Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2018 Epoch "Rookies And Stars" Team Sets

I wanted to do a quick post about the "Rookies And Stars" team sets that Epoch is publishing this year.  I don't know for sure if they are planning these sets for all 12 teams but they have already released sets for two teams (the Carp and the Lions) and have announced three others (the Buffaloes, the Dragons and the Swallows).  From the size of the base sets (90 cards) for these sets I suspected that Epoch was doing a "comprehensive" team set for each team - by that I mean that there would be a card for every player on the team's 70 man roster plus the manager.  BBM's annual pack based team sets are "comprehensive" team sets (as opposed to their smaller team box sets).  Epoch's team sets from last year were also not comprehensive.

I was curious about something with the sets though - since typically the 70 man roster for each team doesn't actually have 70 players on it, how were they getting a base set of 90 cards out of it?  BBM for the last 4 years has done their team sets with 81 card base sets - 70-ish cards for the players and manager and 11-ish cards for the mascots and various subsets.  There was no indication on the pre-sell information on Epoch's sets that explained how the sets would be made up (or at least nothing that I understood).  So I was going to have to wait until the sets got released.

The Carp set got released the weekend of April 7th and Jambalaya had the cards on-line as usual.  And I had my answer - the set only features 69 individuals - 67 players plus manager Koichi Ogata and the mascot.  The set is numbered 1-69.  However there are 15 players who have multiple cards in the set - 9 "Stars" (Daichi Ohsera, Kris Johnson, Shogo Sakakura, Kosuke Tanaka, Takahiro Arai, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Ryoma Nishikawa, Yoshiharu Maru and Seiya Suzuki) who each have two cards and six "Rookies" (2017 draftees Makoto Kenma, Sho Yamaguchi, Atsushi Endoh, Takato Hiraoka, Shosei Nakamura and Atsushi Nagai) who each have three cards in the set.  As far as I can tell, none of the multiple cards are short printed "variants" like Epoch did last year.  Each card for a player has the same number along with the letter "a", "b" or "c" - so Shosei Nakamura's three cards are numbered 36a, 36b and 36c.  The Carp currently have six players on their ikusei squad (including three players taken in that portion of last fall's draft) that I wondered if Epoch would include in the set (BBM regularly included ikusei players in their team sets until 2015) but they did not.

Epoch released the Lions set last weekend and it's very similar to the Carp set.  The set also only features 69 individuals - 67 players plus manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji and farm team manager Tetsuya Shiozaki.  Once again the set is numbered 1-69 and there are 21 players with multiple cards.  There are four big differences between this set and the Carp set.  Number 1 - each of the 21 players who have multiple cards only have 2 cards each (which you could have probably figured out from the math - 90 minus 69 equals 21).  Number 2 - only the top three 2017 draft picks (Hiromasa Saito, Manaya Nishikawa and Sho Itoh) have multiple cards - the remaining ones have only one card each.  The other 18 players with multiple cards are all "Stars" - Neil Wagner,Yusei Kikuchi, Hayato Takagi, Fabio Castillo, Brian Wolfe, Tomoya Mori, Ginjiro Sumitani, Hideto Asamura, Shuta Tonosaki, Sosuke Genda, Hotaka Yamakawa, Takeya Nakamura, Ernesto Mejia, Takumi Kuriyama, Kazuo Matsui, Yuji Kaneko, Fumikazu Kimura and Shogo Akiyama.  Number 3 - there's no card for the Lions mascot(s).  Number 4 - there are cards for the two Lions ikusei players - Masato Saito and Wataru Takagi. 

Interestingly the Lions had made a trade during spring training where they sent Yosuke Okamoto to the Hanshin Tigers for Daiki Enokida.  Neither Okamoto or Enokida appear in this set so I'm betting the set went to press right around the time of the trade - Epoch had enough time to remove Okamoto (and replace his card in the set so they still had 90 cards) but not enough time to get a card done of Enokida.

Epcoh assigned the card numbers in the sets in the same style that BBM uses - first the manager, next coaches (if any) in order by uniform number, then pitchers by uniform number, catchers by uniform number, infielders by uniform number and finally outfielders by uniform number.  What this means is that it's likely that some teams will have identical checklists between the Epoch and BBM team sets.

The fact that the "Rookies And Stars" team sets look like they do further confirms to me that Epoch is really challenging BBM's place at the top of the Japanese baseball card market.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out the rest of the year.  Will Epoch possibly bring back the All Star or Nippon Series box sets?  Will they release a draft pick set to rival BBM's Rookie Edition?  Maybe one with something other than the standard "guts' poses for all the draftees?  I think it will be fun to see how this all plays out.

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