I kept my word: I waited til Christmas morning to bust open the little treasure box otherwise known as 2013 Topps Heritage High Number.
Before taking you on the grand tour of the product, I figured I'd just spoil the suspense and show you the prized "Real One" autograph that was inserted one per box. Didi Gregorious wouldn't exactly be my first choice (read: Wheeler, Fernandez or Puig), but it's still a sharp looking card and nice enough signature.
I will say this much for this year's autograph checklist: some of the players chosen for autos (Didi included) did not have regular non-auto cards in the 100-card base set. That includes Manny Machado, Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt, to name a few. Pretty interesting, and somewhat maddening, if I may say so.
I'm not sure if I did better or worse or perhaps the same as last year when I hit a Brian Dozier auto. Oh well, it matters little since the autographed card wasn't what drew me to this collection in the first place.
Rather, I'm in it for the base cards, which include oodles of fantastic rookies and familiar vets who were not featured in the 500-card regular set. This is the type of stuff set collectors and OCD cardboard completists like myself live for.
So let's you and me take a journey through all 100 cards and see what this year's edition of High Number Heritage has offered those of us who needed to scratch that itch...
Wow, what a start to the High Number set! Impact rookies up the wazoo, including L.A.'s Ryu, San Diego's Gyorko and Washington's Rendon. And, hey, they got the numbering correct this year, too! [Ed. Note: In case you missed it, last year's High set oddly began with card number H576 and continued from there.]
For me, this is the real highlight of the first page. The NL's Rookie of the Year and a true superstar in the making, Jose Fernandez and his cardboard stock are on the rise. Aside from a certain Dodgers outfielder who we'll encounter a bit later, I was most excited to own this card of the young Cuban righthander.
A peculiar and especially annoying trend begins to permeate the second page: that is the random grouping of players from the same team in succession. Two Sox, two Tigers and two Twinkies on this page. Stuff like this has been happening with way more regularity in the past decade or so with many of the Topps sets. I don't know why this bothers me so much, but I appreciate not having duplication of teams on the same page. [Ed. Note: A reason I've shied away from completing Fleer sets from the '80s and '90s, but that's a story for another day.]
My pick for the best of the page is Boston's Jackie Bradley, Jr. It wasn't the most auspicious debut in the bigs for Bradley, but with Jacoby Ellsbury out of the way the youngster may finally get to show his goods for an extended period of time. He's got the tools to be a star, especially with the glove.
Chavez, De La Rosa and Uribe are familiar veteran names. They're players who could have easily been candidates for the regular 2013 Heritage set.
The showstopper of the lot is most certainly Arenado. The Rockies rookie arrived to the Majors in late April and did more than hold his own. A Gold Glove at third base and almost nightly appearances on the Web Gems portion of Baseball Tonight are just the tip of the iceberg for Arenado, who also batted .267 with 52 RBIs in 2013.
An NL East party broke out on this page and nobody told Henderson and Zunino. Too many Marlins and Phillies on one page for my liking, though Yelich could be a future star. Atlanta's Teheran isn't a slouch, either.
He's not even a Met anymore, but I had to highlight at least one of the two Mets cards included in this set. The other, as you will see in short order, will kinda get overshadowed on his page. Buck was a popular Met and a good teammate during his time in Queens. He was shipped to the Bucs in August along with Marlon Byrd, who I'm surprised didn't make this set, by the way.
An infestation of Orioles on this page, which clearly gets high-jacked by Brett Cecil's trendy spectacles. Also, can you believe that Hank Conger is the lone Halo representative in this set? Shoutout to Marcus' Padres, as well, because that's a pretty neat Kyle Blanks card.
How in blazes did Chris Davis not get into the regular 500-card Heritage set?! I didn't even realize he was left off the guest list til I was browsing through these cards. That makes two years straight that "Crush" was relegated to the High Number population. I'm going to make a bold prediction and say that Davis not only gets into 2014 Heritage, but is knighted with SP status.
