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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rays Going to Their First World Series

Thanks to those readers who wrote in while I was M.I.A. What an exciting weekend this was, watching the cinderella Rays finally take down the defending champ Red Sox. Tampa Bay has had several young players with impressive performances, but two that are still very hobby-affordable are Matt Garza & Willy Aybar.

Garza's rookie auto's have been fairly inexpensive all season, with his 05 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto RC selling in the $17-25 TAC range, and his 05 Topps Chrome Auto RC in the $12-20 range. After tonights dominant performance (7IP, 2 hits, 1 ER, 3 BB & 9 K's), I would hope that his cards finally start to pick up some hobby steam.

I've been an Aybar fan since he was with the Dodgers organization. After playing for a couple of different teams, he seems to have finally found his groove in Tampa Bay. After a slow ALDS against the White Sox, he really stepped up his game in the ALCS, batting .421 with 2 HR & 6 RBI. He only has two MLB rookie cards: 01 Bowman's Best RC #'d 2999 and 01 Bowman's Best Auto, both of which I believe were a part of exclusive rookie subsets for that product. Both of these cards have been selling for less than $10 each for a long time, and still remain at that level on the open market. I pulled one of his BB Auto cards back in '01, and have been holding onto it ever since.

Both of these players are 25 years old this year (Garza will be 25 in November), and can potentially have long & prosperous careers ahead of them. With other young players like Scott Kazmir, B.J. Upton & Evan Longoria playing by their side, you can expect this Rays team to be in the post-season for years to come. Was anyone else impressed with the maturity and confidence that Longoria & David Price displayed through this high-stress series? These two 23-year-olds are definitely ones to watch for the future.

I'm very sad that my Dodgers got knocked out by Philly, but I have to admit that they did get further than I had thought they would. Hiroki Kuroda was a nice surprise, Manny Ramirez was great as expected, and Chad Billingsley was disappointing - my take of their performance in a nutshell.

Thanks for reading...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sorry everybody, I've been out of the country for the past few weeks, and haven't been able to keep up with what's been going on, and as a result, haven't written any new posts. I hope to have something up soon. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Players Who's Values Were Hot in '07, and Not in '08

Last season, several players had cards that were hot hobby commodities. One of them was Dan Haren. In his final year with Oakland, he achieved career-bests in wins (15), ERA (3.07) & strike-outs (192). As a result, his 03 Bowman's Best Auto RC was selling in the $35-40 TAC range by mid season. He cooled after the break, but his BB RC still maintained a $20-30 market value. This season, Haren is on track to improve in wins & strike-outs, and repeat his low 3.00's ERA. Pretty darn good, especially considering that it's his first year with the D-Backs. And what is his BB RC doing? Plummeting with every month that passes by. In April it averaged $22.75, then fell to $22.25 in May, $20.61 in June, $17.17 in July, and now $15.77 in August. So Haren went to a play-off contender, improved his overall stats, and his values are dropping. Is something wrong with this picture?

Alfonso Soriano, despite missing 50 games so far this season, is batting .293 with 23 HR, 63 RBI & 17 SB (only 2 CS) in the lead-off spot for the NL-leading Cubs. He'll probably reach the 300 HR-300 SB milestone within the next couple of seasons (he's currently 264-246). All this, and his 99 Topps Traded Auto (his only rookie-year auto) is selling for around 38% less than it was at it's peak in '07. It's averaging $76.38 TAC this month, close to the lowest it's been in over a year. I consider Soriano to be the best established lead-off hitter in the game, who's cards should experience a rise in value, possibly during this year's post-season play.

The Tigers' Justin Verlander is giving up more runs & walks, and striking out fewer batters this season vs last, and his team is 11 games behind the AL Central-leading White Sox. What's the good news? Collectors have an opportunity to buy his key rookies cards at good prices! His 05 Bowman Chrome Auto RC is averaging in the $40-45 TAC range, down from it's $65-80 range in '07. His 05 Bowman Sterling Auto/Jsy RC is selling for $20-30, down from $35-45 in '07. Despite his high 4.43 ERA, he's still had 14 outings this season in which he's allowed 2 or fewer earned runs. It's those 9 other outings with 5+ earned that have really hurt him. Verlander was quite consistent in '07, and I believe that he will regain his old form going forward.

Friday, August 22, 2008

One to Buy: Edinson Volquez

The Reds' Edinson Volquez has been one of the biggest pitcher success stories of the season. His 15-5 record is amazing, considering his team is 57-72, and his ERA of 2.73 ranks him 3rd in the NL. Despite all this, and his 8.9 K's/9IP, Volquez's cards have been falling in value over the past month. In June, his 05 Bowman Chrome Draft RC averaged around $9.20 TAC. In July it dropped to below $8.50, and in August it can be found for around $4.50. You can find his 05 BCD Ref #'d 500 & Xfractor #'d 250 in the mid to high $20's range.

During the April to June time period, Volquez was red hot, going 10-3 with a 2.08 ERA, putting him on the hobby map. For the month of July, he posted a 4.54 ERA (despite going 3-1), which explains his drop in value. So far in August, he seems to be getting back on track, posting a 2.89 ERA over 3 starts.

Volquez is one of a handful of 25-and-under pitchers that should regularly find a spot atop the statistical charts for years to come. Now appears to be a good time to buy, as the upside potential of his cards outweighs the downside.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No Posts - Watching the Olympics

I don't normally get too into watching the Olympics, but I've been strangely finding myself watching it every night since the opening ceremonies. From beach volleyball, to gymnastics, to swimming, it's become like a daily routine. Misty May-Treanor & Kerri Walsh are so great to watch. Their 100+ game winning streak is amazing! They both have Auto cards in the 2007 Topps Allen & Ginters set, and you can bet that their values are on the rise. Did anyone have the foresight to secure the rights to a Michael Phelps Auto and/or memorabilia card? Actually, Donruss had a Fans of the Game Auto insert back in 04, inserted in their Leaf Rookies & Stars baseball packs. It's now selling in the $600-700 TAC range.

Anyway, I realize that I haven't posted anything since the beginning of the month, so I'm now working on getting something up soon. Possibly highlighting the MLB players that have dropped off the radar since last season, or players who are currently selling below their values. We'll see.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Manny Finally Leaves Boston, Heads to L.A.

After all of his complaining, Manny Ramirez finally packed it up and moved to L.A. this past week. After his first two games with the Dodgers, he's hitting .500 with 1 HR & 2 RBI.

