2017 Spring Training TTMs Batch #1

So I sent out my first batch of Spring Training TTMs yesterday. For this batch I sent a total of 20 requests. 13 to Oakland Athletics, 2 to Houston Astros, 2 to Philadelphia Phillies, 1 to San Diego Padres, 1 to Minnesota Twins and 1 to Atlanta Braves. Quite a few of these players have a good track record for responses. A couple have no track record, so who knows if they’ll sign. Unlike last year, I’m not sending out a super long shot, like Mark McGwire. I took a chance and it didn’t work, but I only lost 1 card that I have a lot of so it’s not really a loss.

Here’s the breakdown:

Oakland Athletics
Sean Doolittle
Kendall Graveman
Jesse Hahn
Liam Hendriks
Ryan Dull
Jharel Cotton
Sean Manaea
Marcus Semien
Jaycob Brugman
Mark Canha
Jake Smolinski
Bruce Maxwell
Ryon Healy

Houston Astros
A.J. Reed
Kyle Tucker

Philadelphia Phillies
Pat Neshek
Matt Stairs

San Diego Padres
Travis Jankowski

Minnesota Twins
Hector Santiago

Atlanta Braves
Sean Newcomb

Sean Doolittle and Marcus Semien are very good at signing. I have received successes from Doolittle in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Semien in 2015 and 2016. 6 of the others on the list I have received successes from in the past. I hope to get a better success rate than what I had last year. 50 percent is a great return rate from active players, but I always hope for better.

Right now, I am planning a second Spring Training batch. I’m not sure how many I’ll send with this one. I’m always open to suggestions. So, if you know of some players with good track records, please comment below. I’m especially interested in guys who were in either the 2016 Topps Pro Debut or 2017 Topps, but I’m not limited to those.

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2016 Spring Training TTM Returns

With the 2017 Spring Training getting under way (combined with my absence from this blog), I thought it would be a good time to recap my 2016 Spring Training TTM successes. Last year I sent 2 batches of TTMs to Spring Training camps. The first was on February 16th and included the following players:

Mark McGwire
Sean Doolittle
Stephen Vogt
Billy Burns
Mark Canha
Jed Lowrie
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez
Jesse Hahn

The second batch was mailed on March 1st and included the following players:

Marcus Semien
Jesse Chavez
A.J. Reed
Eric Sogard
Joe Wendle
Chris Bassitt
Max Muncy
Ron Washington
Juan Samuel

In total I sent out 20 requests. To date, I have received back 10 successes. A 50% success rate. Not quite what I hoped. Here is the list again with the date I have received the success.

Mark McGwire (long shot, I know)
Sean Doolittle – March 7, 2016
Stephen Vogt
Billy Burns
Mark Canha – March 1, 2016
Jed Lowrie
Renato Nunez
Kendall Graveman
Daniel Robertson
R.J. Alvarez – March 18, 2016
Jesse Hahn – April 1, 2016
Marcus Semien – March 10, 2016
Jesse Chavez
A.J. Reed – April 4, 2016
Eric Sogard
Joe Wendle – June 24, 2016
Chris Bassitt – March 25, 2016
Max Muncy – March 10, 2016
Ron Washington
Juan Samuel – March 10, 2016

I will update this list should I receive any more returns.

In spite of only a 50% return rate (so far) I still plan to send out a bunch of Spring Training TTMs this year. I currently have a batch of 20 ready to go. This batch contains 13 A’s players, 2 Phillies, 2 Astros, 1 Padres, 1 Twins, 1 Braves, but those details are for another post.

Athletics get Jed Lowrie back

On Wednesday Jed Lowrie was traded by the Houston Astros to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Oakland’s number 30 prospect Brendan McCurry. Jed returns to the Athletics after signing a 3 year deal with the Astros after the 2014 season. He played in 290 games with Oakland during the 2013 and 2014 seasons and batted .271 with 74 doubles and 125 RBIs. In 2015 Jed was limited to 69 games with Houston.

The arrival of shortstop Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve at 2nd base, made Lowrie expendable in Houston. Barring any subsequent moves. in Oakland he will have the chance to platoon with Marcus Semien at shortstop, Brett Lawrie at second and Danny Valencia at third.

