Minor League Oyo
If you haven’t encountered them yet, Oyo Sportstoys are basically like little Lego minifigures, but with sports team licensing. Oyo’s intersection with Minor League Baseball came early in the company’s development, as teams began to offer minor league players in Oyo form for sale at stadium gift shops or given away as promotions. For a few years, Oyo was also selling minor league figurines on their website. 2014 was the year that the most minor league Oyo were produced, and the decline was pretty sharp after that peak. It must not have been the most profitable arm of their business–Oyo no longer sells minor league products directly. The toys are still made for minor league teams to give out as promos, though these are not available for public purchase except for after-market sales such as on ebay.
I first discovered Oyo around 2013 or 2014, and at the time they were selling directly from the website. I bought a few, including Mike Trout for the Salt Lake Bees and Manny Machado for the Delmarva Shorebirds. I collected a few more at minor league games and I think I have 6 or 7 total. When I realized that the toys were no longer available from the website, I felt an impulse to catalog the minor league figures and collect whatever images I can before some are lost to the ages. This is the minor league Oyo page.
This list is from the checklist for minor league Oyo, which is still available on their website. Though plenty of figurines were made depicting “general ballplayer for x team,” I am much more interested in the figures that were made of actual players or managers. It is a bizarre mix of superstar alums (made after the player broke big in the majors) and prospects. A few of the prospects actually panned out and became successful big-leaguers, but a greater number languished in the minors, washed out, or became journeyman role-players. Let’s go through the list chronologically. I’ll add images of the figures as I collect them over time.
Oyo minor league minifigures released in 2012
Bradenton Marauders – Gerrit Cole. Here’s a perfect example of the prospect thing done right. Cole started the 2012 season with the Marauders, and though it’s a pretty obvious choice to use a top overall draft pick for a promotion, the gamble paid off. Cole has become a veritable superstar in the big leagues.
Bradenton Marauders – Jameson Taillon. Taillon was drafted #2 overall in 2010 (right after Bryce Harper) so it’s not surprising that he was Oyo’d. Though Taillon has had a mildly productive big league career thus far, his trajectory went nowhere near that of his Bradenton peer Cole. The figures of the two pitchers look identical in Marauders gear, with the number and name on the back of the jersey being the only difference.
Columbus Clippers – Derek Jeter. Here is the first example of an “alum” figure, and a poorly-executed one at that. When Jeets played with the Clippers, they wore pinstriped duds with red highlights. Columbus opted to order up Jeter in their current Cleveland-era set, and the result looks a bit odd.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The IronPigs went all-in on Oyo right from the get-go, commissioning a series of figures based on members of their 2012 squad, including manager (and ex-MLB standout) Ryne Sandberg. On the player side, there was outfielder Dominic Brown, a top prospect of the time who, despite a lackluster career thus far, surprisingly made the 2013 National League All-Star roster for the Phillies. Erik Kratz is putting together a career as a journeyman catcher, probably best known as a member of the Brewers’ 2018 NLCS roster. Cody Overbeck was a 9th round pick of the Phillies and has never had as much as a cup of coffee in the majors, washing out of the indy leagues in 2014. But hey, there’s an Oyo of him! Rich Thompson made his debut for the Royals in 2004, but his five-year tenure with the IronPigs (2008-2012) was his last steady job as a ballplayer. He was enough of a fixture in the clubhouse (and with the fans) to have a minifigure created in his honor.
Pawtucket Red Sox. The founder of Oyo is a Red Sox fan, so it isn’t too surprising that the PawSox were well-represented. In 2012, they made figures for two young Ryans on the roster. Ryan Kalish made some sense, as he had played 53 games for Boston in 2010. Ryan Lavarnway is a bit more a headscratcher, but he’s still at least semi-active in the bigs as a super-utility journeyman. I’ve yet to find images for either Oyo Ryan.
Oyo minor league minifigures released in 2013
Erie SeaWolves – Justin Verlander. Here’s a perfect example of the alum thing done right. Though the SeaWolves had re-designed their brand in 2013, when Verlander toed the rubber in 2005, they were using this classic pirate wolf logo. This is a neat figurine all around.
