Good: The quality of the prospect checklist is staggering. The dual autograph pairings of blue chip prospects with retired MLB stars add a whole new dimension to the set that TRISTAR sets have lacked in years past.
Bad: The design doesn't do the set justice and is the only thing preventing it from receiving a higher - or even perfect - rating.
The Bottom Line: 2009 TRISTAR Prospects Plus is the company's best baseball card offering to date. It has enough 1st and 2nd round 2009 draft picks packed into it to make even the most hardened of prospectors salivate upon seeing the set's prospect checklist, and enough depth, variety and value to captivate the most discriminating of MiLB purests. Prospects Plus is a slam dunk pure and simple.
Ok, so the design isn't THAT bad, but it stands out like a sore thumb when contrasted against the exceptionally high quality of the set in every other area that matters. We reserve the 5 out of 5 review rating for sports card sets that are for all intensive purposes perfect, so this shortcoming proved to be the achillies heel that prevented 2009 TRISTAR Prospects Plus from earning the first 5 star score in The Cardboard Connection's history.
A design related improvement worth taking note of is the increased thickness of the card stock. One of my main knocks against 2009 TRISTAR Obak Baseball was the thin and flimsy feel of the cards. The increased thickness in Prospects Plus gives it a decidedly more professional feel.
I have to confess that due to a number of time intensive improvements I've been working on for The Cardboard Connection, on top of some pressing issues in my personal life, I didn't pay much attention to 2009 TRISTAR Prospects Plus until a box of it arrived in the mail from TRISTAR last week for me to review. The evening I received the box I decidedly to break a few packs open while I let me and my daughter's dinner cooled down after taking it out of the oven. The handful of packs I had planned on opening quickly gave way to a few more, then a lot more, and before I knew it I was starring at an empty box (as well as a cold dinner).
I was genuinely blown away by the breadth of top tier prospects in Prospects Plus. Of the first three packs I opened, every single player I pulled was a 1st round draft pick except one (who was a high 2nd rounder). I figured it had to be a fluke, and prepared myself for the hodge podge of late round draft pick fillers that commonly dominate the landscape of Bowman and other prospect heavy baseball card sets. What I proceeded to find was most refreshing - more early round talent. The small minority of late round picks I came across were each accompanied by detailed player biographies in which TRISTAR explained why they deserved a spot in the set.
I almost invariably find TRISTAR products to be good values, but 2009 TRISTAR Prospects Plus goes a step further to what I would consider to be a great value.
Since first securing the Minor League Baseball trading card licensing rights in 2006, TRISTAR has made massive strides as a baseball card manufacturer. The first three years of their hobby tenure consisted of periods of small but steady improvements, which were then followed by periods of stagnation. Then came 2009. The year when TRISTAR finally got "it"
In years past, the Texas based company seemed content to produce cookie cutter card sets based of what they thought collectors would probably respond to. Along the way they produced several good sets, but no great ones. This was largely a byproduct of their seeming unwillingness to deviate from the traditional qualities that have defined Minor League Baseball card sets in the past. MiLB cards, unlike their MLB counterparts, have been defined by a lack of change, creativity, and innovation. Classic and Score Board introduced the first MiLB Certified Autograph cards in the mid 90's, which Just Minors later perfected and produced on a larger scale.