Ramirez has probably been the best individual hitter in the majors over the past 10 years, with his .316 BA and 13.44 AB/HR & 4.16 AB/RBI (Alex Rodriguez has averaged .304 with 13.14 AB/HR & 4.68 AB/RBI over that same period of time). Despite his awesome hitting and the fact that he's played for one of the top 3 high profile teams in the league, his card values have never really reached their full potential. Over the past year, his 92 Bowman RC has averaged between $8 to $16 TAC. In July, it averaged $11.79.

Manny is a future HOFer who probably has a few more good years left before we see any significant declines in performance. It's unfortunate that his values have remained almost unaffected by his two World Series Championships & MVP-type hitting. It's hard to say if he'll be a good investment going forward, but I would say that his Bowman rookie is a must-have for any true collector of modern day stars, especially at these very affordable price levels.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Harden Moves to Top Team in NL, Can't Get a W

Rich Harden has been one of the best strikeout starting pitchers in the game in recent years...well, he has been during those rare times not spent on the DL. After playing in only 16 games through the entire '06 & '07 seasons, Harden had 13 solid starts for Oakland in '08, going 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA, and averaging 10.93 K's/9IP. The A's then decided to leverage this streak of good health and trade Harden to the Cubs, getting away from the potential gamble that they've already endured (and lost) for the past few seasons.

Since moving Chicago, Harden has been better than ever for the NL-leading Cubs. In two starts, he has a 0.73 ERA, and he's averaging 14.60 K's/9Ip. Oh, and he's 0-1! In his first start against the Giants, he left the game in the 6th leading 7-0. His relievers then allowed 7 runs, pushing the game into extra innings, robbing him of the W. In his 2nd start against the D-Backs, he allowed just 1 run in 7 IP, but was outdueled by Randy Johnson, resulting in a 2-0 loss. This guy just can't catch a break!

Harden's 02 Bowman Chrome RC has been averaging $14.90 TAC this month. His BC Ref RC #'d 500 has been selling in the $29-34 range.
I think that Harden has the talent to be a perennial Cy Young contender, but unfortunately his time spent on the DL has really marred his hobby popularity. If he can stay healthy for consecutive seasons, collectors will probably start to snatch up his cards with a fury, but until then, I don't expect to see his values reaching much higher levels and sustaining.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

High-Priced Packs

I just received my new multi-sport Beckett today (I didn't request to be changed back to the old format because I figure that I don't look at the pricing anyway, so at least this way I can read the articles about all of the various sports) and was reading the "Previews" section about the new 2008 Upper Deck Ballpark Collection, which is ANOTHER $50+/pack product to hit the market. I can see having one, maybe two, brands that are priced that high, but why cannibalize your other brands? (this sounds very familiar - maybe I wrote about something similar a while back). Also, with all of the economic challenges that we're currently experiencing (gas prices, sub prime, food prices, stock market, etc...), does it really make sense to increase your number of high-end brands to spark product sales? Like most other industries, recession-like conditions typically result in consumers downgrading their spending habits to one (or two) levels lower. For example, those people who would usually be eating dinner at Mi Piace will now be satisfying their craving for Italian food at the fast-casual Olive Garden.

If I worked for Upper Deck, I would be trying to shift gears to accommodate the the economic climate (actually, this could've been done over a year ago when home values started to fall). Why do you think Hyundai recently scrapped their plans to enter the truck business? Because the writing was on the wall as the other OEM's truck sales started to struggle last year due to high gas prices (it helps to be a market follower in these instances). I must say that I've been impressed with a lot of the decisions that Upper Deck has made in the past, but this isn't one of them. I'm also not sure that their move to have one of their vendors control their production plant & material sourcing was the best option (unless they didn't have enough business to fill their capacity, resulting in too much downtime?). Anyway, I hope that a shift in brand strategies is coming soon, otherwise, the big two (UD & Topps) could see a drop in sales volume, and collectors could be left feeling empty with too few buying options to match up to their tighter budgets.

I'm sure that the card companies have done their due dilligence to determine where the sweet spot is between unit price, sales volume, etc., but I kind of miss the days (which were not that long ago) when the mid-level packs were selling for around $5-7, and the premium ones could be bought for around $20. Unfortunately, like many other consumer goods, prices usually don't go down as time goes on; they just go up.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ankiel Heating Up; Brief on Kinsler

The Cardinals' Rick Ankiel, the pitcher-turned-outfielder, has been having a hot July, batting .349 with 5 HR (20 overall) & 12 RBI (50 overall). For the year, he's averaging 1 homer for every 15.35 AB, which is more frequent than teammate Albert Pujols (1 every 15.89) & AL HR leader Grady Sizemore (1 every 15.74).

Ankiel's 99 Ultimate Victory RC started the season on fire averaging $37.04 in April. As his performance cooled, so did his values. His UV RC then dropped to an average of $18.53 in May, and $15.54 in June. I haven't seen any sell this month yet, but I expect them to be on the rise. His most popular autograph card, his 00 SPx Auto #'d 1500, is selling in the $40-50 TAC range so far in July. You can probably find his 99 SP Top Prospects Auto for around $20.

Has anyone been tracking Ian Kinsler? I've been watching him since July '07, and all I can say is WOW! He's batting .337 with 14 HR, 58 RBI & 23 SB, he's in the middle of a 25 game hit streak, and he's been selected to his first All-Star Game. Only downside? His Rangers are 7.5 games behind a pretty tough AL West-leading Angels team.

Expect to pay in the $15-25 TAC range for his 05 Bowman Chrome Ref RC.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Collectors Finally Taking Notice of Nolasco

Florida starter Ricky Nolasco is finally starting to receive some hobby attention. He made his MLB debut back in '06, and showed some signs of his potential, but finished the season with a not-so-impressive 11-11 record & 4.82 ERA. After missing nearly the entire '07 season, Nolasco started '08 slowly, going 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in April. He then proceeded to improve every month since, going 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in May, 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA in June, and 2-0 with 1.80 ERA through his first 2 starts in July. He's 10-4 with a 3.74 ERA overall.

Nolasco's 04 Bowman's Best Auto RC (his only base autographed rookie card) has been selling in the $2-5 TAC range for the past year or so, but has jumped this month to around $10 & rising.

