Through the first three decades of the era of modern baseball cards, collecting was what it was all about. Opening packs, making your Dentist rich by chewing the bubble gum, finding your favorite players and putting together a complete set. When the Topps monopoly ended in the early 80’s, the hobby began to change and customers were no longer just collectors, to a great extent they also became speculators. People had seen the dramatic increase in the valuation of cards from the 50’s & 60’s and determined they could make a profit by investing in this unique commodity.
As a dealer in sports cards, I have the unenviable task of telling sellers that all those cards they saved from the 80’s & 90’s don’t have any value. The factor left out of their thought process back then was the lack of scarcity. Manufacturers supplied an enormous amount of product and values went south quickly. In fact, this phenomenon almost ruined the industry, as collectors got fed up with too many products and too much supply.
The hobby started to reinvent itself about 15 years ago and created a new breed of speculator. By seeding packs with limited edition, autograph and relic (jerseys & bats) cards, they found customers who were willing to gamble on high-priced products in hopes of getting that extremely rare (and valuable) card. Of course, there are still millions of fans who collect cards for the joy of the hobby, but even they are always hoping for a great “pull” from a pack.
For today’s speculator, one of the most popular investments is the card of a prospect. As Fantasy Baseball aficionados, we all know that only a small percentage of the top 100 each year actually become stars, but the appeal of the next Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Juan Soto is too much for these collectors to resist. Historically, the Bowman brand (owned by Topps) is known for highlighting minor leaguers with potential. This goes all the back to their 1992 set where you’ll find Mariano Rivera’s rookie card a full three years before he wore a major league uniform. Now, of course, the prospects even have autographed cards in the packs. Now understand that we’re not talking about rookies who have already made a splash like Dylan Carlson or Ke’Bryan Hayes. We’re scouting the minor leaguers you probably haven’t heard of yet.
So, with the annual Futures Game in the rear-view mirror, let’s get a feel for some of the prospects and their market demand. The price reflects the current market value of an autograph card from 2021 Bowman Chrome Prospects.
> Blaze Jordan, Red Sox 1B/3B – A great name for a hitter on a hot streak, this 18 year-old is batting .362 in Rookie League ball and his card is at $150.
> Hedbert Perez, Brewers OF – Also 18, his Dad (Robert) played six seasons in the majors. He’s hitting .342 in Rookie ball and his card will set you back $100.
> Maximo Acosta, Rangers SS – Hobbyists love the young guys and this 18 year-old is on a fast track to be the Rangers next long-time SS. His autograph card is a $100 investment.
>Yoelqui Cespedes, Marlins OF – The younger Brother of Yoenis, he defected from Cuba to pursue the game. He’s 23 and playing at the A+ level with an OPS of .822 and a card value of $100.
> Spencer Torkelson, Tigers 1B/3B – The #1 pick in last year’s draft, he signed for over $8 Million. On track to replace Miguel Cabrera, his card is worth $100.>Jeremy De La Rosa, Nationals OF – Still a work in progress, he’s playing A ball at age 19. The hype is there with a card price of $60.Jeremy De La Rosa, Nationals OF – Still a work in progress, he’s playing A ball at age 19. The hype is there with a card price of $60.
Jeremy De La Rosa, Nationals OF – Still a work in progress, he’s playing A ball at age 19. The hype is there with a card price of $60.
- Garrett Mitchell, Brewers OF – At age 22, he’s honing his skills at AA and his card will set you back $50.
- Kevin Alcantara, Cubs OF – Recently acquired from the Yankees in the Anthony Rizzo trade, this 19 year-old is batting .364 at Rookie ball. $75 will get you his card.
- Aaron Saboto, Twins 1B – Having contact issues at A ball, he’s a power prospect and a card investment of $50
For Fantasy players and card collectors, prospects can make your day…or break your heart.