Brendan was drafted in the 22nd round of the June 2014 draft. In 2015 he split time with the Stockton Ports and Midland RockHounds. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 50 games, converting 27 out 28 save opportunities. McCurry was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League this year and posted a 4.73 ERA in just over 13 innings. He was selected as the reliever on Oakland’s organizational All-Stars for the 2015 season.

Jacob Nottingham: MiLB.com Fan’s Choice Breakout Prospect

Every year MiLB.com gives the fans the opportunity to choose their “favorites” and “bests” with the MiLBY Awards. This year the fan’s choice for Breakout Prospect was Jacob Nottingham, the No. 8 Prospect for the Oakland Athletics. In the MiLBY’s fan vote, Nottingham received 37% of the votes. This was 24% ahead of the runner up, Detroit Tigers’s No. 1 Prospect Michael Fulmer.

Before 2015, Nottingham had a couple of average years in the Houston Astros Organization where he hit .247 in 2 seasons at the Rookie level. In 2015 it all turned around for Nottingham. He ended the season with .316/.372/.505 slash line and 17 home runs with 3 teams at 2 levels. To cap off a great first half, Nottingham was selected to represent the Quad Cities River Bandits at the Midwest League All Star Game.

Nottingham’s performance was noticed by the Oakland Athletics’s Front Office as they traded pitcher Scott Kazmir on July 23rd to Houston for Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden. At the time of the trade Nottingham and Mengden were playing for the Lancaster JetHawks, who coincidentally were beginning a 4 game set against the Stockton Ports in Lancaster. Both were assigned to the Stockton Ports where they finished the season.

Having watched Jacob Nottingham play the second half of the season with the Stockton Ports, I can say that he can easily develop into an impact player. While he has a good bat, Nottingham’s is defense is a little rough. I would not be surprised if Oakland moves him to the outfield at some point next year.

TTM Update: 6 successes

In the past 8 days I have received six TTM successes. Five successes were from the batch sent out the week of September 28th. Four of these successes will be featured in this post.

The first was from Ernie Broglio. Ernie is best known for being the key piece the Chicago Cubs received in the trade that sent Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals. This is arguably the worst trade in MLB history. Lou would go on to have a Hall of Fame career. Meanwhile Ernie, who was a good pitcher with the Cardinals, did not improve upon his success and eventually faded out. Ernie signed 3 of 3 cards in just 5 days. Thank you Ernie!

1959, 1960, 1966 Topps cards autographed by Ernie Broglio

1959, 1960, 1966 Topps cards autographed by Ernie Broglio

My next success was from former Negro League player and Chicago Cub George Altman. George started his professional career in the Negro Leagues in 1955 with the Kansas City Monarchs. He would make his MLB debut with the Chicago Cubs on April 11, 1959. He would go on to play 9 season in the Majors with the Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets. George was an All-Star in 1961 and 1962. He signed a 1960 Topps, 1 penny sleeve (which should have been 1967 Topps) and included a signed business card in 8 days. Thank you George!

Signed items from George Altman

Signed items from George Altman

Bobby Meacham was my next success. Bobby played parts of 6 season (1983-88) with the New York Yankees. His career never really took off the way the Yankees had anticipated. He wound up often injured and he finished his career with a .236 batting average. Bobby signed 3 of 3 cards in 9 days. Thank you Bobby!

1987 Fleer, 1988 Topps, 1988 Score cards signed by Bobby Meacham

1987 Fleer, 1988 Topps, 1988 Score cards signed by Bobby Meacham

The final success featured in this post was received from Davey Lopes. Davey is currently a coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He was a 4 time All-Star and played 16 seasons with the Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros. Davey signed 1 of 1 in 10 days. Thank you Davey!

1987 Fleer card signed by Davey Lopes

1987 Fleer card signed by Davey Lopes

Now I know some of you may be thinking: If Davey Lopes played for the Athletics, then why did you send an Athletics card? Quite simply, one of the primary sets I am trying to get autographed is the 1987 Fleer. I will be sending more requests to him as he really only signs 1 per request. So eventually I will have an Athletics card (or two) signed by Davey.

The other 2 successes with be featured in their own separate posts.

