suzuki

The Chunichi Dragons have a ton of pitchers I'm pretty interested in seeing develop, and Shota Suzuki is one of them.

Mainly because I have an autograph of his numbered to 60.

Shota Suzuki was another top 10 Dragons prospect I had heard about prior to obtaining this autograph and I'm hoping the hype pays off.

Shota Suzuki was drafted by the Chunichi Dragons in the first round of the 2013 NPB Player Draft. The very first professional baseball player to ever come out of Seirei Christopher High School, Suzuki first gained attention during his third year of high school when he threw 28 innings (with 37 k's) in three games, and had enough potential that the Dragons gave him the coveted ace number (number 18).

Suzuki's arsenal consists of a fastball that can reach 143 kilometers/hour (aprox. 88 mph), as well as a curveball, change up, slider and fork-ball. Pretty much all of which are work in progress pitches. Suzuki's key to reaching his potential as an ace lies with the development of his secondary pitches. Suzuki's also taken to trying to build his stamina by trying to gain more muscle/weight. Rumor has it that the threw over 2,000 pitches in spring training last year alone. Woof, my arm hurts just reading that. Oh yeah, he even threw 309 pitches in a inter-squad game the other day too.

Suzuki's seen limited action in his cups of coffee with the big league Dragons. Being used in a relief role more than as a starter. The jury is still out on Suzuki, I have high hopes for him. But the Dragons kinda suck at developing players so I'm hoping a more competent team can take him in (get it done Cashman!). He has the arsenal and the easy delivery, what he doesn't have is all of it putting together. Also, take it easy on the arm.

One last tidbit I found looking up stuff about Suzuki is that his pre game ritual is to always clean his room in his dorm. Not a bad ritual actually.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Shota Tomonaga

It's been a while, but here's another of the many Dragons autographs I picked up. Actually, one of the first I picked up in the form of the Shota Tomonaga above.

This is another Mizuno Epoch autograph from 2015 that's limited to 23 copies.

I acquired this in a box of Dragons autographs singles at Mint Shinjuku when I was stopping by with Ryan (of This Card Is Cool). An autograph of a name I knew from top 10 Dragons prospect rankings for 1,000 yen (aprox. $10) limited to 23 copies? Sold!

Shota Tomonaga was drafted by the Chunichi Dragons in the third round of the 2014 NPB Player Draft. Upon being drafted Tomonaga was given the jersey number 1, the first to receive/use the jersey number since Kosuke Fukudome back in 1998.

Tomonaga's key attributes appear to be his speed and his glove in the outfield (ideally centerfield). Tomonaga hasn't hit as consistently as you'd like (even in the minors) but many do see him as a potential table setter atop the lineup if he can ever adjust. I have heard whispers that some see him as the next Ryosuke Hirata so it's possible. If nothing else he does take a lot of walks and see's a lot of pitches.

Interestingly enough Tomonaga went to high school with Tomoyuki Sugano of the Yomiuri Giants (although Tomonaga was one grade below). Tomonaga hit his first professional ichigun (big league in the NPB) hit off of Sugano in 2015.

So yeah, a pretty intriguing prospect autograph to have around. At least for me. We'll see how his career pans out in a few years.

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

The 2014 Rookie Class...

...of this section of the blogosphere.

It seems so long ago (because it kind of was) but it's only been three years since 2014. This blog was started on the last day of 2013 but I'm kind of lumped in with the 2014 blogging rookie class by default (although I suppose you could argue that I'm not in the class either).

I remember how 2014 was dubbed a blogging renaissance. There was a big wave of blogs that popped up that year and I'm pretty glad to be part of such a legendary rookie class. Or if I'm not, I'm at least glad to have been there to see them emerge.

The ROY out of this rookie class (according to Sooz's BIP Awards show) was Off Hiatus Baseball Cards. A well deserved honor. Tony himself just passed the three year mark the other day. Tony is still the only Brewers collector I trade consistently with. Not that there are too many of them out there (even if there are, sorry but all of my Brew Crew cards are reserved).

What makes the OHBC blog more appealing to me is how the posts delve into music. I like music, I like hearing all sorts of music from the past and OHBC is a great way to discover music that was before my time, or really just off my radar. I would incorporate more music on my blog but I just can't do it consistently.