Great Lakes Loons – Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw spent the 2007 season in Midland, Michigan, and the images we have from this time in the Midwest League show him in these red-heavy Loons duds. Great Lakes tends to emphasize the hunter green elements of their brand these days, so it’s a little jarring to see this, well, this scarlet explosion.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs – Tyler Cloyd. Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Cloyd. Wait, who? Tyler Cloyd put in a few innings for the Phillies in 2012 before being sent back to Allentown in ’13. I guess that’s enough name recognition to warrant the forging of a molded plastic figure, eh? Anyway, I’ve yet to find an image of this incloydably obscure former prospect.
Pawtucket Red Sox – Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts was a breakout player around this time, and of course the PawSox would have an Oyo commissioned. I was surprised to find that I couldn’t get an image, but I suspect that there are plenty of Xander figures kicking around the world, and eventually one will show up on the Information Superhighway.
Salt Lake Bees – Mike Trout. 2013 was the first full season that the Millville Meteor spent with the Angels, and he was already a bona fide shooting star. In 2012, Trout’s Rookie-of-the-Year season, he started the spring with a brief stint in the Pacific Coast League. The Bees have been able to use their alum for promotional buzz ever since.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The T-Rats jumped into the Oyo game with both feet, offering the toys for sale on their website as well as at the ballpark. You get an Oyo! And you get an Oyo! The Rattlers commissioned a figurine of their manager, Matt Erickson, who grew up in the Fox Valley, had a cup of coffee in the bigs, and returned home–where he has managed the Timber Rattlers for almost ten years. They also had figurines made for the Brewers’ three 2012 first-round draft picks, who spent some time in Appleton around 2013. The first two picks, Clint Coulter and Victor Roache, have never made it to the big leagues, but the third pick, Mitch Haniger, became an MLB All-Star. They also made an alum figure of Tyler Thornburg, who had played for the Rattlers in 2011 and was already on the Brewers by 2013. Though Thornburg has hurled many pitches at the big-league level, his career has hardly warranted being cast in plastic.
Oyo minor league minifigures released in 2014
Aberdeen Ironbirds – Mike Yastrzemski. Young Yaz was an Orioles prospect at the time, and though he has started to blossom as a major leaguer in his own right, I think it’s safe to say that he made the cut as a result of his family heritage.
Delmarva Shorebirds – Dylan Bundy. There was a time when Bundy was supposed to be the next Nolan Ryan or something. He never made it quite to that level, but was an easy choice for the Shorebirds.
Delmarva Shorebirds – Manny Machado. Delmarva also commissioned an alum figure of Machado. He had played for the Shorebirds in 2011, and was tearing up the American League by 2014. I purchased the Delmarva Machado directly from the Oyo website that year.
Fort Myers Miracle – Byron Buxton. Though he’s established himself as a productive major leaguer, it’s easy to forget how unstoppable Buxton was around this time. He was the consensus top overall prospect for two years straight and seemed to be sprinting toward the Hall of Fame. I remember seeing him play in 2013 when he was in the Midwest League. It was probably the most dominant offensive performance I’ve ever seen in a professional baseball game, and this was from a defense-first ballplayer. The day after I saw him play for Cedar Rapids, he was called up to the Florida State League. Commissioning a Buxton Oyo was an absolute no-brainer for Fort Myers.
Great Lakes Loons – Dee Gordon. Gordon was already an All-Star for the Dodgers in 2014, so this is an alum throwback to his 2009 stint with the Loons. I haven’t yet found an image of this one, and wonder if it has the same red duds as the Kershaw figure.
Great Lakes Loons – Zach Lee. Remember Zach Lee? I mostly remember always confusing him for Zack Wheeler when the two hurlers were on top prospect lists. But Lee was a first round pick of the Dodgers in 2010, and was a rising star when he played for Great Lakes in 2011. Enough of a star that the team had an alum Oyo made for the guy despite him still toiling in the upper minors in 2014. He’s had a few major league stints, but Zach Lee is largely forgotten in the annals of history. But a plastic Oyo does not degrade easily.
Harrisburg Senators – Bryce Harper. Harper was in the Eastern League in 2011, and by ’14, he already had two NL All-Star games under his belt. Harper got some special attention, with Oyo designers taking the time to add distinctive facial hair and smudged eye-black.
