Monday, May 11, 2015

#423 Ryan Klesko, Ivan Cruz, Bubba Smith, and Larry Sutton

About the Front: This is our first glimpse at the design for 1993's Top Prospects cards. In an interesting twist, Topps has selected one prospect per position from each minor league level, so you have some idea of how close the players are to the major leagues. They also chose to place these four player portraits over a background image of dirt, as a subtle way of telling you not to pin all of your hopes on unproven minor leaguers. Or maybe I'm reading too much into things.

About the Back: No minor league stats? Not even one line per player for 1992 or career numbers? That's weak sauce.

Triple Play:

1. Ryan Klesko was the only one of these four to have an appreciable big league career, batting .279/.370/.500 (128 OPS+) with 278 homers and 987 RBI in parts of 16 seasons with Atlanta, San Diego, and San Francisco. He was an All-Star with the 2001 Padres, as he bashed 34 doubles and 30 home runs, drove in a career-high 113 runs, and even stole 23 bases in 27 tries.

2. Ivan Cruz had cups of coffee with the Yankees (1997), Pirates (1999-2000), and Cardinals (2002), totaling 41 games. He was the first pro player ever interviewed by Night Owl, one of my favorite journalist/blogger types. In all, Ivan hit 281 home runs in professional baseball, which includes stints in Mexico and Japan.

3. Charles Lee "Bubba" Smith never reached MLB, but spent 16 years playing ball professionally. Some of his statistics from Mexican leagues are not available, but he clubbed at least 367 home runs, with a single-season high of 40 in 123 games for the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization in 1999. 61 of his 117 hits that year went for extra bases.

3a. Larry Sutton's big league career spanned from 1997-2004, but 111 of his 252 total games played came in 1998 with the Royals. Overall he batted .236/.302/.346 (67 OPS+) with 12 home runs and 78 RBI. Like Smith, he had a successful stint in Korea, leading the KBO with 35 dingers in 119 for the Hyundai Unicorns (!) in 2005.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: I absolutely didn't think that Ivan Cruz was within three years of the age of the other three men on this card. Maybe it was the mustache.

Bill James Said: Klesko - "A young, white Fred McGriff - a lefthanded power-hitting first baseman, capable of hitting 25-30 home runs in a season."

On This Date in 1993: May 11. Miguel Sano is born in San Pedro de Macoris, D. R. Despite missing all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery, the third base prospect for the Twins would still be listed as Baseball America's #13 overall minor league player entering the 2015 season.

1 comment:

  1. The first thing I checked on this card: Check Ivan Cruz's birth date. (surprise!)