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 espn.com 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.