'08 is looking to be Nolasco's breakout season, and the value of his key BB RC card should benefit in a big way. If he can maintain his current pace, I wouldn't be surprised if it reached the $20+ range before the end of the year.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Billingsley - Only Bright Spot for Dodgers' Rotation

With the Dodgers' veteran starters in a slump, Chad Billingsley has been the only bright spot in their rotation. Brad Penny, who's been on the DL since 6/17, is 5-9 with a pathetic 5.88 ERA; a far cry from his 16-4 & 3.03 ERA in '07.

Billingsley is 8-7 with a 3.12 ERA, and is averaging 9.26 K's/9IP, with 4 outings in which he allowed 0 earned runs. The negative (besides his team's overall performance) is his 3.98 BB/9IP, which should improve with age & experience. His mediocre record can be attributed to the lack of offensive support provided by his team.

Billingsley's 03 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto RC is currently selling in the $30-35 TAC range, up from it's June average of $26.95. Expect to pay in the mid $40's range for his BCD Ref Auto, and the mid $60's range for his BCD Xfractor Auto. A nice, less expensive option is his 03 UD Prospect Premiers Auto XRC, which has been selling in the $20-25 range over the past few months.

At 23-years-of-age (he'll be 24 later this month), I think that he has the chance to become a very dominant pitcher in the next year or so. All of his cards are still trading below their 12-month highs, with deals to be found for those who are willing to look for them. I'm now kicking myself for selling my BCD Auto about a year-and-a-half ago for $25!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Joba Gets First Win as Starter

After 4 no decisions in his first 4 MLB starts, Joba Chamberlain finally earned his first win as a starter on Wednesday against the Pirates, 10-0. In an impressive 6-2/3 IP, he allowed 6 hits, 0 runs, 1 BB & had 7 K's. Through these 5 starts, he's posted a 1.80 ERA in 25 IP, and averaged 4.68 BB/9IP and 9.36 K's/9IP.

Joba's 07 Bowman's Best Auto RC & Bowman Sterling Auto RC have been averaging in the $60's TAC range during the May-June period. His 07 Bowman Chrome Auto RC has averaged $126.50. We'll see if there are any significant jumps in value now that he's achieved this milestone first W (I'm guessing YES!). I'll do a follow-up post after I collect some data over the next couple of weeks.

With the Yankees' dilapidated rotation (with Phil Hughes, Carl Pavano, Chien-Ming Wang & Humberto Sanchez on the DL, Ian Kennedy struggling and Kei Igawa sent down to the minors), the team's been relying on 39-year-old Mike Mussina and 36-year-old Andy Pettitte to keep them afloat. Joba has the opportunity to really shine in this environment, and, in turn, elevate his hobby stature.
Major Fall From Grace: Justin Upton

20-year-old phenom, Justin Upton, looked ready to have a breakout season at the beginning of the year, batting .327 with 5 HR & 15 RBI in April, for the MLB-leading D-Backs. Then came May. Through 5/5, his batting average was up to .348, but by the end of May, his average had dropped to .275. As of 6/25, his average stands at .240. June has been his worst month yet, going 6-for-53 at the plate (.113).

His 06 Bowman Chrome Auto RC averaged an amazing $196.74 TAC in April. That average dropped to $136.35 in May, and can now be found in the $120's range. His 06 Bowman Chrome Ref Auto #'d 500 dropped from $256.10 in April, down to $176.50 in May, and more recently has been selling for around $150-160 TAC. If you don't want to spend $100+ for his Auto rookie, a good alternative is his 06 Bowman Sterling Auto RC, which has been selling in the $55-65 TAC range this month.

Coincidentally, his team's record went south around the same time that his bat started to give out. They were 20-8 in April, and 20-31 in May-June (thru 6/25). Fortunately for Arizona, the rest of the NL West has played even worse than they have, allowing them to maintain their top spot.

I think that it's pretty clear that Upton is going to be a hot commodity for years to come. It'll just be a matter of when he can gain enough consistency at the plate to help this young D-backs team win. If he continues at this current pace, there should be some great buying opportunities to be found on auction.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Best Lead-Off Hitters: 25 & Under

As a general rule, I typically like to buy into "new" players who are 25 years of age or younger (which would potentially give them a good number of years to reach various key career milestones). When I started looking into possible investments for lead-off hitters, 9 players fell into this age group. I then tried to narrow the field to players who have .300 BA + 30 HR-30 SB capabilities, and my list then dropped to just 4: Ian Kinsler (TEX), Jose Reyes (NYM), Hanley Ramirez (FLA) and Grady Sizemore (CLE).
  • Regarding Kinsler, see my 6/3 post on Sportslizard.
  • Reyes' 01 Bowman Chrome Ref RC was hot a couple of years ago, but has since fallen in value, and could probably be found for a good price. Realistically, he probably wouldn't reach the 30 HR mark, but could hit 20, paired with 70-80 SB per season.
  • Ramirez is, in my opinion, the lead-off hitter that has the biggest potential. In '07, he had 29 HR-51 SB and batted .332. This year, despite a recent slowdown after a red-hot start, he's still on pace to reach 34-39, according to projections. Both his 03 Bowman's Best Auto RC & Bowman Chrome Auto RC are selling at very high prices, averaging $107.25 & $176.89 TAC respectively in May. This month, there are a lot fewer of his key rookies cards for sale on auction. I'm guessing that sellers are waiting for him to heat up again before listing them for sale.
  • Sizemore, who's had 20-20 performances in all 3 of his full MLB-seasons thus far, gained a lot of hobby popularity in '07, as he hit 4-5 HR & 11-17 RBI per month from April through August. During that time, his 00 Bowman Draft Picks Auto was selling in the $250-350 TAC range. He then proceeded to have a mediocre September & post-season, driving his BDP Auto value down to $180-240 range through the entire off-season. If Sizemore can get his BA back up (currently .267) to go along with his 30-30 projection, I wouldn't be surprised to see his BDP Auto go back up to the $300+ range.

From a hobby standpoint , I think that lead-off hitters are getting the most attention that they've ever received before. In the past, it seemed like the #3 & #4 hitters garnered the bulk of the $'s spent on offensive players' cards. It's about time that this this key line-up position received some of the spotlight.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

MLB Market Movements

Ryan Howard was in a slump and was overshadowed by teammate Chase Utley through April. His .168 BA, 5 HR, 12 RBI and 37 SO's for the month drove down his key rookie card values. His 03 Bowman's Best Auto RC went from a monthly average of $277.58 TAC in March to $221.76 in April. It then rebounded in May to $255.70, as he hit .238, 10 HR & 30 RBI that month, despite striking out 40 times. So far in June, he's been pretty stagnant, and his BB Auto RC has been dropping in value again, with an average of $196.12. Once Howard learns to reduce his strikeouts, we should see his BA increase and he should be able to regain his hobby-star status. When that day comes, expect his BB Auto RC to rise back up to the $300-400 range.

