First off, I am excited to be contributing to Prospects1500! I thought I would kick off my first article with a little more of an overview of the buzz around prospects in baseball cards and then talk about some of the top prospects values in the hobby industry today. I would assume that most of you follow prospects already and are enamored with the baseball farm system. Following young prospects as they ascend to MLB is a fun story to watch unfold. I have recently been hooked into following prospects closer. It is a very interesting and constantly changing process. Personally I have always been a fan of following players from early on in their careers. I have always been an NFL Draft junkie for that reason I am very interested in following the prospect landscape in MLB as the story unfolds a bit slower than the NFL. I am also a high school math teacher, so the stats do have a bearing on players’ card values changing with performance, and promotions are very intriguing to me with the numbers & data involved. Let’s take a look at some basics from the hobby side of things.
What type of cards have prospects?
The King of prospect cards is Bowman (a division/brand of Topps). Bowman has three major products a year in terms of prospects with Bowman, Bowman Chrome, and Bowman Draft. There are other products that have prospects in them such as Topps Pro Debut, Topps Heritage Minor League, Leaf, and Panini. Bowman is the most valued and sought after prospect cards in the industry. THE card to own of any prospect is usually his 1st Bowman Chrome autograph. It is interesting to me actually that a Leaf dual patch autograph card of Jarred Kelenic sells for $25, while a numbered to 250 autograph of Jarred Kelenic in Bowman can go for $300 or more. It’s crazy that the value is put into one card based on the brand. While the other cards are still really cool and fun to have for your personal collection, they just don’t bring the same value and interest as the Bowman cards.
As a hobbyist, the most addicting, fascinating, interesting, and fun part of collecting is the hunt for the cards you want. I am a big Mariners fan, hence why I used Kelenic as my previous example (sorry Mets). I enjoyed hunting for Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez cards this past spring. I was really into cards when I was younger and moved away in my college years and recently came back full force. The industry has changed dramatically in the past decade. With technology and the tools we have today it is easier than ever to find the cards and stuff you want. Breaking cards is a huge addition to the hobby over the past decade. Breaking cards itself is when a supplier has cases/boxes of cards that they open for customers. As a customer you basically buy in to a break just like you would buy a box a cards yourself. However, there are some interesting dynamics. The two main ways breaks are done are Pick Your Team format or Random Team format. Pick Your Team format essentially means if you are first to call the Red Sox, you get the Red Sox at the price set by the breaker. Selecting a team means you will get every card that comes out with a player on that team, makes it a fun way for a fan to collect their favorite team. Random Team is exactly as it sounds but are typically cheaper to buy in because there are teams you don’t want that you could get stuck with. The person who breaks the cards will open the boxes on a live video stream and every card that is pulled for the team you got is sent to you (although some breakers don’t ship base cards and only “hits,” like autos, relics, special inserts, etc.). It is a lot of fun to watch them being opened, especially when you hit a big card. Breaking cards is continually evolving, and there are tons of breakers out there that you can find listed on Breakerculture.com. They are also free to watch even if you are not in them. That’s how I started out because I wanted to see if I liked the guys opening the cards and what was in the different products. Go check some out! The limited options for sports cards days are over, and the hunt is fun and full of variety.
Top 5 Prospects Cards Today
This list is not a top prospects list. This is a list of the current highest valued prospect cards in the hobby. Overall for collectors, pitchers don’t hold as much value with their high risk of injury. Also, guys like Yordan Alvarez, Gavin Lux, and Bo Bichette are not on this list as they are no longer in the minors. When talking about each top prospect I will keep it simple and use their base autograph as a baseline. I will throw in some high valued parallel cards but there are so many it would be hard to show you the entire landscape. I will also keep these prices to raw cards, and the next article I will try to give some insight to grading before I throw those in. Raw cards simply means they are not graded by a grading company. Let’s take a look!
Wander Franco, SS (TB) – 18 years old
Franco not only is the number 1 prospect in baseball, he is also the most coveted 1st Bowman Autograph right now as well. Franco’s 1st Bowman Chrome autograph was in the 2019 Bowman that was released in April. He has done everything to solidify his #1 ranking for prospects. Hitting for high average with speed and great defense is what has fans drooling. Drooling is an understatement for how his cards are being valued. A base autograph of Wander Franco sells for $450, while a blue refractor autograph which is numbered to /150 sells for $1330! The hobby is in love with Wander Franco, as they should be.
Jo Adell, OF (LAA) – 20 years old
Adell has been heavily anticipated for sometime. He is arguably the number 2 prospect in the game. Adell’s 1st Bowman Autograph appeared in 2017 Bowman Draft. His base autograph is anywhere from $450-500 right now. His gold wave refractor auto numbered to /50 is valued at $2500. Adell hasn’t overly impressed stats wise and has dealt with some injuries, but the hobby still is valuing his cards at a high level. It will be interesting to see how starts his MLB career and where the value of his cards go. He hasn’t shown a lot of speed or power which is a concern for me in terms of his ceiling.
Luis Robert, OF (CWS) – 22 years old
Robert along with Adell is another highly anticipated arrival. They are both going to be up in the Majors soon. Robert is a bit more interesting to me however. He is showing the coveted combo of speed and power. He had over 30 HR and 30 SB this year in the minors. His base auto is currently selling for around $260. He has a gold autograph numbered to /50 that went for $1400. With his combination of speed and power he would be a guy I would advise to buy. As you can see with Acuna, speed and power is what people want to see.
Julio Rodriguez, OF (SEA) – 18 years old
Julio Rodriguez is the 2nd player we will talk about from this year’s 2019 Bowman. The Mariners international prospect has had a great first year. He doesn’t have the speed but he has the hit tool that you want to see. He moved up to A+ and ended the year on a tear batting .462, and with that his card values have been bumped up recently. Rodriguez’s base auto goes for $220 right now. His green refractor auto numbered to /99 sell for around $600. The consistent hard contact at a young age of 18 makes you believe there is some power upside with Rodriguez in the future.
Marco Luciano, SS (SF) – 18 years old
The Giants international prospect was overshadowed at first by Wander Franco. Once Luciano started playing stateside earlier this year, his card values started to rise. The Giants had two top prospects in Bowman 2019, Joey Bart and Marco Luciano. When the product opened Bart was the top get for San Francisco. Luciano is now right at his level in the eyes of collectors. Luciano’s base Bowman autograph sells for $165. His blue refractor autograph sells for $800. He started hot in rookie ball showing power and speed with a high average. When he moved up to A- he struggled for a bit and then had an injury that slowed him to finish the season. His card values have had a similar ride. They are a bit lower than they were a month ago but he as shown good combination of tools that has the hobby excited to own his cards.
Some 2019 Bowman Chrome notable prospects to chase, which was just released September 18th: