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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Commentary: RC vs (RC) Cards

I don't know about everyone else, but I find the "(RC)" rookie very irritating! I think that they should not have done this with players who already had RC's released in previous years. They should have made a clean start with, say, 2008 or whenever, and just let all those rookies from before stand as is. Now when you do a search for a player, like Prince Fielder RC, you get tons of 06 cards, along with the 05 "RCs" and 02 "XRCs". I tried to find Troy Tulowitzki's Auto rookie cards and the search results yielded 41 cards from 07, and ONE from 05 (the year of his initial or real "RC" cards).

It seems like collectors are still buying the "(RC)" cards though, so maybe most people don't mind. Of course the "RC" versions from earlier years are yielding better prices, but still...I wouldn't spend my money on a card that isn't really a player's RC card (in my opinion). When you look at your Beckett at the sets from 06, there are so few "RC" cards, along side mostly "(RC)" cards. I can honestly say that I did not buy one single box, pack or product from 06. I wonder if that was a low sales year for baseball cards? 07 products should do better, since they have some popular real "RC" cards of players like Daisuke Matsuzaka & Andrew Miller. This will probably continue until all of the prospects with pre-call up releases are either called up or become career minor leaguers. Then we can start fresh with the real "RCs", and go on with our collecting lives (maybe by 2010?).

Anyway, just thought I'd vent some of my ebay search frustrations.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

MLB Weekly Market Briefs

Here are some of the weekly average RC TAC value changes that I've observed in the market this month (Week 1 = 6/3 - 6/9, Week 2 = 6/10 - 6/16, Week 3 = 6/17 - 6/23) :
  • 89 UD K Griffey Jr. - Week 1 - $21.90, Week 2 - $27.90, Week 3 - $27.96
  • 93 SP D Jeter - Week 1 - $46.50, Week 2 - $38.13, Week 3 - $50.28
  • 01 BC Ref J Peavy - Week 1 - $45.58, Week 2 - $47.71, Week 3 - $52.83
  • 02 UD Prosp Premieres P Fielder Auto - Week 2 - $201.50, Week 3 - $202.78
  • 05 BC J Verlander Auto - Week 2 - $73.75, Week 2 - $81.00
  • 05 BCD R Braun Auto - Week 1 - $82.80, Week 2 - $69.18, Week 3 - $76.82
  • 07 B E Dukes Auto - Week 1 - $23.92, Week 2 - $16.71, Week 3 - $13.35
  • 07 B E Dukes Auto #'d 500 - Week 1 - $22.52, Week 2 - $19.56, Week 3 - $18.19
  • 07 B A Miller Auto - Week 2 - $29.21, Week 3 - $26.71
  • 07 B A Miller Auto #'d 250 - Week 2 - $74.27, Week 3 - $72.58
I predict that Griffey's UD RC will increase this next week, as he gets closer to reaching the 600 HR mark (he just hit 2 HR today vs. the Mariners). All of Peavy's RC's may experience some softening, after he picked up his 2nd loss of the season today, getting out-dueled by Josh Beckett. Verlander's RC's should continue their ascent. He's 4-0 this month, with a 1.24 ERA & 10.86 K's/9 IP. Just heard on ESPN this week that Dukes was sent down to the minors and is inactive due to his personal issues. I was expecting his RC's to plummet with the news, but they've been moving down at a much more moderate pace (he IS young & full of raw talent, so he has a good chance of being back in the majors soon). Fielder's 02 UD PP Auto XRC has been on fire, while his RC's from 05 have softened some, selling for less than they did a week or two ago. He still leads the NL in HR & RBI, so don't expect any big drop in prices unless he hits a major slump.

For those cards that don't show a "Week 1", its because I didn't have any data for it. For those of you that aren't sure about the abbreviations that I used for the brands (though I'm sure most you know) they are: "UD" - Upper Deck, "BC" - Bowman Chrome, "BCD" - Bowman Chrome Draft, and "B" - Bowman.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Rod On Top Again

Alex Rodriguez has been hot again this month, after a slow May, hitting .440 with 9 HR & 31 RBI through 6/23. His 94 SP RC has been just as hot, jumping from an average TAC of $61.65 during the first week of the month, to $75.88 the 2nd week, to now $91.13 the 3rd week!

Activity on his 94 SP Die-Cut RC has also been decent, when you can find one. I've been seeing about one D/C for every five or six base RC's for sale on auction (at the most). Expect to pay between $90 to $100 TAC (which is actually a good price considering the base sells for pretty much the same amount). There's another D/C auction ending tomorrow, which will give us a good idea of where the market is right now (I'm expecting it to break the $100 mark, especially after A Rod went 8 for 10 in his last two games).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rockies Enjoying Their Holliday

The Colorado Rockies are off to a strong start this season, with a 37-34 record (they haven't had a winning season since 2000, when they went 82-80). Unfortunately, the NL West is turning out to be a very competitive division, with the Padres, D-Backs & Dodgers ahead of them in the standings. A lot of their success is due to their 1 through 4 hitters; CF Willy Taveras (.315, 17 SB), 2B Kazuo Matsui (.316, 12 SB), LF Matt Holliday (.366, 13 HR, 57 RBI) and Todd Helton (.326, 6 HR, 37 RBI). They also have RF Brad Hawpe (.291, 12 HR, 47 RBI) & SS Troy Tulowitzki (.278, 4 HR, 29 RBI) contributing later in the line-up.

Typically when you think about the Rockies, Todd Helton obviously comes to mind as the star hitter. But, the 33 year old Helton has slowed down in the past few years, going from batting .347, 32 HR & 96 RBI in '04, to .320, 20 HR & 79 RBI in '05, to .302, 15 HR & 81 RBI in '06. Luckily for the Rockies they had the addition of Matt Holliday in '04, who has improved every season he's been with the team, hitting .290, 14 HR & 57 RBI in '04, .307, 19 HR & 87 RBI in '05 and .326, 34 HR & 114 RBI in '06 (kind of like a passing the torch type of deal huh?).

Holliday has been consistently hitting well every month so far this season (guess you have to for a .366 BA!), and is on track to have 200+ hits, 130 RBI & 30 HR. He doesn't have any Auto RC's, so his key base from '99 would be his Bowman Chrome RC. Expect to pay between $10 to $15 TAC on auction.

I'm guessing that the Rockies' NL West competitors will probably start choking as the season winds down (like they often unfortunately do), so if they can maintain their consistent level of play (like how they just swept the Yankees this week), they have a chance to finally go to the playoffs again (the last & only time was in '95).
Player Focus: Felix Hernandez Update

Felix Hernandez, the hottest pitcher in the majors during the first couple of weeks of the season, has had a hard time getting back into the swing of things since coming off the DL last month. Through his first 7 starts back, he went 2-3, with around a 4.90 ERA, and allowed 67 hits & 7 HR. Only bright spot was that he averaged around 9.8 K's/9 IP.

Yesterday vs. the Pirates, Felix finally seemed to be back to his old dominant self. He tossed 8 shut-out innings, allowing 6 hits & 1 BB, and struck out 9. If this is truly the turning point, his Auto RC's are going to start heading up again. For those of you that picked a few (or even one) of them up during his time on the DL or while he's been recovering, I think that you'll be very happy with your investment.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Player Focus: Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay has emerged as the star pitcher from the 1997 "hobby" RC class. Sets from 97 included RC's of pitchers like Kerry Wood, Javier Vazquez, Jon Garland, John Patterson Adam Eaton & Brad Penny. None of these pitchers have had the consistent success that Halladay has had, either because of injuries, etc. Over the last 5 seasons, he boasts a 77-31 record (71.3% wins), 1000 IP, and a 3.17 ERA. In 03 he won 22 games and had 204 K's, earning him the AL Cy Young.

This season, he had a great start, going 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA & 6.3 K's/9 IP in April. In May, he went down with an appendicitis and was expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks (he returned in less than 3). He only had 3 starts in May, struggling to a 1-2 record, and 8.31 ERA with 6.2 K's/9 IP. He began June by getting rocked by the D-Rays for 7 ER in 3-1/3 IP, but has been able to bounce back quite well, going 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA & 4.8 K's/9 IP in his next 3 starts. Halladay is a definite work horse. On 4/13, he went 10 innings, allowing only 6 hits & 1 ER, to outlast & beat the Tigers & their ace, Jeremy Bonderman.

His two best cards from 97 are his Bowman Chrome RC & Bowman Auto (only RC year Auto). You can probably find his Chrome RC for less than $10 TAC, and I saw one of his Bowman Auto's sell this month for $74 TAC. I think that his key RC's could be strong investments down the road, if you can find them for decent prices.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Most Undervalued Pitcher: Brad Penny

Brad Penny has been having an All-Star year, but his ONE base RC card remains unchanged from its near-common status. His 97 Bowman RC books for $2.50, and can be found for right around that price (incl s&h) on auction.