With Albert Pujols on the DL, opportunity should come-a-knocking for Rick Ankiel to step up and help the Cards maintain their NL Wild Card lead (or even compete with the Cubs for the NL Central). Ankiel's 99 Ultimate Victory RC was hot in April, averaging $37.04 TAC, as he hit .290 with 5 HR & 16 RBI for the month. In the next month-and-half, he saw fewer at-bats and only added 5 more HR & 14 more RBI, as his BA dropped to it's current .254. His UV RC has been selling in the $13-18 TAC range over the past week; a steal if he starts to heat up again. His most popular Auto, his 00 SPx Auto #'d 1500, has been selling in the $60's range over the past couple of months. I expect this card to also sell at reduced levels this month.

Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th career HR this month, but you wouldn't know it based on his rookie card values. His 89 Upper Deck RC averaged $31.11 in April and $26.89 in May. Since his historic swat on 6/9, this card has averaged $28.14. Griffey may have already reached his full hobby potential. Collectors probably shouldn't buy his rookies for investments (unless maybe his graded versions might hold more future value). I personally plan to hold on to my mint 9 specimen for my private collection.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Player Focus: Adrian Gonzalez

Padres' first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was on the cusp of becoming a hobby star last season, as he hit a career-high 30 HR & 100 RBI. What held him back? The two main things, in my opinion, were his strikeouts (1 SO for every 4.6 AB) and his so-so batting average (.282 - which isn't that bad, so it probably didn't have too much of an impact). His rookie-year 00 Bowman Auto peaked at a monthly average of $54 last June, and then held steady in the $40-45 TAC range throughout the rest of the '07 season. This April, it started the '08 season in the high $30's, and then jumped to the mid-high $40's in May. So far in June, it's averaging right around $50.

Gonzalez is again averaging around 1 SO per 4.6 AB in '08 (other batting leaders have much higher AB/SO - Chase Utley is at 6.6), and is batting a slightly-better .294. The big improvement has been in his HR & RBI (he's projected to reach 44 HR & 141 RBI if he plays all 162 games). At 26-years-of-age, Gonzalez is still fairly young and could have a very decent 300-350 HR career. If he can raise up his BA to over .300 and actually start hitting 40+ HR/season (and strikeout less), I would expect his cards to elevate above their previous highs.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Player Focus: Chase Utley

Chase Utley has been the hottest hitter in the majors thus far in ’08, batting .312 with an MLB-leading 20 HR & 50 RBI. For his career, he’s averaging 30 HR & 112 RBI per 162-game season. He's currently on pace to hit 56 HR & 140 RBI! With 5 HR in his last 7 games, I don't see this guy slowing down anytime soon.

Unfortunately, Ultey only has 2 base rookie cards, and neither of them is serial #'d, autographed or from a premium set. In May, his 01 Bowman Draft Picks RC averaged $21.46 TAC (one sold on 6/1 for $32.35), and his 01 Bowman Heritage RC averaged $10.81. Collectors are also flocking to his 01 Bowman Draft Picks Jersey card, which is selling in the $40-50 TAC range, and his 02 Bowman Autograph, which can be had for upward of $120.

Utley is a part of a big-hitting Phillies line-up, which includes Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard & Pat Burrell. They've teamed up to help Philidelphia claim the top spot in the NL East. This may be their year to win the NL (and his year for the MVP), and if they do, you can expect Utley's four cards listed above to experience big jumps in value.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Around the MLB

The hobby had high expectations in '08 for last year's NL ROY, Ryan Braun, driving up the TAC of his benchmark 05 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto RC every month leading up the start of the season; $128.93 in Jan, $144.18 in Feb, $155.62 in Mar and $168 in Apr. Braun had a slow April, batting just .276 with 3 HR & 17 RBI in 105 AB, but has turned things around in May, hitting .298 with 10 HR & 19 RBI through 5/24. His BCD RC dropped off this month due to his mediocre April stats, averaging $143.04, and has yet to recover it's value. If you want to buy Braun's cards, don't wait too long because they'll probably start to jump again in the very near future. In '07 he hit 34 HR in a short 110-game season. According to, he's projected to hit 43 HR at his current pace.
Brandon Webb was a distant second to Jake Peavy in last year's NL Cy Young award race, but he started this season off as a clear favorite ahead of the rest of the pack. He put his perfect 9-0 record on the line on 5/21 against the Marlins, and despite pitching a decent game (7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB & 7 K's), picked up his first loss of the season. Webb's 03 Ultimate Collection Auto RC #'d 250, arguably his best rookie card, is averaging an amazing $148.76 TAC in May (a Gold version #'d 25 sold for $419.99 on 5/13!). His Ultimate Coll rookie cards are pretty scare, and before this month, the last one that I saw sell was back in Oct-07, and it went for $57.19 (and that was when he just completed a 16-10, 3.01 ERA season!). If you didn't already pick up Webb's key cards, it may be too late. I'm guessing that most (if not all) of his potential value is already built into his current TAC's.

Interesting Note: Jon Lester's 06 Bowman Chrome Auto RC had been averaging in the $20-25 TAC range this month. On 5/19, the day that he tossed his no-no against the Royals, one sold for $87.52! The next one that I saw sell, on 5/25, went for $23.36 (the same price level as before his no-no). What an example of hype affecting the market!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Andrew Bynum Not Returning, Will Have Surgery

Throughout most of the time that the Lakers' up-and-coming star center Andrew Bynum was out injured, his key rookie cards continued to rise in value. The hobby kept the belief alive that he would make his return to help the Lakers win the West, and eventually win the their first title since '02. It was recently announced that he wouldn't be rejoining the team this season, and today we found out that he will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday. The disappointment has been apparent in the market, with his cards finally taking their hits (with interest!).

His 05-06 SP Authentic Auto RC #'d 1299 peaked out at a monthly average TAC of $99.88 last month, and fell to $76.30 so far in May (with most recent sales at around $70). His 05-06 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1499 averaged $90.45 last month, and is at $68.13 MTD in May (with most recent sales around $55-60).

