It’s an exciting time for baseball collectors as the new season kicks off this week with the release of 2021 Topps Series 1. To celebrate their 70th year, Topps kicked off festivities with their #ToppsSeries1RipParty this past Tuesday night (February 9th). Multiple baseball stars including Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Mariano Rivera, Kris Bryant, John Smoltz and others ripped open packs from the last 7 decades.
2020 Topps started fast with Series 1 but each product seemed to get weaker with the releases of Series 2 and then Update. With COVID, it was a tough year for the movement of prospects, and unfortunately made for one of the weakest Update series in recent memory in terms of rookie cards. With that, let us turn the page! Many of us have been waiting to turn the page on 2020 for some time, which makes 2021 Series 1 even more exciting! Very similar to last year’s Series 1, this product is deep with RCs! In this article I’m going to outline the Rookie Cards to chase, early Pick Your Team (PYT) break pricing, and give you my sleeper teams to shoot for based on value. Lastly, I will update you on the Short Prints to hunt for, which is always my favorite chase in the product.
2021 Topps Design
At first glance, the 2021 Topps design is more modern than recent designs. I have a tough time not seeing the Donruss design myself, so I am not a fan. I prefer the simple designs that focus more on the photos of the players than the extra borders and stuff that isn’t a part of the photo. However, I do like the colored parallel cards this year and the insert sets. I also wasn’t a big fan of 2020 design out of the gate and then it grew on me, so we will see how this year’s design plays out. The silver pack cards (found in hobby and jumbo boxes) are really sharp this year! I love the 1986 design!
Top Teams According to Pick Your Team Pricing in Breaks
- White Sox
Similar to last year’s Series 1, this year is jam-packed with RCs which we will get to. There are a lot of teams that I see being undervalued. My favorite team to target right now is the White Sox. They have a really strong checklist with autos from Luis Robert, Frank Thomas, Nick Madrigal, and more. They are not a tier-one team but with the skill set of Madrigal and Robert Rookie Cup cards, I think they are a great value. The Marlins are one of the cheapest teams you can get. I like Sixto Sanchez so Marlins cheap price in breaks is appealing. They lack autos in the checklist overall, but have good potential with their rookies Sixto, Monte Harrison and Jesus Sanchez. The Yankees are intriguing this year as they have some high-end Derek Jeter Autographs that will be a big hit, and Devi Garcia on their RC checklist as well.
A couple of teams I am not a fan of so far in pricing are the Giants and Cardinals. The Giants have Joey Bart rookie cards but other than that not much else. Their autographs and veterans checklist is weak overall. The Cardinals are priced in that top tier of teams for some breaks. They only have Dylan Carlson on their checklist, who is a strong prospect but Adell and Bohm have better depth in their team checklists for the price. The Angels and Phillies have autos of Trout and Harper as additional hits for those other two top teams. The Cardinals’ lack of depth makes them overpriced in the top tier, but if you can get them priced closer to the middle tier, the Carlson rookie makes it worth it.
Notable Rookies in the Checklist
Jo Adell, OF, Angels – Rough start to his MLB career but came in as the consensus #2 prospect in October by Prospects1500 staff.
Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals – Also had a rough start to his MLB career batting .200 with a nearly 30% K rate. Still has the upside with his #11 ranking by the Prospects1500 staff.
Alec Bohm, 3B, Phillies – Had a great showing last year in his first MLB action. The Phillies have a nice lineup in which he can continue to contribute.
Cristian Pache, OF, Braves – Has plus defense with some potential to grow at the plate with the young Braves team around him.
Joey Bart, C/1B, Giants – Showed signs of power but was inconsistent with his contact in his first MLB action with a 29% K rate.
Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox – Translated his minors numbers to the majors in 26 games batting .340 with 2 SB. Should be leadoff for the stacked White Sox lineup.
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, Orioles – Had a great MLB debut hitting 5 HR, batting .333 in 35 games.
Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Red Sox – Had an impressive MLB debut hitting 8 HR in 23 games. It was all or nothing for him with a 42% K rate however, so we will see if he can settle in between.
Nate Pearson, P, Blue Jays – Pearson hits triple digits consistently and has high-end tools to be an ace for Toronto, checked in at 10th overall for Propsect1500 rankings.
Sixto Sanchez, P, Marlins – Had a solid MLB debut last season going 3-2 with sub 3 ERA. He checked in 16th on Prospects1500 ranks.
Casey Mize, P, Tigers – Had a rough start in the MLB but showed the tools and ability to strike big league hitters out. The Tigers have an arsenal of young pitching coming up with Mize, Skubal, and Manning.
Tarik Skubal, P, Tigers – Had some good games and some rough games coming up as you would expect, the big lefty showed the ability to sit down hitters in his debut with a 10K per 9 average.
Luis Patino, P, Padres – Patino showed some electric stuff in his debut, he will be with the Padres in terms of RC cards but is now with the Rays after the Snell trade.
Non-RC Cards to Chase
70 Years of Baseball Dual Autos – This set has some amazing cards in it. Griffey and Trout, Acuna and Tatis, Ripken and Jeter, and many more. All of these autos are numbered out of 5! So an amazing shot at an amazing card.
1986 Autograph Checklist – This checklist is flooded with amazing veteran and rookie autos on the 1986 Topps design. The throwback year inserts have been a fun part of the Topps series and this continues on this trend. Autographs from Mike Trout to Nolan Ryan there are so many fun options to chase in this set.
Topps Unique Experience tickets – 25 tickets are randomly inserted into Series 1, and 25 will be in Series 2 later in the year. These tickets send the winner and a guest to an exclusive event put on by Topps later in 2021. Deep Fried Breaks actually pulled one during a break on February 10th.
— Deep Fried Breaks (@deepfriedbreaks) February 10, 2021
Variations and Short Prints
This year the breakdown is (looking at the last 3 digits of the Topps codes on the back of the cards):
- Base cards – 213
- Short Print (SP) – 230
- Super Short Print (SSP) – 231
- Ultra Short Print (USP) – 232
So far there have been at least 25 Rookie SPs identified. The Super Short Prints and Ultra Short Prints are still being identified. The Ken Griffey Sr & Ken Griffey Jr. Ultra Short Print was unveiled during the Topps Series 1 Rip Party on February 9th.
Many are also chasing the Alec Bohm RC variation and mask-wearing Mike Trout SSP. The rookie card short prints are the main attraction but the assortment of legends is appealing to all baseball collectors. You can find an SP/variations guide on Beckett, and they keep updating it as others are found.
Enjoy the start to the 2021 hobby season with Topps Series 1 and good luck with any and all rips!