However, over the years, there have been many promising young arms that perform like emerging aces. In 2019, we’ve seen a few like Tyler Glasnow and Lucas Giolito. These guys were sort of expected to deliver these results. Mike Soroka has been a bit more surprising. He’s not really a strikeout guy, but he is getting the job done. Because of an ERA under 2.00 through mid-June, the hobby is actually pretty excited about him.
Take a look at these recent sales on eBay:
Raw refractor sales
Bgs 9.5/10 auto
Interestingly, there are a lot of best offers for the raw cards, so I had to dig for final values with Watchcount. So, the figures may be a bit off. However, it seems that the fair market value is around $65-70 for the Mike Soroka base Chrome Auto.
On the other hand, Soroka BGS graded copies seem to be getting more of a premium at auction than usual. Typically these Bowman Chrome autos realize about a 70 percent premium over raw examples, although for some players the return can be larger. We are seeing something like a 250 percent premium with Soroka. That’s pretty significant. There’s clear investor interest here. Is it justified?
How Good is Mike Soroka?
Between his debut on April 18, 2019 to his start against the Miami Marlins on June 7th, 2019, Soroka had a 1.38 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP! After a rough start in Pittsburgh in which he gave up 5 runs, his ERA and WHIP “ballooned” to 1.92 and 0.97 respectively. That start didn’t seem to affect his prices, though.
While Soroka’s 21.1% strikeout rate isn’t elite and his 6.3% walk rate is simply very good, he’s been limited contact at an elite level early on in his career. His wOBA against is a mere .237. That’s in line with guys like Justin Verlander and Hyun-Jin Ryu, as well as emerging aces Tyler Glasnow, and Lucas Giolito. Of course, we have to consider if this level of performance is sustainable.
Soroka’s expected wOBA based on quality of contact, thanks to Statcast, is .287. For reference:
Tyler Glasnow: .229 wOBA vs .232 xwOBA
Hyun-Jin Ryu: .231 wOBA vs .255 xwOBA
Justin Verlander: .233 wOBA vs .262 xwOBA
Lucas Giolito: .233 wOBA vs .266 xwOBA
Mike Soroka: .237 wOBA vs .287 xwOBA
Who compares more to Soroka by xwOBA?
Mike Soroka: .237 wOBA vs .287 xwOBA
Walker Buehler: .247 wOBA vs .282 xwOBA
Josh Tomlin: .276 wOBA vs .287 xwOBA
Jake Odorizzi: .246 wOBA vs .288 xwOBA
Marcus Stroman: .299 wOBA vs .290 xwOBA
Carlos Rodon: .312 wOBA vs .289 xwOBA
That’s not a bad group of names. Walker Buehler is a strong pitcher for the Dodgers. Odorizzi is one of the Twins better pitchers. Stroman is one of the more sought after rotation pieces in trade. Rodon has pedigree and is currently underachieving. Soroka’s own teammate, Tomlin, has been a very effective pitcher in the past. So, even if Soroka regresses, he’s still a very good starting pitcher.
Is he worth spending $175 for a BGS 9.5/10 auto, however? In general, pitchers are very risky investments. We’ve seen some pitchers buck that trend, but in general they need to be elite with excellent track records, such as Justin Verlander or Craig Kimbrel, to be safe investments. At this point, it may be better to buy raw and get graded, since the premium is currently so high. But it is worth noting that the only guy that people get really excited about in the Hobby from that second list is Walker Buehler. Interestingly, Buehler’s raw 1st Bowman auto cards are becoming more expensive than Soroka’s, but graded they aren’t much more.
Is Mike Soroka a Good Investment?
So, the question you have to ask yourself before investing, is Soroka going to be the next Justin Verlander? Probably not. Will he be more like Walker Buehler? That’s not too bad. But, as good as Soroka looks now, he could end up very much like those other guys (Tomlin, Stroman, Odorrizi, and Rodon). Not that they are bad pitchers, but they have all had significant ups and downs. Odorizzi’s auto’s are around $10, Stroman gets a few bucks if you’re lucky. Rodon is around $5. Tomlin… yeah. Of all those four guys, Rodon is young enough (26) that he could turn things around - his career hasn’t been that bad after all.
Soroka is a very good pitcher who’s excelled in the minor leagues. But, a lot of these guys did. The chances of Soroka falling into the second tier above are very real, but becoming a solid #2 like Buehler would mean his cards are worth holding. But as we’ve seen, slightly above average pitchers are getting about $5 to 10 for their 1st autos now… and that is not what you want for ROI. I’m skeptical, but definitely watch Soroka. He could be an emerging ace, indeed. He just needs to strike out more guys like Glasnow and Giolito before I would recommend buying in.