The article on said that an estimated timetable for his return would be made after his surgery. Prices should continue to fall, creating another round of buying opportunities. As long as Bynum comes back at full strength next season, he remains one of the best "big man" prospects in the league.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Kobe Wins MVP

I keep hearing about how everyone doesn't like Kobe, and that he probably won't win the MVP award AGAIN, but guess what? He IS going to finally win it, and he definitely does deserve it. I was a little worried there for a while, thinking that Chris Paul might steal the award away from him, but Paul will have his time in the spotlight before we know it. Kobe is arguably the best & most refined all-around player in the league, and his Lakers are the (again arguably) best team out there, so this SHOULD be the year that he wins it. I agree with the idea that a player who has an outstanding individual season, but who's team doesn't do well, shouldn't win the MVP (kind of like when Alex Rodriguez won the AL MVP back in '03 with the Rangers who went 71-91). So, I say again, this is Kobe's year.

Collectors seem to be targeting Kobe's higher end cards, driving up the value for his 96-97 Topps Chrome RC from an average monthly TAC of $176.54 in April to $211.78 so far in May. His 96-97 Topps Draft Picks insert is selling in the $120-130 range this month, up from around $90 in April. His mid-valued rookies have fallen in price, with his 96-97 Finest RC selling for around $20-22 over the past week, slightly down from $23.90 in April, and his 96-97 E-X RC selling for around $20, down from around $30.

Personally, I'm hoping for a Lakers-Hornets Western Final, and Lakers-Celtics Championship. These match-ups would be great for the hobby, and awesome to watch! I think that all hobbyists (and fans of the game for that matter) are tired to seeing the Spurs and/or Pistons playing for the title. Those two teams' stars have minimal hobby impact, and quite frankly aren't very interesting to watch.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

MLB Stars Having a Horrible '08

Some of the stars who have really shined in the past are off to horrible starts in '08. This list would include guys like C.C. Sabathia (1-5 & 7.51 ERA in '08 - 3x All-Star & '07 Cy Young award winner), Justin Verlander (1-5 & 6.28 ERA in '08 - '06 AL ROY & 35-15 with 3.65 ERA over last 2 seasons), Vladimir Guerrero (.257, 3 HR & 11 RBI in '08 - career .323, 36 HR & 118 RBI per 162 game season) and Troy Tulowitzki (.152, 1 HR & 11 RBI in '08 before going on DL for 6 weeks - '07 NL ROY runner-up with .291, 24 HR & 99 RBI).

Sabathia had a great regular season in '07, with his 99 Topps Traded Auto peaking at around $54 in September. After winning the AL Cy Young, collectors expected him to continue his hot pitching in '08, driving his TT Auto up to the $63-65 level in the months leading up to opening day. I haven't seen any listed since (except for fixed-price auctions). After allowing 27 ER in his first 18 IP (4 starts), he had two good back-to-back outings in which he only allowed 1 ER in 14 IP with 19 K's. I thought that it was a sign that the ace was back, but then on Saturday he picked up his 5th loss, giving up 4 earned off of 10 hits to KC. I expect to see his TT Auto drop to the $35-45 TAC range soon, creating a potential buying opportunity.

Verlander seemed like the most consistent young pitcher in the majors over the past two seasons. The Tigers as a whole were off to a rough '08 start, losing their first 7 games of the season. They've since started to recover (now 14-17), and I expect that Verlander will do the same. You can't keep a talented pitcher like him down for long. His 05 Bowman Chrome Auto RC peaked last season at an average of $81.30 TAC in July. Last month, it was selling in the $45-55 range. His 05 Bowman Sterling Auto RC peaked in the high $40's range last June, and has since dropped to the $30's range in recent. I'd keep my eye out for some major buying opportunites, until Verlander starts to turn things around (which he definitely will).

Guerrero has been a major offensive force over the past decade, hitting 30+ HR 8 times & 100+ RBI 9 times, with a career 368 HR & 1191 RBI. His 95 Bowman's Best RC has had monthly averages of around $30-45 over the past year, most recently averaging $33.86 TAC in April. They can be found in the mid-high $20's range if you look hard enough. His 95 Bowman RC averaged $26.22 last month, but can be found for around $12-15 if you're lucky. Guerrero has already experienced the peak of his career, but don't think that he's ready for retirement just yet. At 32 years of age, I'm thinking that he could have another 6 to 9 productive years left, which would make him a lock to reach the 500 HR career milestone (he only needs 132 more). Did I mention that he also has 2,001 hits? 3,000 is definitely not out of the question.

Tulowitzki was an all-around standout last season, a strong contributor with the bat and a great fielder with the glove (.987 FPCT). Before he got injured in late April, he was still fielding well (.986 FPCT), but just wasn't getting it done at the plate. His 05 Topps Rookie Cup Auto RC (his only base Auto rookie) was a steal through last September for around $30-40 TAC (probably because all of the hobby attention was on Ryan Braun, the guy that beat him out for the NL ROY). It then jumped to around $70 in October when the Rockies made their Cinderella-run to the World Series, and peaked out in the $80's range in November. Through this March & April, it's been a solid seller for around $70, but don't expect it to stay at that level. While he's out for the next several weeks, we'll probably see two things happen: 1) these cards will become very scarce on the auctions, and 2) those that are listed will be available on fixed-price auctions, or will sell well below it's most recent $70-level. It's hard to say whether or not Tulowitzki will be a good investment. I'm thinking that it will all depend on the price-point at which you buy at. (Note: The card pictured is his parallel #'d 399, not his base rookie card).

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Triple Play,

Thanks for your comments. Regarding Joba Chamberlain, I think that his cards have still retained a good amount of their potential value throughout his time spent in the bullpen. In the past week or so, his 07 Bowman Chrome Auto RC has been selling in the $120-150 range, his Bowman Sterling Auto RC in the $70-80 range, and his in the Bowman's Best Auto RC $60-70 range. I don't know what these cards were selling for before (when he was starting), but these are all very high prices for a non-starting pitcher, meaning that collectors never believed that he wouldn't return to the rotation. When he does return, I think that his values could still increase if he does well, but if he doesn't meet expectations, his cards could potentially experience a bigger drop than we've seen thus far.

With the Yankees struggling so far in '08, Chamberlain could very well move back into the rotation very soon, and have the opportunity to shine (maybe he could take Phil Hughes' spot?). Honestly, Chamberlain isn't one of the players that I watch too closely, so all of this is just my semi-informed best guess.