Penny is 9-1 with a 2.12 ERA & around 6 K's/9 IP, making him #2 in the NL for ERA and tied for #1 for W's. He went 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA in April, 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in May, and is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in June so far. What's the deal with this lack of hobby love? He's pitching great, he only has one base RC card and he's playing for a large market playoff contender. Something doesn't add up. Could it be that his one RC card isn't rare enough?

Penny is having a career season, and I think that his values should go up accordingly. Hopefully the hobby will take notice and boost interest in the Dodgers' top ace.
MLB Briefs

Here are some updates for players that I'm watching, comparing their month to month on-field performances, and predicting how some of their key RC's will do. (All June stats are through 6/17).
  • Adrian Gonzalez (SD) - Gonzalez started the season hot, hitting .309, 7 HR & 25 RBI in April. He then cooled in May with .284, 5 HR & 12 RBI. In June, he's hitting .295, 2 HR & 13 RBI. I'm thinking that he's now heating back up, and his key RC's will probably follow. His best RC year card is his 00 Bowman Draft Auto (BV $100).
  • Manny Ramirez (BOS) - Ramirez, who has been one of the best hitters in the game over the last decade, had a very slow April, hitting .202 with 3 HR & 13 RBI. He found his swing in May, hitting .327, 5 HR & 18 RBI. In June, he's hitting .388, 2 HR & 7 RBI, making me think that the usual big hitting Manny is back to stay. Unfortunately, Ramirez hasn't received much hobby love over the years, even though he's a career .313 batter, and averages 41 HR/162 game. I hope that as he approaches the 500 career HR mark (he currently has 480) he'll get more attention. His best RC is his 92 Bowman #532 (not his Foil #676). You can probably find them on auction in the $10-15 TAC range (BV $25).
  • J.J. Hardy (MIL) - Hardy has emerged as one of the best hitting SS in the majors. He had a decent start this season, hitting .282, 6 HR & 17 RBI in April. Then in May, he tore it up, hitting .325, 9 HR & 29 RBI! So far in June though he's slowed down, hitting .200, 2 HR & 3 RBI. His 02 UD USA Auto #'d 375 has been a hot seller throughout the season, averaging a TAC of $77 in June. Sales have ranged between $56 & $95 this month, so if you watch carefully, you may be able score one for a very decent price (especially if his production doesn't pick back up soon).
  • Hunter Pence (HOU) - Pence is one of the hottest players in the hobby right now. He was called up at the end of April, and hit .342, 4 HR, 19 RBI & 3 SB in May. So far in June, he's hitting .328, 1 HR, 9 RBI & 2 SB. Pence has been one of the few bright spots on this slumping Astros team (30-40 record this season). His key Auto RC's have already elevated to superstar levels. Expect to pay around $95 to $100 for his 04 Donruss Elite EE Auto #'d 672, $250 to $270 for his 04 SP Prospects Auto #'d 600 and $135 to $140 for his 04 Fleer Hot Prospects Auto #'d 299. You can probably find these cards for a little lower if you look carefully (i.e. find auctions ending during the day or at odd times, etc...).
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

MLB Market Briefs

Here are some recent real market TAC values.
  • Cole Hamels (9-2, 3.47 ERA, 9.53 K's/9) - Hamels leads the NL in W's & K's. His 02 Bowman Chrome Draft RC has been selling at an average TAC of around $35 this month. Going forward, expect to pay in the high $30's to low $40's range.
  • Andrew Miller (2-0, 3.18 ERA, 5.68 K's/9 IP) - 22 year old Miller has been off to a decent start this season in the majors. After pitching 6 shut-out innings in his first start in May, he slipped a little in his next outing, allowing 4 ER in 5.1 IP. He's still young, and obviously has talent, so just need to give some time to adjust and he should be fine. This month, his 07 Bowman Auto has been selling for an average TAC of $29, his Bowman Blue Auto #'d 500 for $33.50, and his UD Spectrum Auto RC for $26. One cool card to get is his UD Spectrum Auto Die-Cut RC #'d 50 (one sold for $36.49 on 6/12).
  • Alex Rodriguez - (.309, 26 HR, 70 RBI) As expected, A Rod's key 94 SP RC is back on fire, as he solidifies his place on top of the HR & RBI leaderboard. For the past week, it's averaged a TAC of $81, up about $20 from the week before (+33%!). Expect to pay between $85 to $95 now, depending on your purchase timing.
  • Scott Kazmir (4-3, 4.07 ERA, 9.21 K's/9 IP) - Don't let Kazmir's stats so far this year fool you. Last season he had an impressive 10-8 record, 3.24 ERA & 10.17 K's/9 IP for the lowly D-Rays (who lost 101 games in '06). Once he breaks out of his slump, you'll start to see interest in his cards return. Now is a good time to pick up his 02 UD Prospect Premieres Auto & 04 Bowman Sterling Auto/Jsy, which can be found in the low $40's & low $20's respectively.
  • Ian Snell (6-4, 2.63 ERA, 7.37 K's/9 IP) - Snell is the top ace for a Pirates team that is full of young, talented (but under achieving) starting pitchers (i.e. Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny). In his 3 June starts, he's 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA & 7.5 K's/9 IP. I feel that his cards are still undervalued in the hobby, and can be found at very affordable TAC values. My favorite is his 04 SP Authentic Auto #'d 999, which can probably be found for $20 or maybe even less.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Market Shifts

