by Phoenix Desertsong, Red Sox Crazy Fanatic
Unlike fellow Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas, Bobby Dalbec may be close to his Major League debut. In 2019, Dalbec did plenty of damage at Double-A Portland in the Atlantic League. His first 30 game stint was encouraging, hitting 7 home runs without embarrassing himself. Dalbec will be 25 in June 2020, so very soon the Red Sox will want to see what they really have in their top prospect. Like Casas, Dalbec has immense raw power, rated a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Also Like Casas, Dalbec has a below average hit tool, meaning he doesn't really hit for average. Unlike Casas, he may never develop into more than a .250 hitter at the MLB level.
However, Dalbec has other things going for him. Dalbec has much more advanced plate discipline and tons of walks at Double-A. He has also been trimming his strikeout rate Which is another good sign. The only troubling thing so far is he walked very little on his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. That can partially be explained away by Dalbec potentially trying to prove himself at the minors most advanced level. He did show the power and didn't strike out more than he did at Portland.
The other plus with Dalbec perhaps is what will make him a much better real life player than may be ever reflected in his card prices. Casas may be a passable third baseman with his above average arm, but his future is likely as a slightly better than average first baseman on defense. On the other hand, Dalbec projects to be a better than average fielder with an excellent arm at the hot corner. Because he is likely much more versatile on defense, the Red Sox may be happy to just have him for his fielding ability and take any power he offers as a binus.
Obviously, Dalbec looks to be a nice useful player. But being on the doorstep of the major leagues with really only raw power, walk, and nice fielding skills to his credit, is there much potential for the hobby to embrace him?
Bobby Dalbec's key rookie card is 2016 Bowman Chrome Draft. While his auto is popular, it still sells for less than that of Single-A slugger Triston Casas. Is Dalbec undervalued, especially being so close to the majors? Or are hobby prospectors more intrigued by Casas' ceiling? Both have plenty of prospect hype, but Dalbec can likely help very soon at the MLB level. Considering you can find his base Chrome - and even the refractor - very recently in the dollar bin, he could be a nice player to hoard and flip very soon if that's what you'd like to do.
The big question is Dalbec ready for regular MLB duty. Many prospect evaluators Believe he has more room to grow. His Autos aren't super cheap, and there still is some prospect hype baked into thatorice. A lot has to do with how the Red Sox front office handles him. The red sox may not be the team he starts for in the near future, as the Red Sox may need to evaluate whether Dalbec is better off as a trade chip as they try to creatively rework their roster.
Of course, staying with the Red Sox may be good for his future, but if he can become a starter somewhere else and succeed, that’s even better for both Dalbec and his rookie cards. In any case, Dalbec seems to be very close to Major League action. Whether he becomes a backup corner infielder, a second-division starter (that is, for a below-average team), or an all-star is all up to how he fares once thrown into the MLB fire. His base Chrome would be my choice, although his auto is still cheap enough that if you believe he can carry his power, arm, and glove to a starting job somewhere, it’s worth a look.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Big Huge Red Sox Crazy Fan
Triston Casas is the type of baseball prospect that hobby prospectors salivate over. Many scouts believe that the Red Sox top prospect could develop into a middle of the batting order hitter. His Raw Power scouting grade from FanGraphs is a 70 with 80 potential - 80 being the top grade. His current in-game power grade is a 35 with a 65 potential.
As for results, his 137 wRC+ mostly at A-ball is fine, and just turning 20 and graduated to High-A ball, he still projects as at least an average Major League player. The big question with him is if his hit tool - ability to hit for average - will rise from the current 25 to the potential 50. The good news is he doesn’t strike-out a ton for a young power hitter and he does take some walks, so his profile is actually pretty good.
His key rookie card is the 2018 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto. The last raw one that sold on eBay was mid October 2019 for $49.99 plus $3.50 shipping. We’ll call it a $50 to $55 card. The cheapest you’ll find on eBay the night of this writing is $60.