Yes, I am a fan of Micah Owings (that obvious huh?) Did you see that he had a pinch hit 2-run homer tonight? He may put it all together this season. So far he's off to a well-balanced start, with a 4-0 record, 3.48 ERA & 8.13 K's/9IP pitching, and is batting .421 with 1 HR & 3 RBI in 19 AB. Not too bad!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NBA Playoffs: First Round

Some of the stars that have stood out during this first round of the playoffs (and have hobby presence) are Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.

Kobe led his Lakers into the 2nd round last night, finishing off their sweep of the Nuggets. Leading the league in playoff scoring thus far with 33.5 ppg (including 49 pts & 10 assts in game 2), Kobe has been virtually unstoppable in the 4th quarter. Many people are speculating that this may finally be his year to win the MVP (which would be well-deserved), but part of me thinks that someone else may slip in and take it from him. His 96-97 Topps Chrome RC averaged $176.54 TAC in April (one sold for $196.77 the day after his 49-point performance), up from $159.28 in March, and it's season-low average of $109.46 in December. His mid-level rookies haven't faired as well as his Chrome. His 96-97 E-X RC averaged $27.55 TAC in April, down from $33.98 in March, and his 96-97 Finest RC averaged $23.90, down from $26.60. It seems like collectors are favoring his high-end cards rather than investing in his more common issues. With the Mavs on the outs and Tim Duncan passing his prime, the Lakers are on their way to forming the next Western Conference dynasty. A lot of sports fans seem to actively dislike Kobe, which could keep him from reaching his full hobby potential.

Chris Paul & the Hornets have been the hottest surprise of the season. Paul posted a triple-double tonight as he & his crew handed the Mavs their second straight first round playoff exit. He averaged 24.6 ppg, 12 apg, 5.6 rpg & only 1.2 turnovers/game through the Dallas series. Everyone seemed to automatically think that the Spurs were going to move on to the conference finals against the Lakers, but now there's probably a lot of reconsideration going on. Personally, I think that it would be great to see this young & exciting team challenge L.A. for the Championship rights. Paul's mid-level rookies have been just as hot as his on-court play, with his 05-06 SP Authentic Auto RC #'d 1299 averaging $138.12 in April, up from $114.57 in March (it started the season averaging $57.25 in November). His SPx Auto/Jsy RC #d 750 averaged $188.70, up from $133.36 (it averaged $90.84 in November). I saw one of his rare 05-06 SP Authentic Auto/Patch RC #'d 1-100/1299 sell for $283.95 in April. These cards were selling in the $215-230 range during Nov-Dec. Paul may be the one player that could steal the MVP from Kobe this year.

The Magic eliminated the Raptors on Monday 4-1, led by Dwight Howard's 22.6 ppg, 18.2 rpg & 3.8 bpg for the series. He's quickly becoming the most dominant center in the league, and at only 22 years old, you can bet he's gonna get even better. The Magic may not win their conference this year, but expect them to be in contention very soon. His 04-05 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 750 averaged $127.31 TAC in April, down from $142 in March, and it's season-high of $160.25 in December. His 04-05 SP Authentic Auto RC #'d 999 averaged $121.30, down from $157.51 last month, and it's season-high of $160.51 in December. Both of these cards started to increase in sales price toward the end of this month, signifying a revitalization of hobby interest. I haven't seen any of this higher-end rookies for sale in April.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MLB Briefs: Early Rises & Falls

Manny Ramirez had a slow start in '08, batting .256 with 1 HR & 8 RBI through 4/11. During those first two weeks of the season, his 92 Bowman RC was averaging $12.20 TAC. Since then, he's been lighting it up at the plate, now with a .356 BA and 6 HR & 20 RBI. That same Bowman rookie is now averaging around $17.99.

Through 4/6, Rick Ankiel was batting .348 with 3 HR & 6 RBI, and his 99 Ultimate Victory RC was selling in the $40-56 TAC range. It was all downhill from there, with his BA plummeting to it's current .244, with just 4 HR & 11 RBI total so far for the season. His UV rookie has also been falling, first down to the $30's last week, and now into the $20's this week.

The Yankees' Phil Hughes was commanding top $ this past off-season, but has not been able to find his groove through his first 4 starts. His first outing was decent, posting a 3.00 ERA and a no decision. He then proceeded to lose his next 3 starts, and his ERA has risen to 8.82! All of his key Auto rookie cards have experienced drops in value as a result. His 05 Bowman Chrome Auto RC fell from around $112 TAC at the beginning of the month down to the mid $80's range. His BC Ref Auto RC dropped from the high $140's down to the low $130's, and his BC X-Fractor Auto RC dropped from around $280 down to around $250.

Johan Santana was a super hot commodity when he got traded to the Mets. Last month, his 00 Bowman's Best RC #'d 2999 averaged $76.57 TAC, and his 00 Finest RC #'d 3000 avearged $136.76. Through his first 4 starts, he's posted a disappointing 2-2 record & 3.12 ERA (hobby expectation was much higher, with a lot of anticipated value already built into his pricing). Both of key rookies have dropped off quite a bit in April, with his BB RC averaging $65.75 (last sale $46.88 on 4/20) & Finest RC averaging $114.10 (last sale $99.65 on 4/20).

Felix Hernandez started the season with a 0.00 ERA in this first two starts, but received no decisions in both due to disappointing reliever performances. He finally got his first win in his 3rd start, and is now 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA after 5 starts. His 04 Bowman Chrome Auto RC was selling for around $105 TAC in early April, and has since risen to around $115. His BC X-fractor Auto RC was at around $220, and is up to around $230 now.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Player Focus: Ervin Santana

Angels' pitcher Ervin Santana is off to a solid start, going 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA, and averaging 7.33 K's/9IP & only 2 BB/9IP. On Saturday, he tossed a 3-hit, 8-inning gem to help the Angels beat the Mariners 4-1 (only run allowed was a solo-homer to Adrian Beltre).

The 25-year-old Santana entered the majors in '05, and had his best season thus far in '06, posting a 16-8 record, 4.28 ERA, and averaging 6.22 K's/9IP. Collectors then had him on their radar, and anticipated bigger & better things in the following year. Unfortunately, '07 turned out to be a huge disappointment. Santana's inconsistencies sank him, as he posted a horrible 7-14 record & 5.76 ERA. You can imagine how that impacted his card values (I had him on my watchlist for over a year, and ended up dropping him to make space for other players). For those collectors who still believed in him (or felt like doing a little gambling) in the past year, your investments may start paying off this season. I had bid on a few of his rookie auctions, but didn't end up winning any of them.