Here are some of the recent market movements that I've observed for players on my watch list:
  • Ken Griffey Jr. - Last month, Griffey's 89 UD RC was selling for a TAC of just less than $20. So far in June, demand has been picking, as he closes in on the prestigious 600 HR career mark. He's 22 HR away, and at his current pace, he should reach this milestone before the end of the season. His June avg TAC is at $24.85; about a 20-25% increase vs. May. As long as he stays healthy and keeps on hitting, expect this classic RC to continue to rise.
  • Alex Rodriguez - A Rod's 94 SP RC has had its ups & downs this season. From the beginning of June through 6/10, it averaged $61.17 TAC. On 6/10 he hit 2 HR, sparking another jump in his top RC card. Since 6/11, the average TAC has risen to $78.84; a 29% increase! In addition to him leading the majors in HR & RBI this season, there's also the countdown for him to become the youngest member of the 500 HR club. He's 11 away, so I'm guessing that he'll hit number 500 sometime in July. If he can stay on track, I can only see positives for his key RC's.
  • Cole Hamels - Hamels has been one of the hottest pitchers in the league, leading the NL with 9 W's & 104 K's. His ERA of 3.47 isn't the best (but not bad either), but collectors are willing to overlook that for now, paying above book for his 02 Bowman Chrome Draft RC. Expect to dish out $35 to $40 TAC for this one.
  • Elijah Dukes - Dukes' off the field problems continue to accumulate. In addition to the the restraining order filed by his wife, he has to contend with cases against him for marijuana possession & having consensual sex with a 17-year old girl, who claims to be carrying his baby. He wasn't in the D-Rays' line-up yesterday, and it sounds kinds of questionable about his future with the team. All 3 versions of his 07 Bowman Auto RC's have experienced big drops in TAC this week vs. last week. His base went from $23.92 to $16.71 (-30%), his Blue #'d 500 went from $22.52 to $18.70 (-17%), and his Orange #'d 250 went from $36.87 to $18.80 (-49%). I expect prices to keep falling until it's confirmed that Dukes will return. *Just read that Dukes was with the team today for their game against the Padres, but wasn't included in the line-up.
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jake Peavy Slumping?

Oh, did I say Jake Peavy was in a slump (see my post "Who's Hot, Who's Not" from yesterday on Sports Lizard)? What was I thinking! Guess he just had a 2-game stumble (not long enough to be called a slump). He was back with a fury tonight vs. the D-Rays! Maybe he got inspired watching the highlights of Justin Verlander's no-no yesterday. Whatever it was, I'm glad to see him back on top of his game. He pitched 7 strong innings, allowing 2 hits, 0 runs & 3 BB, with 8 K's. It would've been pretty pointless to bring him back in the 8th & risk an injury, since the Padres were up 9-0 after Terrmel Sledge's solo HR in the top of the inning.

Maybe now his 01 Bowman Chrome Ref RC will break out of the $40's TAC that it's been stuck in this month (Actual avg TAC has been around $46). I hope to also see some of those 01 Topps Fusion Auto's popping up again (I haven't seen any on auction this month).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Breaking News: Verlander Tosses No-No!

Justin Verlander just completed a no-no tonight vs. the hot hitting Brewers. He went 9 IP with 0 hits, 0 runs, 4 BB & 12 K's. Quite the masterpiece. Verlander gets great movement on his breaking pitches, and his fastball can hit 100+ mph.