This marks the second straight page bereft of rookies. That streak will come to an end soon, I think, so don't freak out. A quad of White Sox overtakes the page, but All-Star Delabar and the ageless Ibanez get fair attention, too. Interesting that Iglesias' July 30th trade to the Tigers isn't reflected on this card.
Koji-mania! The star of the Boston bullpen and the MVP of the ALCS, Uehara certainly deserves his own spotlight. And, yes, there is that very famous chain link fence that graces the background of virtually every Red Sox card from the past couple years of Heritage.
Four little Indians...or something. Melancon and Dirks were in last year's regular Heritage set, but got bounced into High Number heaven this year. By the way, a third consecutive page without rookies. Eek!
Somebody please correct me here, but is this not Giambi's first Heritage base card since 2009?! He had a subset, flashback-y thing in 2010 Heritage, but not since his appearance in the 2009 High Number set as a Colorado Rockie have we seen the ol' Giambino. A pretty cool pick to be in this year's High set, if you ask me.
Rookie cards make a comback in a big way on this page, especially my man Zack Wheeler who gets center square treatment on this page. Super-veteran Tejada and Oakland up-and-comer Donaldson make pretty neat bookends to the Mets phenom.
We've already given props to the ROY of the Senior Circuit, so we've gotta do the same to AL's best boy, Wil Myers. It's only fair...and it just goes to show you that I'm not a total homer fanboy of the Mets. Myers swatted 13 round-trippers to the tune of a .293 batting average for the Rays in 2013. He figures to be a big part of the Tampa Bay lineup for years to come.
Oakland and New York Yankee sensory overload here. Boone Logan and Austin Romine, really? Though, the Hafner card is great and the Colon card, too, especially since he's now on the Mets. Atlanta might have a future ace in tow with Wood, so that's a keeper in the center square.
It was a coin flip between Wood and Franklin for this spot, but the camo hat really put the young Seattle infielder over the top. It will be interesting to see where Franklin plays ball this year, as the addition of Cano along with a few other factors may make him expendable. Potential 20/20 status at shortstop could create some interesting trade demand.
Young Rays, veteran Rays, Rays with weird facial hair. You've got 'em all right here. Harang became a Met late in the 2013 season, while Asche showed Phillies fans some flashes at third.
Did you think I'd choose another? Last year's had-to-have card from High Number was Bryce Harper and this year's is Puig. I think we've probably seen this photo of the flashy young Cuban in some of the other Topps products, but I don't mind because I think it fits the Heritage vibe rather well.
A trio of Rangers rings in the final full page of 2013 Heritage High. This page also brings us the rookie card of Pittsburgh's young ace-to-be, Cole, as well as the lone San Francisco Giant in the set. Kinda surprised that neither Happ or Ziegler made the regular set.
Some analysts called Wacha the game's best pitcher down the stretch of the season and into the postseason. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who began the year in Triple-A. It's pretty cool to have Cole and Wacha sharing a page, considering these two guys could be going head to head in the NL Central for many years to come.
And here was have the final card of the set, and the last Heritage card of 2013. Gausman was the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft, and Baltimore moved him through their farm system at the speed of FedEx overnight delivery. He made his big league debut for the O's in late May. The LSU product has a bright future and is a fitting subject to grace the final card of the collection.
So, there you have it. At this point, it's tough to say which High Number edition I favor more: this year's or last. Of course, 2012's set gave us rookies of Harper, Darvish, Cespedes, and Middlebrooks among others. This year we've got Puig, Fernandez, Wacha and Myers. I suppose only time will which of the two ultimately wins out on star power.
In terms of execution, visual presentation and the overall checklist, I think I'd give the nod to 2013. While I loved last year's cards, the photography had a mostly drab, gray feel to it. This year we've got plenty of blue sky in the background. I will, however, hand out a few demerits to the '13 set because there are only two Mets cards, as opposed to four from last year. A minor note, but, hey, I'm a Mets fan.
I hope you've enjoyed the look at the cards. If this is your first look, lemme know what you think. If you did buy the cards and have already checked 'em out, lemme know what you think!