One of his BB rookies sold on Saturday for $10.26 TAC.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rays' Ace Kazmir Prepping for Return

Scott Kazmir, last season's AL strikeout leader (1 K short of Jake Peavy's MLB-leading 240 K's), began '08 on the DL due to an elbow injury. On Friday, he had his first rehab start in Class A, and reported that he was able to work on all of his pitches, and "felt good for the most part". In 3 IP, he gave up 1 ER & 1 H, with 0 BB & 3 K's.

For those who read my top pitchers list last season, you know that I consider Kazmir the best in his age group. His rookie cards remained relatively inexpensive in '07, despite his strong performance (probably a lot of it has to do with him playing for Tampa Bay). I like his 02 UD Prospect Premiers Auto XRC & 04 Bowman Sterling Auto/Jsy RC, which can be found for around $40 & $20 TAC, respectively.
The Rays started the season 3-1, but then hit some rough patches and fell to their current 7-10 record, putting them into last place in the AL East. Kazmir is now expected to return to the team on 5/3; not a day too soon.
Bynum Update

The latest official news on Andrew Bynum, who's been out since 1/13, is that "his knee still feels "unstable", and that he feels pain during movement", according to the L.A. Times on 4/12. Now, 6 days laters and 2 days till game 1 of the LA-DEN series, people are speculating that he may not return until the Western Conference Finals, to give him extra rest since he shouldn't be needed until the Lakers face the Spurs or possibly the Suns, who both have big centers that Pau Gasol wouldn't be able to handle.

As I wrote before, Bynum's key auto rookies have hit record TAC values since he's been out. Collectors were hyped when he was playing so well at the beginning of the season, and it seems that they've just continued to carry that feeling for the past few months, with the expectation that he would return to help lead the Lakers to a championship. I myself have shared this sentiment, to some degree, also. It's probably true that they couldn't contain Tim Duncan without Bynum (although in the case of the Suns, Shaq is a far cry from what he used to be several years ago, and the Lakers could probably deal with him on the floor for 25 mpg). In my opinion, the Lakers can make it to the Western Finals without Bynum, but to move on to the finals with Boston, they'll need him on the floor playing close to the level he left off at when he got hurt.

Bynum's 05-06 SP Authentic Auto RC #'d 1299 is averaging $98.05 TAC in April (another monthly record high), up from $87.73 in March (and up from $24.34 last November!). His 05-06 SPx Auto/Jsy RC #'d 1499 is averaging $88.90 in April, down from $97.10 in March. I'm attributing his SPx price drop to the lazy sig that's on this card - "AB#17" (check out my post on 11/27/06 titled "Player Focus: Andrew Bynum Auto Variations" for more details). Although, I wouldn't be surprised if this card does start to jump up to the $100+ range, since collectors tend to like the triple-threat rookie card: serial #'d, auto & game-used all on the same card.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Around the MLB

The Royals' Zack Greinke is 3-0 in his first 3 games of '08, posting a 0.75 ERA and allowing just 2 ER in his last 24 innings pitched. A perfect start to a comeback season, after missing time in the majors over the past two years due to psychological issues and inconsistent pitching. Greinke's 02 UD Prospect Premiers Auto RC has been selling $25-30 TAC range this month. If he can keep consistent, and mentally stable, this card should see it's value rise very soon.

Florida's Scott Olsen had a good outing on Tuesday, allowing 5 hits, 0 runs & 0 walks with 3 K's in 7 innings pitched. He's now 2-0 with a 3.05 ERA after 3 starts. In his first full season in '06, he set the Marlins rookie strike-out record with 166, and picked 12 W's. After having a subpar '07 season, I think that Olsen is due for a rebound. His 04 Bowman Sterling Auto/Jsy RC has averaged in the $6-9 TAC range over the past year, and could be set for a rise in '08.

David Wright is off to a good start, batting .313 with 4 HR & 15 RBI. On Tuesday, he helped his Mets beat the Nationals, going 3-for-4 at the plate, with a 2-run HR, 2 doubles & 5 RBI. Wright is coming off of a strong '07 season, where he hit .325 with 30 HR, 107 RBI & 196 hits. The Met's are gonna need him to lead their offense if they want to compete with the Marlins & Phillies for the NL East title. His 02 Bowman Chrome Auto RC has been selling in the $260-300 TAC range this month.

Justin Verlander was one of the most consistently good pitchers in the league the last two seasons, but his first 4 starts in '08 have been horrible (just like his team). He picked up his 3rd straight loss on Wednesday, as the Indians pounded the Tigers 11-1, and now has a 0-3 record with a 7.03 ERA. Verlander's 05 Bowman Chrome Auto RC averaged $69.32 TAC in March, up from $52.99 in February. I haven't seen any sell so far in April, but I would expect to see prices fall. His 05 Bowman Sterling Auto RC averaged $39.05 TAC in March. Ditto for this one too. Verlander is a definite talent and should have a productive MLB career ahead of him. If and when his prices do fall, there should be some good buying opportunities out there.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Young D-Backs Off to Great Start

The Arizona D-Backs are off to a great start this season, posting an 8-2 record (MLB best) in their first 10 games. They have 5 decent-potential players in their line-up that are 25 years old or younger, and any one of them (or more) could be on the verge of a breakout season. I'm focusing on the three that should make big improvements in performance this season, versus in '07. (Note: All stats are as of 4/11/08).

Mark Reynolds, their 2nd year third baseman, is batting .308 with 5 HR & 14 RBI; both MLB bests. Last season, in 111 games, he hit .279 with 17 HR & 62 RBI, and averaged 1.16 Strikeouts/game. There's been an increased amount of market activity on his 07 Bowman Chrome RC & it's parallels. He also has base auto rookies in 07 Upper Deck Future Stars, Exquisite Collection Rookie Signatures (#'d 199), UD Black (#'99), Bowman's Best & Finest (I could be missing a few). If he can keep consistent & reduce his SO/game (vs last season), he should be on his way to helping the D-Backs to another post-season appearance.

