There might not be any baseball being played yet this year but that hasn't stopped the card companies from announcing new releases. Here's a quick list of some recently announced sets.
- BBM's annual "Icons" boxed set will be released next week. This year's theme is "Fireballers" - the pitching type, not the cinnamon whiskey - and has a base set of 36 cards (which you should assume means three pitchers per team). The Icons set always seems to me to be a way for BBM to get cards of rookies and players who've changed teams out a little ahead of next month's 1st Version set and this year is no exception. The set includes 2020 rookies (and 2019 1st round draft picks) Roki Sasaki, Masato Morishita, Junya Nishi and Yasunobu Okugawa. I think the only player in the set who changed teams over the winter was Daisuke Matsuzaka. Other players in the set include Tomoyuki Sugano, Kodai Senga, Takahiro Norimoto, Yasuaki Yamasaki, Kohei Arihara and Kyuji Fujikawa. In addition to the base set each box includes one "special" card that could be one of 12 "foil print" cards, 6 "2020 rookie" cards, 6 "foil sign" cards or an actual autograph.
- BBM also announced two more of their annual "comprehensive" team sets. The Hawks set will be out in mid-April and the Baystars set will be released in late April. Both sets will have 81 card base sets. The Hawks set has 66 "regular" cards for the manager and players along with a mascot card, a checklist card, two "Newcomer" cards and two subsets - "Your Smile" and "Splendor" - have an unspecified number of cards (although the total number of cards in the two subsets will be 11). The set will also have 30 insert cards split between "The Best" (9 cards), "Aegis" (3 cards), "Insight" (3 cards), "Majesty" (3 cards) and "Phantom" (12 cards). The Baystars set will have 69 "regular" cards for the manager and players, 2 "160 Club" cards, 4 "Sunshine Smile" cards, 3 "Heart & Soul" cards and 3 "Smash Hit" cards. There are 36 total insert cards split between four sets - "Stellar Role" (9 cards), "Next Man Up" (4 cards), "Splash" (5 cards) and "Phantom" (18 cards). The "Phantom" cards for both sets are serially numbered to 25 (I think). Both sets will also feature a variety of possible autograph cards, including ones for Carter Stewart in the Hawks set.
- For the third year in a row Epoch is publishing a flagship set called "NPB". At 444 cards the set is slightly larger than in previous years. There will still be 432 cards of active players (36 per team) but there will be 12 additional cards of OB players (which I assume will be one per team). There are three varieties of parallels for some of the cards - "regular kira" (72 cards), "silver foil" (48 cards) and "hologram foil" (24 cards). There are also 36 GEM insert cards and 60 autograph cards (48 active players and all 12 OB players). The set will be released on May 23rd.
- Epoch also announced the next two of their "Rookies & Stars" team sets. The Tigers set will be released on May 9th while the Baystars set will be out on May 16th. Both sets will have base sets of 36 cards. There is a parallel version of each card in the base sets. Both sets have a similar set of insert cards - "Uniform Number" (Silver, Gold or Team Color versions), "Metal Power" (Silver, Gold, Hologram), "Time To Shine Hologram" (versions A, B and C) and "Gem" (regular and Black - I think only the Tigers set has the Black ones). A bunch of these are serially numbered. There's also a boatload of possible autograph cards available for both sets.
- I haven't been able to find out much about it but it looks like Epoch is releasing a set called something like "Ichiro Suzuki-ORIX BlueWave Super Luxury Baseball Card Collection". I think this is going to be a "stratospherically high-end" set along the lines of last year's "Shohei Ohtani One And Only" set. All I know about the set is from this tweet (well, and this one announcing the set would be delayed from it's original May 1st release date) but it looks like there's only 250 boxes being produced. I suspect it's very expensive and will have lots of possible autographs. As the set name implies, Ichiro is only depicted as a member of the Orix BlueWave, not the Mariners, Yankees or Marlins. In addition it looks like there aren't any memorabilia cards included.
- Epoch is also doing their Topps Now-ish on-demand cards again. The first three Epoch One cards for 2020 were announced in the last day or so and feature Takashi Toritani signing with the Marines and two Hawks ikusei players (Shuto Ogata and Richard Sunagawa) getting promoted to the 70 man roster. Obviously there'll be more Epoch One cards issued when (and if) the NPB regular season gets to start up. Epoch apparently is still only doing the cards for nine teams this year although the roster changed a little. After including cards for the Carp the past two years they are doing cards for the Baystars instead (along with the Marines, Dragons, Hawks, Tigers, Fighters, Lions, Swallows and Giants). The cards are still 500 yen each and are available for three days only.
- And because I haven't mentioned the Baystars enough in this post, there's yet another Baystars set that's been announced. Hits (or TIC or whatever their name is - it's the guys who do the "Mini Colored Paper" cards) is releasing a set called "Baystars Used Ball" on May 23rd. It has a base set of 81 cards although it will only contain cards for 16 players. There are also a variety of parallel and authentic autographed cards available with the set.