There are a couple of other Bowman Chrome Draft autos of Casas that are selling, however, that include the Class of 2018 auto (the refractor numbered to 250) and the Draft Night auto (refractors numbered to 99 and gold refractors numbered to 50). These are attractive targets because there are simply so few of them. The class of 2018 refractor auto you can find for about $40 plus shipping. The draft night auto you’ll be lucky to find for $85 - that comp is already graded PSA 10.
As a collector, I actually favor the serial numbered autos, but my opinion is that the refractors of the 2018 Bowman Chrome Draft auto are the best investment for ROI. That’s because it’s his official 1st Bowman card and the card with the biggest market. That being said, having already graded copies of extremely limited edition cards is a nice “go for broke” strategy. If you want to play it safe, there’s the non-auto 2018 Bowman Chrome Draft which you can find in high grade for $15-20.
Personally, I’d play it safe with Casas for the time being. Yes, he is the #1 Red Sox prospect, but he just hit .254 at A-ball. Yes, his batting eye is decent and he made noise when he did make contact. I need to see more progress before I would invest in his future, outside of maybe some raw Chrome 1st Bowman cards or colored parallels of his base Bowman Draft card.
All of these points about buying and selling sports cards are just my own informed opinions. They should NOT be taken as professional investment advice. Always do your own research, as the card market can shift drastically without much notice. Remember, this is a hobby, so you must be prepared to be stuck holding any cards you collect.
Transparency notice: As of this writing, I currently own no Triston Casas cards, but may purchase some Chrome base cards or colored parallels purely for Personal Collection purposes.
Pedro Martinez has two cards in the 32-card 1991 Cal League set, and they are #1 and #32. The first card is the more commonly available of the two. It’s a typical minor league card that doesn’t appear to have the greatest printing quality. Also, Pedro didn’t look too happy in the portrait. However, Pedro very much enjoyed his time in the Cal League, which he dominated.
Pedro pitched to 8 wins and no losses with 10 starts at Bakersfield. He enjoyed a 2.05 ERA in 61 ⅓ innings, as well as a 12.2 strikeout rate per 9 innings against only a 2.8 walk rate per 9. It was definitely a sign of things to come, huh? Anyway, Pedro dominated the league so much that the Dodgers called him up to Double-A San Antonio, where he also pitched well. He finished at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he pitched OK, although not great.
Pedro’s other 1991 Cal League card, #32, is a much nicer looking card. It’s also apparently extremely difficult to find, especially in top condition. Even raw, they can sell for $15 or more. What makes it a nicer card is the photo, which is a shot of Pedro throwing a warm-up pitch from the mound, while smiling.
Both cards also list his Dominican League (Santo Domingo) stats on the back, which is awesome. Good luck finding anything better than a PSA 8 of #32, though.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Pedro Martinez Fan for Life
The first ever Pedro Martinez rookie card is pretty much where you have to start with any serious Pedro Martinez rookie card collection. For a minor league card, it’s not bad. The design is a bit bland, but the portrait isn’t bad - albeit dark. It’s a piece of history in any case, hearkening back to when Pedro played in Montana.
Pedro didn’t pitch too badly at his first minor league stop in the Pioneer League. He compiled an 8-3 win loss record with a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts. He had a decent strikeout rate with 82 strikeouts in 77 innings. Pedro was still honing his control, though, as he walked 40 in those 77 innings. It’s not a bad performance, in any case. However, he was actually out-pitched by lefty Mark Mimbs. Who? Yeah, exactly. (Although, Mimbs actually did pitch for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1997, so that is an interesting Red Sox connection, I guess…)
There was a time where these 1990 Sport Pro Great Falls cards held a lot more value. But, in June 2019, one PSA 10 example of the Great Falls Pedro Martinez card sold for just $25. You can grab a PSA 9 copy for under $15, but why wouldn’t you just want a 10? There are 901 PSA 9 copies VS 545 PSA 10 copies. They aren’t exceptionally rare. Still, this is a must have card for any Pedro Martinez rookie card collection.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Pedro Martinez Fans for Life
While not one of Pedro Martinez’s premier rookie cards, the 1992 Donruss card from their “The Rookies” subset has a few things going for it. First off, this card does feature Pedro in a major league uniform, in Dodger Blue wearing his familiar number #45. Secondly, unlike previous editions of “The Rookies,” Donruss actually released this set in packs rather than in a boxed set. Why is that good? It means that gem mint copies of this card are much harder to find than you’d expect.
