Zach Duke – 2007 Upper Deck Future Stars

November 27, 2010

Future Stars? Really Upper Deck? Really?

Ever since I found these packs in the Target bargain blowouts (usually in the 8 packs for $9.99 cardboard that normally has a Heritage or A&G in it and then of course the 2007 Fleer Ultras in the back), I wondered about the name of this series.

Then, BA Benny ripped one, and in the comments I used my MST3K “Future War” line. (BTW – that episode is a must see. The movie is hideous beyond belief and the riffs by the ‘bots and Mike are sharp!)

But I really want to parse this thing out here a sec.

Let’s go with some definitions:

Future (adj.) -That is to be or come hereafter.

Star (n.) – A person who excels or performs brilliantly in a given activity, esp. a sport.

Ergo, future star is someone who will excel or perform brilliantly in the future, but is not necessarily one now.

So, who is in this series?

Well, some aging vets like Smoltz, Ortiz, Schilling, Thome, Griffey, Helton, I-Rod, Sheffield, Berkman, Guerrero, Kent, Damon, Giambi, Piazza, and Glaus. It’s now 2010, and really just Thome, Ortiz and Guerrero are active stars by the definition of stars.

Some of the future stars were guys who were in their prime or had stuff in the tank, like the Jones (Chipper and Andruw – oopsy on that one), A-Rod, Jeter, Young, etc. I can almost give them that, kinda, sorta, but to me a pack of ‘Future Stars’ should be good, young players – just getting up to arbitration eligible or just past “Super Two” status.

But the young players they DID choose, you have to wonder about the criteria.

Oh, I know they had a lot of inserts of “All-Star” Futures, numbered to 500, but those should have been the BASE of the set. Guys like Lincecum, Gordon, Cain, Verlander, de Aza. Those would have fit the criteria – yes some would miss but there is no sure thing in baseball.

But in the base set, you had guys like Conor Jackson, who had a decent 2006 as a young first baseman for Arizona. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that a first baseman with modest secondary skills (power and patience) would never be a star – especially in Arizona. Good player, yes. Star, no.

Jon Garland is another name on the checklist. He was coming off of back to back 18-win seasons. But, as for stardom he was never the ‘ace’ of the Sox. He was the third man in the rotation in the 2005 post-season, and in 2006 he led the AL in hits allowed. He never was going to be a marquee name, just a innings eater. And that’s what he is today.

Chris Duncan got on the checklist because he was on the World Series winners. But anyone who saw Duncan play the outfield knew that he was, well, um…horrific. How does -17 fielding runs above average in 2007 grab you? His numbers in the minors were rather pedestrian, and he was helped by LaRussa’s insane machinations. A ‘star’ isn’t a platoon corner outfielder, but Duncan was as a rookie and an astute observer could have seen that he was never going to be more than a platoon player. Now, were Rance Mulliniks or Gary Roenicke stars? No. Were they great platoon players? Yes. That was Duncan’s topside and it was obvious then.

And this season, while his brother Shelley is having somewhat of a renaissance in Cleveland (well, he was better than some of the other guys they trotted out there when Sizemore got hurt and they had to scramble the OF up big time), Chris was hitting .191 in Syracuse. Oof.

This leads us (FINALLY!) to the pictured card – Zach Duke, 2007 FUTURE STAR.

Do future stars get DFA’d at age 27?

Well, he is a pitcher, and you should know the rule that Baseball Prospectus put forth  (TINSTAAPP) – There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. So these things happen. People fall off the rails really quickly. For every Maddux, Smoltz or Glavine – there’s a Steve Avery waiting to happen.

But someone should have noticed this about Mr. Duke before calling him a “Future Star”:

1. He was playing for Pittsburgh. Since Schmidt and Neagle left and Francisco Cordova blew out his arm – the Pirates have ‘developed’ guys like Josh Fogg, Kip Wells, Oliver Perez and Ian Snell. Oh, Tom Gorzelanny’s OK but now he’s a Cub, and Paul Mahlom and Ross Ohlendorf could be the next Mike Maroth’s.

2. His fantastic 2005 was promising, but 2006 threw cold water on that. The NL hitters adjusted and he gave up 255 hits and 116 runs.

3. Did I say he was playing for Pittsburgh?

Anyway, unless Upper Deck really needed a Pirate in the set, Duke wasn’t anyone’s idea of a ‘future star’. He was perhaps a ‘future All-Star representative for a crappy team that has no one else even remotely resembling a representative.’  Or perhaps a ‘future innings eater that can throw 200 innings of league average baseball if he’s got a good defense behind him’.

Well, in 2007, the NL hit .359 against him. He was hurt, you say. But in his CAREER the NL has hit .305 against him. When he was named a “Future Star” by Upper Deck, he was coming off of a season where opposing batters hit .302 against him.

He’s not really blowing it past ’em, is he?

At any rate, while I am collecting this set (it looks cool, why not?) Duke is everything that is wrong with the name “Future Star”.

And now, he’s a Diamondback, fresh off a 8-15, 5.72 season. Going to the Diamondbacks, though, means that he’ll play for a 70-win team, not a 50-win team.

That may perk up his spirits.




2 Responses to “Zach Duke – 2007 Upper Deck Future Stars”

  1. sanjosefuji Says:

    Zach Duke was a beast in the PSP version of MLB06… I almost invested in him, just based on the game. I guess I’m glad I didn’t.

  2. I’m actually trying to finish the base set on this dog of a set. Cracked a box about a year ago out of boredom more than anything else, and fell 7 cards short (and, of course, one of them had to be the Pujols card…).

    The auto I pulled from the box was the mighty Levale Speigner.

    I’m still missing cards 1, 15, 18, 52, 69, 86 and 97, for anyone wondering.

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