Wednesday, October 28, 2015

2015 Topps Phillies

2015 Topps #687
2015 Topps #309
2015 Topps #51
2015 Topps Update #US204
Almost five years ago, I started the process of composing a series of posts on the Phillies cards found within each of the Topps flagship sets dating back to 1951.  With this post on the 2015 Topps Phillies cards, I'm finally current and I'll continue this series as long as this here blog is still chugging along.

The Set
2015 Topps #420 (Back)
Number of cards in the set:  Topps super-sized its set in 2015, with 350 cards each in Series 1 and Series 2 and an all-time high 400 cards in the Update Series.  That's 1,100 base cards and easily two binders worth of nine-pocket pages if you're ambitious enough to go that route.
My very brief thoughts on the set:  I really like it.  It's so different from anything Topps has put out as its flagship set over the past decade and I appreciate the foil-less text on the fronts of the cards.  If I were to over-analyze the design . . . there's quite a lot going on here.  We've got color gradients, random line swiggles, some small white circles under the team name, the bottom border fading and bleeding into the bottom of the player's photo and a semi-transparent target around the team logo.  If I were to not over-analyze the design . . . it's pretty cool.

The backs are also easy to read and they have some personality to them, unlike the card back designs from the prior four years.

2015 Topps #481
2015 Topps #420
2015 Topps #233
2015 Topps #662
2015 Phillies
Record and finish:  The Phillies hit rock bottom in 2015, and their record of 63-99 was their worst mark since the 1969 season.  Finishing 27 games behind the Mets in the division, their record assured them the #1 pick in the June 2016 amateur player draft.
Key players:  Odubel Herrera, a Rule 5 pick from the Rangers who had never played above Double-A before this season, led the Phillies with a .297 average.  Ryan Howard led the team with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs, but hit a lowly .229.  Maikel Franco established himself at third base hitting 14 home runs in 80 games before a broken hand shortened his season.  Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Jeff Francoeur and Andres Blanco were all pleasant surprises offensively.

On the mound, and after Cole Hamels was traded to the Rangers, the most reliable starters were rookies Adam Morgan (5-7, 4.48 in 15 starts), Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.59 in 13 starts) and Jerad Eickhoff (3-3, 2.65 in 8 starts).  Aaron Harang (6-15, 4.86) satisfied his role as an innings-eater.  Ken Giles was fantastic out of the bullpen with 15 saves and a 1.80 ERA over 69 games.

Key events:  The Phillies were sellers following the All-Star break, trading away Jonathan Papelbon (to the Nationals), Hamels and Jake Diekman (to the Rangers), Ben Revere (to the Blue Jays), and most painfully Chase Utley (to the Dodgers) for a boatload of prospects.  In his final start with the Phillies, Hamels threw a no-hitter against the Cubs on July 25th.  Manager Ryne Sandberg quit the team on June 26th, unable to put up with the losing any longer.  Third base coach Pete Mackanin took over on an interim basis, and was named the permanent manager late in the season.

2015 Phillies in 2015 Topps
Who's in:  The expanded set size led to only 31 Phillies cards, up two from last year's 29 and up one from 2013's 30 cards.  There's a great short-printed, photo variation card available for Utley featuring him on the dugout steps of Citi Field during a more peaceful time.  There's also a short-printed Phillies card in the updated series featuring Rally Squirrel II, the second squirrel to interrupt a Phillies-Cardinals game.  (This incident took place back on June 19th.)
  • Cards of the eight starting position players - 7 cards
#233 Carlos Ruiz (c), #51 Ryan Howard (1b), #481 Freddy Galvis (ss), #309 Maikel Franco (3b), #420 Cody Asche (lf), #687 Odubel Herrera (cf), #US204 Jeff Francoeur (rf)

Hernandez, who had a great season filling in all over the infield, was inexplicably omitted from the Update Series.
2015 Topps Update #US146
2015 Topps #10
2015 Topps #560
2015 Topps Pro Debut #166
  • Cards of the starting pitching rotation - 4 cards
#US146 Aaron Harang, #10 Cole Hamels, #560 Jerome Williams, #218 David Buchanan

I'm not sure how either Morgan or Nola could have been omitted from the Update Series, but they both were.  Nola at least has a card in the 2015 Topps Pro Debut set, but that features him with the High-A Clearwater Threshers.
  • Base cards of players who played with the Phillies in 2015 - 13 Cards
#118 Domonic Brown, #123 Ben Revere, #143 Jonathan Papelbon, #163 Chase Utley, #553 Grady Sizemore, #561 Ken Giles, #662 Darin Ruf, #663 Jake Diekman, #US84 Sean O'Sullivan, #US95 Elvis Araujo, #US166 Severino Gonzalez, #US205 Andres Blanco, #US318 Phillippe Aumont
  • Base cards of players who did not play with the Phillies in 2015 - 4 Cards
  • Team card - 1 Card, #441
  • 2014 Baseball Highlights cards - 1 Card, #659 Jimmy Rollins and Mike Schmidt
  • 2015 National League All-Star cards - 1 Card, #US240 Jonathan Papelbon
The team card features a post-game handshake line from 2014 with Byrd and Brown front and center.

2015 Topps #561
2015 Topps Update #US205
2015 Topps #118
2015 Topps Update #US95
Who's out:  See my commentary above.  Catcher Cameron Rupp, who received the bulk of the playing time in the second half behind the plate, was left out.  Rookie Aaron Altherr was also omitted.
Phillies on other teams:  Not counting the players who left the Phillies during the season, there are no 2015 Phillies on other teams.
What's he doing here:  Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Phillies in 2014 and missed the entire 2015 season due to injury, has no business receiving a card in this set.

For the first time in several years, I have to take issue with Topps' Phillies player selection.  With so many rookies making their debuts in 2015, there was quite a crop of Phillies prospects Topps could have featured in the Update Series.  Instead, we received Phillies cards of O'Sullivan (1-6, 6.08 ERA in 13 starts) and Aumont.  The Aumont card is especially annoying since he was released in June by the Phillies, signed by the Blue Jays organization and then released by them prior to the end of the season.

Cards that never were candidates:  And there's a lot . . . Nola, Morgan, Hernandez, Rupp, relievers Justin De Fratus, Jeanmar Gomez and Luis Garcia for starters.  Prospects acquired in trades who could have feasibly had cards in the Update Series include Eickhoff and Darnell Sweeney.

I recently received an e-mail from reader/Phillies fan Burnell who informed me there were several variations of 2015 Topps Phillies cards to be found within the Topps Bunt app.  I have yet to venture into Topps Bunt world, but after seeing some of the scans that Burnell e-mailed to me, I might have to give it a try.  Courtesy of Burnell, I'm going to have another post up soon showing some of the 2015 Topps Phillies variations to be found within Topps Bunt.

Favorite Phillies card:  I love the Rollins/Schmidt card just because it features two franchise icons celebrating Rollins ascension to the franchise's all-time hit king.  If I had to pick a favorite player card, it would be a tie between Hamels and Utley since these are last Topps Phillies cards as active players.

2015 Topps #163
2015 Topps Phillies #PHI-1
2015 Topps Chrome #100
2015 Topps #163B
Other Stuff
Variations:  Utley is the winner here, with three different photos used across three different sets. The photo of him in a throwback uniform was also used on his Topps Opening Day Franchise Flashback insert card.

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