Harrisburg Senators – Stephen Strasburg. The other top overall pick to come through Harrisburg in the early teens was Stephen Strasburg. Easy promotional choices for the Senators.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The IronPigs dug their snout back into the Oyo pile once again. Cody Asche was a hotshot prospect who flamed out big time. He got a few AB’s in the bigs, but was most recently in the indy leagues. César Hernández has started to carve out a nice MLB career, and somewhere there’s an Oyo to commemorate his time in the minors. Tommy Joseph never amounted to much. Our old buddy Cody Overbeck was molded up again. Why not? Lehigh also did Jonathan Pettibone, who had a little action for the Phillies around the time this figure was made, but quickly bounced out of the majors. Then you have Darin Ruf and Cameron Rupp, who I swear aren’t the same person. Ruf was a utility guy for Philly during their rebuilding phase in the middle of the past decade, and Rupp was a serviceable catcher during the same time period. But Oyos for all, baby!
New Britain Rock Cats – David Ortiz. Here’s another well-made alum figurine, with the Rock Cats throwing back to their late nineties uniforms and logo. Big Papi played for New Britain in ’97, shortly after changing his name from David Arias. Though the unis look authentic, one seeming glitch is the facial hair. Images from Ortiz’s time in the Eastern League show minimal if any facial hair, while this Oyo shows the full iconic mutton chops from his later years in Boston.
Omaha Storm Chasers. When Omaha went Oyo, they carefully selected three alumni who had already made their mark at the big-league level. Eric Hosmer was a top prospect as a Storm Chaser in 2011, and in 2014, was an integral part of the Royals teams that won back-to-back AL pennants and a World Series. Wil Myers was a part of the Rays’ system in 2014, having been sent south from Kansas City for James Shields and Wade Davis. At the end of that season, Myers was shipped from Tampa Bay to San Diego. Salvador Pérez, one of KC’s all-time greats, kicked around Omaha in 2011 and 2012, between stints of getting his feet wet in the American League. Thus far, Hosmer is the only Storm Chaser figure I’ve found an image of, and it seems to be a well-designed item with Omaha’s wacky number font.
Pawtucket Red Sox. The PawSox proved in 2012 that they weren’t shy about making figures for prospects before they proved themselves in the majors. Of the voluminous 2014 batch, they had one surefire hit with Jackie Bradley Jr. JBJ had spent part of 2013 in Fenway, but he still had one foot in McCoy Stadium in 2014. Bryce Brentz never lived up to the hype. The last we saw of Garin Cecchini in the majors was two games in 2015. Ryan Lavarnway had a second Oyo fashioned in his likeness–or did they just use warehouse leftovers from 2012? Anthony Ranaudo bounced between the minors and majors for a few years, but has been out of baseball since a 2017 stint in Korea. Christian Vásquez, another respectable major leaguer, has toiled behind the dish since his 2014 debut for the BoSox, and was part of the 2018 World Series-winning squad. Allen Webster has bounced around on a few teams over the years, getting long in the tooth as he tries to regain his former prospect hype.
Peoria Chiefs. Peoria went the prospect route with three St. Louis farmhands from that season. Rob Kaminsky has yet to make a splash in the big leagues. Carson Kelly was slated to be heir apparent to Yadier Molina, but went to the Diamondbacks in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. Alex Reyes has spent a decent amount of time on big league mounds, but hasn’t done much with the opportunities. In the grand scheme, it’s tough to use prospects for promotions.
Reading Fightin Phils – Jesse Biddle. Some day, a future minor league geek will look back at merchandise from this era, and think “what was up with Jesse Biddle?” He was a first round pick of the Phillies in 2010, plucked out of Germantown Friends high school in the Philadelphia ‘burbs. It is often a risky proposition for a major league team to go local with their talent, and this is a prime example of why it should be avoided. Biddle toiled in Philly’s farm system for six years, getting fans’ hopes up in localish spots like Williamsport, Lakewood, Lehigh Valley, and, in this case, Reading. All the hype was for naught. Biddle never made the Phillies and was cut loose after Tommy John surgery in 2016. He has had brief major league stints with other clubs, but will be remembered bitterly by Philly fans, encased in plastic forever.