TTM Batch: September 28, 2015

Now that baseball season is over, I can turn my attention to one of my favorite hobbies, collecting TTM autographs. As much as I try, it is too difficult to regularly send out TTM requests during the season. Quite often I am going to games to collect autographs in person or I am listening to or watching games. So here is my final batch of the regular season.

Jim Robertson – Philadelphia Athletics – 2 cards
Jose Lind – Pittsburgh Pirates – 2 cards
Ernie Broglio – St. Louis Cardinals – 3 cards
George Altman – Chicago Cubs – 2 cards
Davey Lopes – Houston Astros – 1 card
Fred Stanley – Oakland Athletics – 3 cards
Bobby Meacham – New York Yankees – 3 cards
Craig Paquette – Oakland Athletics – 3 cards
Ben Zobrist – Oakland Athletics – 1 card
Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers – 1 card

This batch was sent out September 28th (7 requests) and 30th (3 requests). Note: The team listed is the team on the card, or on the majority of the cards I sent out. I will post updates as requests come back.

Billy Burns to Get 1st MLB Start Against Astros

In the series finale versus the Houston Astros, the Oakland Athletics will start rookie Billy Burns in center field. With Coco Criso still out with a neck strain Bob Melvin has said that Billy will start against left handed pitchers. Billy will be starting and leading off against the Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel.

Billy was called up from AA Midland RockHounds on Monday after the Athletics had to place Craig Gentry on the 15 day DL with a broken hand. He has played in both games of the series. He pinch hit on Monday night (o-1) and was a defensive replacement in Tuesday’s comeback win. This will be Billy’s first start.

Billy was acquired by the Athletics in the trade that sent reliever Jerry Blevins to the Washington Nationals. The Athletics took a long look at Billy during Spring Training. He played in 26 games and hit .306 (22 for 72) with 8 walks and 10 stolen bases. For the RockHounds Billy was batting .250 (91 for 364) with 44 walks and 51 stolen bases. In 2013 with the Potomac Nationals, Billy hit .315 (170 for 444) with 72 walks and 74 stolen bases.

TTM Success 03/11/2014: Jed Lowrie

On Tuesday March 11th, I received my 7th overall TTM success from Spring Training. I received signed cards from Oakland Athletics shortstop Jed Lowrie. This success came from the second batch I sent out.

Jed really came into his own during the 2013 season. He was originally acquired from the Houston Astros to be a backup to Hiroyuki Nakajima, a Japanese shortstop the Athletics signed between the 2012 and 2013 seasons. However an injury to Nakajima at the end of Spring Training opened the door for Lowrie and he took full advantage of it. Jed batted .290 with 45 doubles, 15 home runs and 75 RBIs in 154 games. The only player on Oakland’s roster to play in more games was third baseman Josh Donaldson who played in 158 games.

Jed Lowrie signed 2 2013 Topps Update cards for me. He also included a business card promoting his photography website: www.JL4photography.com

TTM Autographs of Jed Lowrie

TTM Autographs of Jed Lowrie

Sonny Gray dominates the Astros

On Thursday afternoon Oakland Athletics rookie pitch Sonny Gray took to the mound and blanked the Houston Astros. The Athletics won by a score of 5-0 and Sonny pitched 8 innings of shutout ball en route to notching his 1st career MLB victory. Sonny was in command of his pitches as he allowed a mere 4 hits while striking out 9.

This was Sonny’s 4th appearance for the Oakland Athletics and only his second career start. On the season he is 1-1 with a 1.00 era and has 20 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched.

The 23 year old is a former #1 draft choice of the Oakland Athletics out of Vanderbilt College in the 2011 draft. Sonny was called up to the big leagues for the 1st time in July and made his 1st relief appearance on July 10th against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sonny’s 1st big MLB start took place on August 10th versus the Toronto Blue Jays. In that game Sonny took the loss while only allowing 2 earned runs.

The Nashville native was 10-7 with a 3.42 era in 20 games with the Sacramento RiverCats this year. Sonny was a PCL All-star selection and was chosen to start the game. However he could not because he was with Oakland at the time.

Hopefully Thursday’s start is what we can come to expect from Sonny Gray throughout his career. He is a young arm and only going to get better.