Monday, February 9, 2009

Who Are These Guys?

One of my favorite parts of team collecting is going to card shows and sifting through boxes of 5 and 10 cent cards to see all the cards that came out during my long time away from interest in baseball cards. When I went to a show this past month, I was pretty amazed at how many players from this decade that I've never heard of that have Cardinals cards. Of course, they all seem to have fit the "prospect" bill at one point or another, at least in a card company's mind, and it's doubtful that most of them ever got to wear the Birds on the Bat in a counting game, let alone appeared for any major league team at all. I thought I would dig deeper on a handful of the cards that I picked out at the show.

- Chance Caple (2002 Topps Chrome): Caple, a starting RHP, was a 1st round draft pick in 1999, but never made it past A ball in 6 seasons, all with the Cardinals. He only made 3 appearances (all starts) in his final season, 2004, and had decent numbers so I can only assume that his career ended due to injury.

- Chris Haas (2000 Bowman): Haas was another late 1st rounder, picked way back in 1995. He played the corner infield spots and it appears that the Cards finally gave up on him after the 2000 season. St. Louis was pretty well set at 1st base, with Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols on the way, with Tino Martinez bridging the gap. Haas bounced around a bit after he left the St. Louis system but never made it past AAA and last played in 2003.

- Jeremy Lambert (2002 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition): Perfect picture of the unknown prospect as Lambert is seen here carrying the ol' equipment bag. Lambert, not to be confused with Chris Lambert, was a late round (16th) pick who spent 7 years in the Cardinals system, mostly in the bullpen. He spent one final season in the Boston system at AA before finally, presumably hanging it up after 2004. At the time he appeared on this card, he was coming off of a productive second half of a season with AAA Memphis and had earned a spot on the 40-man roster, though he never got the call.

- Scotty Layfield (2002 Leaf Rookies & Stars): Layfield was a 20th round pick, but rose to AAA in his 5th season in the Cardinals system. He then proceeded to drop out of sight, resurfacing a few years later in independent league ball.

- Bill Ortega (2002 Bowman Chrome): Ortega was an undrafted outfielder from Cuba who didn't possess a lot of power or speed. He is, however, the first on this list who made it to the majors. He spent two season at AAA and earned at 5 game, 5 at-bat stint in September of 2001.

- Justin Pope (2002 Upper Deck): Pope was a 1st round pick in 2001, but was off to the Yankees system by 2003 where he stayed until last season. He spent 2008 at AA Reading, the Phillies affiliate. He is the only active player of the bunch so far. He began his minor league career as a starter but is strictly a reliever these days.

- Joe Rogers (2002 Topps Chrome): Rogers appears to be one of the more curious stories. An undrafted free agent, Rogers was a lefty starter who left the Cardinals for the Boston system in 2004. He then apparently bounced around with some independent league teams only to resurface as a Memphis Redbird last year for 3 appearances (2 starts.) Still, I'd never heard of the man.

- Esix Snead (2001 Fleer Futures): Esix Snead was the inspiration for this post. He has to rank up there with Stubby Clapp on the all name team, and I had never heard of him until I found a few of his cards a few weekends ago. Snead actually has his own Wikipedia page, so I'll let you check him out for yourself.

- Clint Weibl (2002 Topps): Weibl was a 37th (!) round pick in 1996 and spent 8 years in the St. Louis system as a right-handed starter. He wound up with the Brewers AAA affiliates for a couple of years and then vanished from baseball after 2005.

- Blake Williams (2001 Topps): Williams was a 1st round pick who couldn't make it out of A-ball and only lasted four seasons as a right-handed starter in the Cardinals system. He wore the socks the right way, though. So many pitchers...

- Justin Brunette (2001 Ultra): I actually know who Keith McDonald was, sort of, so I'll just focus on Mr. Brunette. He was a 20th round pick in 1997 and lasted 6 years as a lefty reliever, including two season in the Mets system. He did make 4 appearances with the big league Cardinals in 2000.

Well, now I'm slightly more educated in obscure one-time fringe prospects. I hope you are, too. To be honest, I can't wait to get more cards like these. It's stuff like this that keeps me interested in crawling back to card shows.

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