The rookie in our rookie class who would later go to probably be the best of us (the HoFer who didn't win the ROY) is likely Bob Walk The Plank. I mean really, out of all of us Matt has really taken this section of the blogosphere by storm. Just chuck Bucco's his way and he'll likely send back some really cool cards that you collect too. All before he has a blogpost about what you sent him go up in like three days at that.

For me, a mark of a good trading partner is when I'm always running out of cards for the other party. And let me tell you, I'm always out of Pirates cards. Always. If it's black and yellow, it's gone.

Here's our first international rookie, The Card Papoy. I don't know if I can say that he's the only baseball card collector in France, but he's definitely the only French trading partner I have. Kevin's also basically become my go-to dumping grounds for Blue Jays cards. In return I usually ask for stuff you can only get in France like postcards.

I mean look at this haul, this is great! Thanks for the postcards Kev!

Now the rest of the rookie class is a little bit fuzzy to me because I haven't had as many interactions with the following blogs (I've never even left a comment on some of these blogs) but I know many of you have traded with them so I believe they deserve to be noticed. Also, I may accidentally forget some blogs in this rookie class too. Feel free to let me know so I can add them later.

The rookie class' token Cubs collector, Wrigley Roster Jenga. Tony and I speak pretty regularly on Twitter (and occasionally on our blog's comments). If my Cubs weren't all automatically postmarked for P-Town Tom I'd initiate my first trade with him.

The rookie class' token Rays collector, I Love The Smell of Cardboard In The Morning. ILTSoCITM was launched in December so it really came near the tail end of the year. Technically Tim is more of a Yankees collector, but he collects Rays too and this list needs a token Rays collector so the honor goes to his blog. He and I really need to trade sometime (I have a pile of Rays I need to get rid of).

The rookie class' token Tigers collector, A Cracked Bat. Julie just recently came back from an extended blogging hiatus. I haven't traded with her yet, but I have seen her around our corner of the blogosphere.

The rookie class' token Astros collector, Remember The Astrodome. Ever since the blog went up, the Houston Astros' rebuilding efforts have finally started to pay off. Coincidence? I think not.

The rookie class' token Yankees collector, My Life In The Sports Card Hobby. The stuff shown on this blog is on the higher end of the collecting spectrum, but pretty much all of the cards showcased on it are impressive.

The rookie class' token Cardinals (with a strong Yadier Molina flavor) collector, St. Louis Cardinals Cardboard (formerly Yadier Molina Baseball Cards). With Alex Reyes' 2017 done before it started, the Cardinals' top active prospect right now might be Luke Weaver.

The rookie class' token Royals collector, Royal Card Review. I'm embarrassed to say I first stumbled onto this blog while doing research for this post. Sorry bud. On the plus side, the year after the blog was launched the Royals finally won the World Series.

The rookie class' other token Blue Jays collector, Toronto Blue Jays Collection. Home to one of the most impressive Joe Carter collections I've ever seen.

The rookie class' token Expos collector, Not Another Baseball Card Blog. Mike only blogged once in August of 2014 but that's good enough for this class. He generally collects Expos, Jays and Canadians.

The rookie class' token everything collector, Cardboard History. When I say everything, I do mean everything. Billy's blog covers more than baseball cards (in fact it skews more towards things that aren't baseball cards) but it's a fun blog regardless with all sorts of neat info about the world of basketball cards, hockey cards, NASCAR cards and even planes.

The rookie class' other token Yankees collector, The Italian Completist. This rookie class boasts a collector in France, Canada and Italy, bow down to it's global power. TIC is a Yankees blogger whose got a lot of good content on his page. Check him out when you have the time.

The rookie class' token Rockies collector, Infield Fly Rule. With Cards from the Quarry's disappearance, Adam has probably taken over as the go-to blogger to send Rockies cards to.

I'm pretty sure I'm missing more but that's the most I could find as of this moment. If you started your blog in 2014 and didn't see it on here, let me know and I'll add it ASAP.

Looking at the total list of blogs in this rookie class, I'd say this is the best rookie class this section of the blogosphere ever had. Feel free to disagree, but please explain why by presenting an argument for why another rookie class is better :).