On the season, he's now 7-2 with 2.79 ERA and 68 K's in 84 IP. After having a rough May (3.92 ERA), he's been untouchable in his first two June starts, going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA & 18 K's in 16 IP. Watch his Auto RC's start to rise out of their slump very soon!
Commentary: 2007 Topps Auto RC Releases

I was so excited last week to finally see some Elijah Dukes Auto RC's for sale (before that there were only his Finest Redemption RC's). The two product releases that I'm talking about are 07 Bowman & Topps Co-Signers. After watching them for a week, I found that the Co-Signers had way too many parallel versions. They were #'d to 50,75,100,125,150,175,225,250,275! Why in the world would anyone come out with such a ridiculous product?! When you have so many versions with similar serial #'s, all you do is dilute the value of all of them. Basically you're gonna have two levels of TAC value (for 9 versions!). In my opinion, this is a waste of Auto RC's. Topps doesn't win with this either. They have to use a different color for each version (& different serial #), and run each parallel separately, which I'm sure creates a loss in production efficiency. The Product/Brand Manager (or whoever is responsible for making these decisions) should really rethink their strategy for RC cards. As a collector, I wouldn't buy any of them. Up until a few years ago, Topps was the clear #1 card company for Baseball RC's. Recently, Upper Deck has been releasing better products than them, with brands like SPx, Ultimate Collection & UD Prospect Premieres. Pretty soon, the only advantage that Topps will have is their exclusivity with some of the players. Doesn't Topps want people to buy their cards because of their quality, not because they have no choice if they want a particular player?

I think that Bowman is a better bet for Dukes Auto RC's. They have a base non-#'d version, a Blue #'d 500 and an Orange #'d 250 (there's also a Gold version, but I haven't seen any on auction yet). I would definitely steer clear of the Co-Signers RC's.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Follow Up: Alfonso Soriano

Wow! Did you see Soriano's 3 HR game yesterday? I just did a "Player Focus" on him the 2 days before. In the next 2 games after that, he went 6 for 8 with 3 HR, a triple & 4 RBI. I think that Soriano & Felix Pie make a great 1-2 combo in the Cubs' lineup. Both guys are threats at the plate & on the bases.

There's been a lot of talk about Grady Sizemore this season, but I would have to say that Soriano is probably the better hobby value right now for lead off hitters, when comparing each of their sole RC year Autos to eachother. Sizemore's 00 Bowman Draft Auto has been selling for close to $300 TAC this month (it was closer to $400-$500 in April-May), while Soriano's 99 Topps Traded Auto can be had for around $100-$150 TAC, giving it more room to grow in value, compared to Sizemore's card, which is already quite high.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Recent Call-Up: Joey Gathright

Joey Gathright was called up to KC yesterday to play the outfield & bat in the 9th spot. In his first two games, vs. the AL Central leading Indians, he went 5 for 7 (.714 BA), with 1 SB & 2 RBI. Gathright is known for his speed, and could be a great asset as a base stealer. The Royals, who have the 2nd worst record in the majors (after Texas) could use this kind of spark.

Gathright RC's can be found in 2004 releases. If you do a search on ebay, you'll find that all of his RC cards are listed as fixed price "buy it now" auctions. If he continues his strong play, expect more people to start digging his RC's out of their commons boxes to sell.

The best RC's listed for sale are his 04 Donruss World Series Auto RC #'d 1000 & 04 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Auto RC #'d 1000. Makes me think that Donruss may have had the exclusive for his Auto's his RC year.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Player Focus: Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano
is one of the best all around players in the game. In his career, he has 215 HR & 218 SB. Last season with the Nationals he had an amazing 46 HR & 41 SB! This year, his first with the Cubs, he started out slow, hitting .270 with 0 HR & 2 SB in April. Then, in May, he pick up the pace hitting .302 with 4 HR & 6 SB. So far in June (4 games), he's hitting .579 with 3 HR & 0 SB.

I expect his 99 Topps Traded Auto, his only RC year Auto, to jump in price very soon. Right now, you might still be able to find one at a decent TAC, but don't wait too long. If he continues to improve his production like he has been, the ceiling for this card's value could still be quite a ways away. Since there aren't many listed on auction right now, I'm guessing people are waiting for prices to jump before selling. His only other RC card that appears to be getting some attention is his 99 Bowman Chrome RC (both graded & ungraded).

