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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.