As always thanks for stopping by. The past three years have been a ton of fun, here's to many more :).

Take care.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

It's That Time Of The Year

Well we're over a week into February now, that means that the season we all consider to be very important is on it's way.

That's right.

Tax filing season!

Oh yes, it's that time of the year where people begin to do their taxes or continue to blow it off until the last minute. The due date isn't for two more months (look it up yourself, don't take my word for it) but the sooner the better in my book. Yes, for the record, I'm the one in my family who balances the checkbook on a semi-regular basis. I actually just finished balancing it before writing this post and now I feel really depressed.

Anyway, I'm not a certified public accountant, but please know that pets and your neighbor's kids are not dependents. Or at least they can't be unless they have a valid SSN, valid citizenship, have lived with you for a few months (in the case of the kid), and won't file joint tax returns. And even then you're running the risk of fraud, so don't do it.

Oh and before I forget, spring is almost here too. Spring Training is just around the corner and full squad tryouts are set to begin soon. So there's that too. So file your taxes before baseball distracts you for the next nine months.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My First Cheki Autograph

One of the type of "hits" that has always eluded me in Japan was the チェキ (cheki) autograph. A cheki is basically a polaroid/instant film photograph. They can usually be found in a lot of sets available in Japan, I personally associate them more with idol card sets but I do know a few baseball/sports sets have them too.

Admittedly the idea of instant photographs being hits is kinda funny/terrible but I do like the novelty of it. Especially if there's a signature on it.

Enter my first cheki autograph ever. I had my friend Ryan over at This Card Is Cool pick it up for me on Yahoo Auction for less than I thought it'd go for.

The girl is 21 year old fashion model, 近藤・瑛茉・ジャズミン(Kondo Emma Jasmine) who just goes by Emma Jasmine. Miss Jasmine is half Japanese and half Australian, and she's been involved with the entertainment industry since her youth but started modeling in her teens. Now her career has started to really take off as she's started appearing on more magazine covers and has even made television appearances.

I actually also asked Ryan to get this magazine with her on the cover last year too. This is the September 12th edition of a monthly magazine called "Young Magazine" filled with Japanese comics (manga's), but the covers (and back) are always of a bikini-clad model. Japan takes "sex sells" to the very edge of the line it can go without crossing it (by their standards).

The first few pages of the book are a few glamour shots of the cover girl followed by lots of comics. I've skimmed through most of the comics and I thought they were kinda meh (note, the only manga/anime I've ever really enjoyed were the Yu-Gi-Oh! animes/mangas). But if you look at the last page, you'll see a promotion for something on the lower left hand corner.

Yup, the cheki I got was a special promotional item from this very magazine. You'd just write in a postcard with some personal info and if you're lucky, you'd win this free instant photograph with an autograph and inscription.

Apparently these were limited to 10 copies and the seller must've been one of the lucky few.

The cheki came with this letter written by the company that runs Young Magazine to congratulate the lucky winner.

Back of the cheki

Because Japan still does through the mail promotions (depending on the venue), I can only imagine how much tougher it is for people who're fans of anything popular to try and be a super collector of anything. Still, I'm glad to finally own a unique piece of autographed memorabilia.

The other day I went to a Japanese supermarket and saw Ms. Jasmine on the cover of a Japanese fashion magazine (with more clothes, although the cover was a closeup of her face) so I'd say she's well on her way to making a name for herself as a top model in Japan.

Anyway, now I can finally say I have blogged about an autograph of a famous female person. It's taken far too long for me to accomplish this milestone, but hopefully there'll be more to come.

So yeah, thanks a ton to Ryan for all of the help, I'll prepare another mountain of stuff I don't need to dump onto you.

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

Monday, February 13, 2017


Well I did it folks, I actually put up a page for what I collect and what I'm after. You can find it here. The link is on the right sidebar BTW, the third page under "My Collections."

Unrelated Scan

Technically that page has been on my blog since day one but it quickly became obsolete around mid-2014. On that page is the definitive list of all of the players I collect cards of, the teams I collect cards of, and the list of the foreigners who played baseball for the Chunichi Dragons. I mainly created it so that I could easily look at the list at future card shows and future visits to card shops.