Justin Upton, their 2nd year rightfielder, is batting .368 with 4 HR & 7 RBI. Last season, in 52 games, he hit .221 with 2 HR & 11 RBI, and averaged 0.86 SO/game. Upton is considered to have the most potential out of all 5 of these players, with commentators on ESPN predicting that he'll soon be a perennial All-Star. He's been on fire so far this season, hitting 4 homers in his first 10 games (twice as many as he did last season in 52 games!). Upton's 06 Bowman Chrome Auto RC & it's parallels have been hot sellers since their release. Expect to pay close to $200 for his base card. At this point, a lot of his future value has already been built into current prices. Reynolds is probably a better buy right now, from a "bang-for-your-buck" standpoint (of course I could be wrong - look at Albert Pujols' 01 Bowman Chrome Auto RC!).

Stephen Drew, their 3rd year shortstop, is batting .294 with 2 HR & 2 RBI. Last season, in 150 games, he hit .238 with 12 HR & 60 RBI, and averaged 0.67 SO/game. Drew's rookie cards have held decent value over the past year, and should have a good amount to grow if he can gain more consistency at the plate. His 05 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto RC has averaged in the $42-52 TAC range over the past year, with April sales in the high $40's. His 05 Ultimate Collection Auto RC #'d 99 has been selling in the $90-116 range.

Just as I'm writing this post, I hear on ESPN that Justin Upton hit a 3-run homer against the Rockies earlier today, giving him 5 HR for the season. He's now batting .415 with 5 HR & 11 RBI. Reynolds picked up his 15th RBI.

These guys could potentially experience the same type of hobby explosion that the Brewers' young stars had in '07. Prince Fielder was one of the hottest players before the break, and Ryan Braun took over the spotlight thereafter.

For those who left me comments recently:

Gellman - Great Santana sale! I unfortunately didn't pick up any of this cards while they were down. Those are the stories that keep us all in the market, searching for that next player who'll jump in value.

Thomas - Thanks for your complement. My content & writing quality isn't as good as I'd like, but I'm glad to hear that someone out there is reading it! Much appreciated.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Player Focus: Micah Owings
The D-Backs' RHP (and sometimes slugger), Micah Owings, has done quite well on the mound in his first two starts this season. He's 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA, 3 BB and 13 K's in 13-2/3 IP. His bat, though, hasn't quite warmed up just yet (1-for-6 with 3 strike-outs).

In '07, Owings made his MLB debut on 4/6/07 tossing 5 shut-out innings to help his team beat the Nationals 7-1. On 8/18/07, he had 7 K's in 7 IP and allowed 3 ER, in addition to batting 4-for-5 with 2 HR & 6 RBI in a 12-6 win over the Braves. He had his first career shutout on 9/18/07 against the Giants. In his final start of the regular season, he pitched 6-1/3 shutout innings and went 4-for-4 with 3 RBI at the plate enroute to an 8-0 win over the Pirates. Owings had his ups and downs during his '07 rookie campaign, and unfortunately his one post-season appearance was one of his downs. He allowed 6 runs (2 earned), including a 3-run HR to Matt Holliday, in the D-Backs' 6-4 loss to the Rockies in the 4th & deciding game of the NLCS.

Owings only has one base auto rookie - 05 Topps Chrome Update Auto. This card has had a monthly average TAC of between $9.00-15.50 since last August. The two parallel versions of his TCU RC, the Refractor Auto #'d 500 & Black Refractor Auto #'d 200, have averaged in the $11-20 range and $20-39 range respectively, over the same time period.

In my opinion, Owings has a good amount of hobby potential, with his ability to help his team both defensively & offensively. During his bad pitching months last season, I had mentioned that maybe he could follow in Rick Ankiel's footsteps. But, given his first two starts this year, it looks like he may have the skills to remain in the D-Backs' rotation, and provide the added bonus of an occasional HR here & there instead.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

MLB Briefs: Poor '08 Starts

Phil Hughes, the Yankees' 21-year-old pitcher, picked up his 2nd N/D in 2 tries on 4/8. He now has a 2-game record of 0-0 with a 5.00 ERA, allowing 10 hits, 5 BB with 6 K's in 9 IP. Collectors' belief in Hughes' potential have kept his top rookie card values high. His 04 Bowman Chrome Auto RC has averaged in the $95-120 TAC range in the past couple of months (compared to someone like Justin Verlander, who's 05 BC RC has sold in the $50-70 range, despite having accomplished so much more on the mound than Hughes has). His 04 SP Prospects Auto RC #'d 400 has been selling in the $165-175 range, and his 04 Donruss Elite EE Auto RC #'d 1485 has been in the $35-60 range. Because of his age, he'll get quite a bit of hobby-leeway (at least for a little while). He may become a huge star for New York in the future, but as of today, I'd say that he's a higher-risk bet, at current market values. Of course, that risk level would come down some if his cards become more affordable.

At one point, Hunter Pence was one of the hottest commodities in the hobby in '07 (until he got injured). He posted an impressive .322 BA with 17 HR & 69 RBI in 108 games played. So far in '08, he hasn't been able to keep his 3-6 Astros out of the NL Central's bottom spot. He's batting a pitiful .179 with 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 BB and 10 strike-outs in his first 9 games. His 04 SP Prospects Auto RC #'d 600 is selling for around $160 TAC this month, down from close to $200 in March, and a high of $309 last July. His 04 Donruss Elite EE Auto RC #'d 672 has been selling for around $100, down from a high of $134 last July, and his 04 Hot Prospects Auto RC #'d 299 has been selling for around $125, down from a high of $139 last July. Pence has the chance to be a part of one of the best line-ups in the NL, with guys like Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman (potentially that is - so far none of them have been too consistent).

Last year's NL ROY runner-up, Troy Tulowitzki, hasn't been able to carryover his strong offense from '07 into the '08 season (so far). In his first 8 games, he's batting .212 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 BB & 6 strike-outs. The bright side is that he started the '07 season batting a similar .200 with 0 HR & 1 RBI through his first 8 games, and still ended the year at .291, 24 HR & 99 RBI. So there's still hope for him to turn things around in '08! His 05 Topps Rookie Cup Auto RC (his one-and-only base rookie auto) has seen huge growth over the last year, averaging $33 TAC last July, then peaking out at $82 last November. This month it's been selling in the $70's range, signaling that the hobby still maintains the belief that Tulowitzki is the future of the franchise, and could possibly help the team reach the post-season again. The only complaint that I have about the TRC set is that there are too many parallels; #'d to 399, 299, 199 & 50, in addition to the unnumbered base).