Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Autographs from Boston's Young Guns

As the Opening Day gets closer, I felt like sharing some autographs that I have collected over the past year from some of the Red Sox top young arms.

First, someone that every Sox fan should be familiar with, Clay Buchholz. After a rough 2008 in Boston, when he failed to live up to the expectations from his 2007 No-Hitter, Clay was sent to AAA Pawtucket to work on his pitching until the Sox felt that he was ready to handle Major Leagues competition. Buchholz was dominant in Pawtucket in 2009 and finally got the opportunity to join the Red Sox in late July to replace an injured Tim Wakefield.

Clay was a pretty good signer at Pawtucket, especially considering that he could have had a chip on his shoulder from being sent back down to the minors. I was 3/3 in getting his autograph when I tried, and they all came out pretty nice. I like this one best because of the way that he took up the whole card with his signature.

Next up, Daniel Bard. Bard is best known for being the 100-mph+ flamethrower out of the Red Sox bullpen and the heir-apparent closer if Jonathan Papelbon is traded or leaves in free-agency.

Although Bard spent less than 2 months in Pawtucket before being called up, I managed to get this 2008 TriStar Projections card signed one night after a game. He was very gracious and signed for the few of us that waited for him on a chilly April evening. On a sour note, I sent him a card last August TTM and have not gotten it back yet, but I haven't given up all hope yet.

Now it's Kelly Time. Casey Kelly is the uber-prospect that the Red Sox snatched away from the University of Tennessee, where he was recruited to play baseball and Quarterback for the Volunteers. Next, the Red Sox had to persuade Kelly to give up his desire to play shortstop in favor of taking the mound, where he has found much more success at Single A Greenville and Salem.

Kelly is expected to begin the season as a starter at AA Portland. I got this card signed at the Paw Sox Hot Stove Party in January, where Kelly was the main attraction and a great signer. Here's hoping that he makes his way to Pawtucket this season and continues to be an enthusiastic authographer.

Lastly, I have included two other pitching prospects who, although not as highly ranked as Kelly is, have shown very good stuff at times: Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa.

I am very bullish on Bowden, and think that he will become a very reliable 3rd or 4th starting pitcher for some team in the future, in the mold of Jeff Suppan. Michael has spent the last year or so re-tooling his delivery, and struggled at times last year, especially against MLB competition.

Nevertheless, I really hope that he can find a permanent home in some major league rotation because he seems like a very nice person. This is one of the 8 autographs that I got from him last season, and I am trying to get 1 of everyone of his rookie cards signed before he cuts me off.

Finally, Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa is interesting because last year was his first season of professional baseball. The Sox signed Tazawa straight out of the Japanese Industrial League and he was so impressive that he began the year at AA Portland, became an EL All-Star, and was earned promotions to Pawtucket and Boston. Junichi seemed to wear down towards the end of the last year, and finished the season on the DL. In the offseason, he worked on stength and conditioning to hopefully improve his endurance for a full-season of pitching.

For a highly-regarded prospect whose autograph sells for oodles on eBay, Tazawa is a fantastic signer. Unfortunately, his only card out last year was his Portland Sea Dogs teamset until this TriStar Obak came out after the season ended and an Upper Deck Ultimate Collection was released in January. I got this signed card signed at the Paw Sox Hot Stove Party in January.
Hope you enjoyed my collection, please tell me what you think about these prospects, your autographs or anything else in the comments section.

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