One glaring omission is my 1979 Topps project. At the moment the project is on hiatus. Keeping track of any and all progress involving entire sets that have hundreds of cards is tough. The whole grueling process has forced me to realize just how easy being a player collector is. I tip my hat to those of you who've ever completed these 600+ card sets before. The closest I came to such a feat was the Sega Card Gen set, and that only had half of the total cards the 1979 Topps set has.

Related Scan

I also set up an official page dedicated to my Takuya Kinoshita collection (second page from the top in the "My Collections" column). That's right folks, it truly is Torrens 2.0. Right now it is very empty and I'm regretting not picking up more cards in Japan when I had the chance, but hopefully I can create a Kinoshita collection that rivals that of my Torrens collection. It probably won't because I was willing to go to extreme lengths for the Torrenterion Collection, but we shall see what happens.

Unrelated Scan Again (Because It's Cool!)

Right so with this out of the way, I think I can officially say that my goal of creating a definitive list of players I'm collecting is done. Thank goodness. Now to neglect the pages for months because I'm lazy.

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

$5 On Cards

The other day I made my way to Chameleon Cards & Comics in Downtown NYC. It's a nice little shop that serves the basic needs of what a shop should do.

I was curious to see if they had any 2017 Topps cards in their dime boxes (they didn't) but I walked away with much more instead.

The shop has started selling custom repacks. Like the 1975 Topps repacks above.

Unfortunately for Night Owl Cards' heart, I didn't buy those repacks. But I did buy some other repacks for a buck each. As a guy who didn't spend a penny on any packs of Bowman Draft, these other repacks were a great way for me to accumulate some Bowman Draft cards. I also plucked out $3 worth of stuff out of the dime boxes. So let's see what the $5 total got me.

Oh heck yeah. I needed this Nolan Martinez from 2016 Bowman Draft. Glad I got it for less than a dime.

Former Chunichi Dragons slugger Matt Stairs on a great picture from Fleer Ultra.

The heck? Indiannapolis Native Americans? These were randomly in the repack and come from a time when this affiliate was in the Milwaukee Brewers org.

More MiLB team issues! This time of the Reading Fightin Phils.

Oh now here we go. Some Multi-Ad Sports cards from the 2000 Staten Island Yankees team set.

And this cool checklist card from the 2004 team set. This was obviously taken on the ferry terminal five minutes away from the stadium.

The SIY mascots. Scooter (far right) is still around, the other middle one pops up from time to time. The far left one has disappeared completely.

Dafuq? More MiLB team issued Baby Bombers? I'll take it! Aaron Rifken spent years toiling in the minors as a Yankees, Mariners and Rockies prospect. Sam Bozanich played for Yankees and Pirates affiliates and last played in indy ball in 2004.

Craig Brazell! Brazell played for the Mets and Royals during his time in the states but I really remember him the most as one of the gaijin sluggers for the Hanshin Tigers. He and Matt Murton were quite the combo. Brazell played for various teams in various leagues before retiring in 2015. It was definitely cool to get a MiLB card of the future-Tigers slugger.

Always cool to pull a Hall of Famer in these cheap repacks.

Two pitchers who'd go on to have notable tenures with the Yankees (for different reasons).

Old school V-Mart! Back when he could still catch!

These are all Bowman prospects I'd recommend those of you who like these four teams keep an eye on. Krilloff has gotten a lot of prospect love from people in my circle, I know people are really high on Jefferies too, I actually got to meet Logan Ice last year as a member of a loaded Mahoning Valley Scrappers team, and finally Cal Quantrill (son of former Yankee Paul Quantrill) is very good and a sign that we're all old.

One of the repacks contained these 2016 Topps cello packs. Each came with expired coupons for Topps products (curse you!).

Out of these I plucked out these Yankees. I finally know what Kirby Yates looks like. Very cool to see mainstream rookie cards made of farmhands like Barbato, Gamel (now with Seattle), Green and Mullee (now with Chicago NL).

And that was my first visit to a card shop in 2017. Got some nice stuff for TTM fodder (and Zappings). You've all been warned.

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