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Player Focus: Elijah Dukes (with Topps commentary at the end)

Right when we thought that Elijah Dukes' problems off the field were coming to an end...Now Dukes' wife filed a protective order barring him from contacting her for a year, and also requiring him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before he can see their 2 children. This came after he allegedly threatened her life.

It's uncertain what impact this could have on his on-field performance. Maybe with all of this drama out of his life now, he'll be able to concentrate more on the game. Or, maybe, the temporary loss of his family will prevent him from being able to focus. Since the 5/31 release of this news, Dukes has gone 0 for 8. This, against a KC pitching staff boasting a lackluster 4.73 ERA (ranked 11th out of 14 in the AL). Hopefully this is not an indication of what's to come. I think that his team will support him, because they believe in his potential, and he should snap back into ballplayer mode and resume his development into a potent threat at the plate within the next month or so.

Up until last week, the only MLB RC's for Dukes listed on auction were his 07 Finest Redemption cards. All of the sudden, there's a flood of Auto RC's out there. 07 Bowman & Topps Co-signers have multiple variations of his Auto RC (For Bowman, I've seen the non-#'d base, Blue #'d 500 & Orange #'d 250 and for Co-Signers I've seen then #'d 275, 250, 225, 150 & 50). The first wave will probably sell for the most. Since there's so many for sale right now, I'm gonna wait for the impulse buyers' frenzy to subside and hopefully pick up some deals when the dust settles.

Topps has recently been having way too many variations for RC Auto cards. Why would you need so many that are so close in print run? All that does is increase the total number of Auto RC's on the market (of virtually the same card), which would cannibalize each other and make for a less valuable item. I would want to see say, for instance, a base that's #'d to 1000 (one for the general collector that still has a limited print run), then parallels #'d to 500 & 50 (for more serious collectors). Anyway, what do I know?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

L.A. Angels: Beyond Vladimir Guerrero

The Angels are atop the AL West standings partly due to their star Vladimir Guerrero's consistent strong play. But in baseball, one player, no matter how well they play, can't make a winning team. One clear example of such a failure is Alex Rodriguez during his 3 year stint with the Rangers. ARod, who only missed one game is those 3 seasons, averaged a .305 BA, 52 HR & 132 RBI. The rangers record during that time: 216-270 (they were 89-73 the very next season after ARod left).

Some of the other Angels that have been strong offensive contributors are 1B Casey Kotchman (.300, 5 HR, 26 RBI), SS Orlando Cabrera (.318, 3 HR, 27 RBI, 6 SB), CF Gary Matthews Jr. (.288, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 9 SB) and LF Reggie Willits (.326, 13 SB). Matthews Jr. & Cabrera, who have been in the league 11 & 9 years respectively, haven't received interest in the hobby, and I'm guessing they probably won't going forward either.

Kotchman's cards are now starting to pick up steam, especially his 01 UD Prospect Premieres Auto XRC #'d 1000. His 02 Bowman's Best Auto RC isn't #'d , but it books for 1/4 of his XRC Auto, making it quite affordable. Only problem is finding one to buy. I only see one currently listed on auction (it's graded BGS 8.5). His 02 Topps Pristine Personal Endorsements Auto insert is widely available and can be found at lower TAC than his two base RC autos.

Willits' RC's are harder to research, since they're not listed in Beckett (because they're considered commons). When you do a search on ebay, it looks like he had an XRC in the 03 UD Prospect Premieres set, and at least one RC card in the 06 Topps 52 set (non-Auto). If he does have an Auto RC out there, it would probably be a nice investment find to get.
Red Hot Rookie: Ryan Braun

In only his 8th ML game, the Brewers rookie, Ryan Braun, went 3 for 3 yesterday vs. the Marlins, hitting a HR, double & single. The 23 y.o. 3rd baseman, who was called up on 5/24 from AAA Nashville, is hitting .300 with 2 HR, 6 RBI & 2 SB.

His Auto RC's from 2005 have been very hot sellers. There are quite a few of his Bowman Chrome Draft Auto, Bowman Chrome Draft Auto Ref #'d 500 and Bowman Sterling Auto RC's listed on auction. Expect to pay above book price for these cards. I just saw a Bowman Chrome Auto sell for $104.10 TAC today.

The Brewers have a 6.5 game lead in the NL Central (2nd biggest lead in the ML for a division leader), and they finally have some exciting young players to attract hobby interest (Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, Tony Gwynn Jr.). Braun is a welcome addition to this young up-and-coming squad, which should be a top NL contender for years to come.