There are 2075 graded examples of the 1992 Donruss Rookies Pedro Martinez card, yet only 275 of those have graded out as a PSA 10 Gem Mint. There are 1295 PSA 9 examples, which is why that’s what you’ll much more commonly find for sale.
As a serious Pedro Martinez collector, you’ll most likely want the PSA 10. In late 2019, you can find PSA 9 copies for about $15-20, but the PSA 10 copies tend to be $30 or more. You’ll find a similar case for Pedro’s former teammate, Manny Ramirez, who actually has a whopping 2500 graded examples of his card in the set, yet only 270 graded PSA 10. That card, interestingly has similar price points. So, it’s pretty cool to have these two in the same set.
(It’s worth noting that Tim Wakefield also has a rookie card in the set, as well as all-star second baseman Jeff Kent. Of course, Wakefield doesn’t have many graded examples, although neither does Kent, interestingly enough.)
Of course, this card also depicts Pedro on the mound. Many of his early cards do not. I’ve also always preferred rookie cards with players in Major League uniforms, which is something I know many collectors prefer. All in all, this is a pretty nice and affordable Pedro Martinez rookie card that still holds some value from the Junk Wax era when graded PSA 9 or better.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Baseball Stat Freak
Justin Smoak was one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball in 2019. According to StatCast, he was the 9th unluckiest hitter in terms of xwOBA minus actual wOBA. That 9th place is misleading as a bunch of the guys ahead of him are backup catchers or utility type players. There are only a couple of guys we'd even care about as far as fantasy or rookie cards are concerned. Those two are Marcell Ozuna and Kendrys Morales.
As for Smoak, his quality of contact suggests his .208 batting average and .406 slugging percentage are much too low. StatCast expected a .245 batting average, which is also his career average. For slugging, StatCast expected a .476 mark, also not far off of his career average. With his career high 15.8 percent walk rate in 2019, Smoak should've had a .367 wOBA. That's a whopping 40 points higher than his actual wOBA.
To put that in perspective, his expected rates put him in the neighborhood of the actual results of Bryce Harper and Joc Pederson. But his surface numbers put him more in the production range of big disappointments like Paul DeJong and Dexter Fowler. Sure, they're about league average. But, Smoak is a well above league average hitter. As he has since been signed by the Milwaukee Brewers, apparently their front office feels the same way.
Going into his age 33 season and free agency, Smoak could be a really nice bargain. Of course, Smoak is also the exact type of player that teams are shying away from. With all the young talent Toronto is stockpiling, it was a foregone conclusion he wouldn't be back with the Blue Jays in 2020. The Brewers, on the other hand, are happy to guarantee him just $4 million for 2020, plus an option for 2021 at $5.5 million with a $1 million buyout.
It's likely no surprise that people aren't too excited about Justin Smoak rookie cards. He also doesn't have a Bowman Chrome Auto, which makes his card market a little harder to gauge relative to his peers. His top rookie autos are several 2008 Razor cards and 2008 Upper Deck Team USA. Of course, the Upper Deck cards are more sought after. For base rookie cards, there are the serial numbered 2010 eTopps and 2011 Topps rookie cards.
Because of his poor surface numbers, particular Smoak rookie cards don't sell that consistently. But if you are looking for one card to target, it would be colored refractors of his 2011 Topps rookie card, as those are the cards targeted most consistently.
A strong 30 HR and 100 RBI could still be in Smoak's future. While Milwaukee isn't a big market, a strong season from both him and the Brew Crew could help the value of Justin Smoak cards. What do you see in the cards (pun intended) for Justin Smoak's future?
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