Salt Lake Bees – Mike Trout. To be honest, I don’t know the difference between the 2013 Salt Lake Trout and the 2014 version. There’s probably a way to parse out the serial numbers, but it could also be that they used the same figurine design two years in a row. I have the Salt Lake Trout and have collected several images, but there does not appear to be two versions. It could be that all the images I have are from one year and the other year is simply mysterious, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they used identical figures.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – Derek Jeter. In 2012, we had a Jeter throwback showing him in an incorrect Columbus Clippers uniform. In 2014, we had another minor league Oyo Jeets wearing the duds of another International League team, though they got it right thsis time. This is an example of a rehab stint promotion–Jeter played 7 games with the RailRiders in 2013, and Scranton commemorated the event the following year–#2’s last year on the diamond.
West Michigan Whitecaps – Ben Verlander. Ah, the good ol’ brother bump. Ben never panned out quite like his big bro Justin, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from making him a farmhand. Justin was still performing at a high level for Detroit in those days, and West Michigan capitalized on the last name, using him in promotions such as Oyo stadium giveaways.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Scooter Gennett. Gennett showed some promise in his first cracks at the big leagues, and quickly became a favorite of Brewers fans during their mid-teens rebuilding phase. The T-Rats were never a stranger to the Oyo game, and Scooter got the treatment in 2014.
Oyo minor league minifigures released in 2015
Altoona Curve – Andrew McCutchen. Here’s a super-cool throwback Oyo that Altoona had commissioned for use as a stadium giveaway. Cutch played for the Curve in ’06 and ’07, and the team took care to recreate the uniforms they had before their brand redesign in 2011.
Asheville Tourists – Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks were in the thick of their run of mid-teens NFL domination, and a fair amount of attention was being paid to quarterback Russell Wilson’s unremarkable time in the low minors. In 2015, two minor league clubs made Wilson Oyos. First up, we have the Asheville Tourists, for whom Wilson batted .228 in the Sally League in 2011. It’s a neat little figure showing the QB in a “moon man” cap.
Erie SeaWolves – Steven Moya. I don’t remember Steven Moya. He played eleven games for Detroit in September 2014, and for what it’s worth, he performed well in his MLB debut. I guess that was enough for Erie to Oyo-ize him. Moya’s last gasp in the majors came in 2016, though he has since carved out a nice career playing in Japan.
Frisco Roughriders – Derek Holland. This one is funny to me. Holland was a pretty solid contributor for the Rangers during these years, but if Frisco was dipping into the alumni pool (Holland was there in ’08) why not choose an All-Star like Elvis Andrus or even former Rangers like Ian Kinsler, Mark Teixiera, or CJ Wilson? Holland’s not a bad choice for an Oyo, but certainly a curious one.
Harrisburg Senators – Michael Taylor. Taylor performed well in the Nats’ 2019 postseason run, so that has helped to gloss over the fact that he’s basically been a bust thus far. But in 2015, he was a hot prospect, fresh of his MLB debut with Washington. Harrisburg took a flier, and now we have a tiny plastic Michael Taylor.
Lehigh Valley IronPigs – Cameron Rupp. Our old buddy Cameron Ruf (excuse me, Rupp) is back! Not much to say here. The IronPigs capitalized on prospect fervor, and it doesn’t look that great in the long term.
Pawtucket Red Sox. Bless the PawSox. Was the money they lost on making Oyos for failed prospects the real reason for the Worcester move? In 2015, we had Deven Marrero, a sub-replacement MLBer who is at least still kicking around the majors. Henry Owens could never quite live up to his promise, and washed out to the indy leagues. Travis Shaw had a few very good years for the Brewers, but his productivity fell off a cliff seemingly overnight. Blake Swihart was a first-round pick and played a bunch of games for Boston in 2015. Unfortunately, there’s a sizable gap between playing games and playing well in games. Pawtucket strikes out again.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Clayton Kershaw. This was a rehab stint Oyo. Kershaw never played High A ball on his way to the big leagues, jumping from Class A Great Lakes right up to Double-A Jacksonville. He did pitch one game for the Quakes in 2014. That’s Oyo-worthy, eh?
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Yasiel Puig. Rancho’s other entry was a true alum. Puig was peaking with the Dodgers around this time, and played real games for the Quakes on his way to LA.
Tri-City Dust Devils – Russell Wilson. The other Wilson figure was one that I liked well enough to buy at the time. The Dust Devils are such a, well, dusty team tucked away in the corner of the minor leagues. There isn’t much to say about their history other than that a future Evergreen State sports hero had his pro baseball debut in Pasco, Washington. The Dust Devils got an Oyo out of it.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The Rattlers once again went all-in on Oyo promotions, though they diversified their portfolio well. They plucked an alum with Khris Davis, who played for Wisconsin in 2010. Jake Gatewood was a Brewers first-rounder who could still theoretically become a quality major leaguer. He was an active player for the T-Rats in 2015. Similar story for Monte Harrison, who was sent to Marlins as part of the Christian Yelich trade and could still make a splash in MLB. Jonathan Lucroy was at the peak of his powers at this time. Though he came up through the Brewers’ system, their Class A affiliate in those days was the West Virginia Power. But he did wear a Timber Rattlers uniform for a 4-game rehab stint in 2012. The Oyo checklist has lists Lucroy in 2015, though I found a “2016 giveaways” promotional image that has him on there as well. Kodi Medeiros was the twelfth overall pick in 2014 and is inching closer to having the “bust” label affixed to his lapel.
Winston-Salem Dash – Chris Sale. Here is a alum figure that I really wish I had a picture of. Sale was a Dash in 2010, as he worked his way through the White Sox farm system.
Oyo minor league minifigures released in 2016
Arkansas Travelers – Mike Trout. By 2016, Oyo’s minor league adventure slowed to a trickle. Gone were the random farmhands; fully replaced by established big-league stars and buzzworthy prospects. The Travelers made their first Oyo, honoring Trout’s 91 games in the Texas League in 2011.
Las Vegas 51s – Matt Kemp. Kemp hadn’t completely flamed out by 2016, and the 51s were certainly justified in getting him molded in plastic.
Las Vegas 51s – Noah Syndergaard. Thor was at the top his game in these years and Las Vegas took another trip to the trough.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Corey Seager. Seager had his Rookie of the Year season in 2016, and the Quakes were able to capitalize on yet another local hero.
Salt Lake Bees – Mike Trout. Here’s the third listed iteration of the Salt Lake Trout. I’m very curious if this is the same figurine made over and over. Until/unless I find evidence of another design, I’m going to assume that it is.
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders – Aaron Judge. Judge’s Rookie of the Year season was 2017 and his 2016 MLB debut was largely unimpressive. But the prospect buzz around him was palpable, and the RailRiders green-lighted an Oyo that seems like a no-brainer now.
Oyo minor league minifigures released in 2017
Columbus Clippers – Jason Kipnis. The Clippers re-entered the Oyo arena in 2017, going with two well-established players on Cleveland’s roster. Jason Kipnis has quietly put together a nice little career, including two All-Star bids. I’m not sure if we’ll remember him as a “star,” but he is/was definitely a player of baseball.
Columbus Clippers – Francisco Lindor. The other Columbus entry is a bona fide star. Mr. Smile is a pretty obvious promotional choice, especially for a Buckeye State team in 2017. I would love to find an image for this some day.
Dayton Dragons – Billy Hamilton. Ah, Billy “the fast guy” Hamilton. In some ways, he has exceeded expectations at the big-league level, and in some ways, he has fallen well short. But Dayton is in the geographical shadow of Cincy, and at least in 2017, Billy was still a promising young Red.
Harrisburg Senators – Bryce Harper. Senator Harper, Part II. Not sure if they made a new design.
Lowell Spinners – Mookie Betts. Oh boy, this is one that I would love to see in the flesh. Lowell rolled out their new alligator-inspired brand in ’17, but Mookie was a Spinner way back in 2012. I wonder if they went with the authentic look.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals – Eric Hosmer. 2017 was Hosmer’s last year with the Royals, and he still had that World Series champ shine. The Naturals play relatively close to KC, and were able to sell a few promo toys before Hosmer went west.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Orlando Arcia. At one time, Arcia was one of the top overall prospects in baseball, and was supposed to be the face of Milwaukee’s big mid-teens rebuild. That didn’t work out so well, but he was certainly used extensively for promos up and down the minor league ladder.
Oyo minor league minifigures released in 2018
Salt Lake Bees – Mike Trout. The Oyo checklist only lists one (yes, one) figurine from 2018. Kind of sad, right? I think there’s a good chance that there were others made and given out as promos, but it’s not clear at this point. If there was only going to be one, of course it would be the 4th iteration of Salt Lake Trout.
I’ll keep adding to this page as I find more figurines and more images. Here is a gallery of some images that I’ve found but didn’t have room for in the main article.