Contributor: John Dudley
The World Series is long over, and the Hot Stove League is piping hot with a slew of massive signings. Baseball is bursting back into the public consciousness. Even so, for another couple of months or so, baseball will lag way behind basketball, football, the World Cup, and more. That means it is a perfect time to start targeting guys you want to pick up for the next season as there are bargains galore to be had!
It is my favorite time to buy baseball cards and this year might be the best year ever for bargain hunting as the pushed-back release calendar means that most of the dollars are going to shiny new 2022 products flooding into the market. I can’t blame them and will join in the search for cards of the awesome 2022 rookie class which is the deepest I can remember as there are literally more than 25 guys that I think have potential. I think most collectors will do so as well. With Topps issuing oodles of products before the end of December, there should be bargains to be had on singles.
There are two main ways to approach buying this time of year. First, one can target big-name guys you already collect looking for steep discounts. You absolutely can’t go wrong with that path. Second, you can start targeting guys you think are undervalued already and are poised to have big 2022 seasons. I want to focus on the latter by looking at some guys that are already down in price and whom you can absolutely find deals on. I’d suggest reading up on some players, finding some you like, and swooping in for a steal with some great prices.
With a softening market and good, but not spectacular 2022 seasons from the hobby elite, this might be the best buying time for some of the hobby’s biggest names.
Juan Soto- Soto’s season was marred by his tenuous situation in Washington and a seeming lack of power, but he should rebound as he was largely pitched around. With a stacked lineup, the best eye in baseball should see plenty of solid pitches. Soto’s 2018 Topps Update #US300 is selling for only $50-$65 in PSA 10 grade. Just a year ago, this card sold regularly for $100 more. While I don’t see this card jumping back to its $350 high any time soon, I do think this might be close to the floor before Spring Training.
Vladimir Guerrero- The Jays had a down year and still were in the hunt at the end of the season before wilting in the playoffs. That a 32 HR season from a 23-year-old can be considered disappointing shows just how high the expectations were for Vladito last season. Collectors have cooled on him, and you can now find his Topps NNO RC in PSA 10 grade for only $60. A year ago, this card sold for $220.
Mid-Range Guys That Could be Superstars
Bo Bichette- Bichette, Like Guerrero Jr., didn’t meet the lofty expectations placed on him. He did round into form and showed the League what they have to look forward to with his end-of-the-season heroics. Everyone knows about Judge, J.Rod, and Alvarez at the end of the season, but Bichette was just as impressive as any of them. Bichette’s 2020 Topps Chrome Refractor RC in PSA 10 grade is selling for around $50 (you can find it cheaper if patient) and went for $120 a year ago. I especially like the Topps Chrome Auto rookies for Bichette as they have become surprisingly affordable.
Ryan Mountcastle- I love looking at expected stats as they can help account for luck and show players that could improve without needing to do anything themselves. Ryan Mountcastle had the largest gap between his slugging percentage and expected slugging percentage last year. His expected slugging was just shy of .600 and his expected average was a full 27 points higher. Those numbers would garner him some MVP votes. I also love the Orioles’ young team as a hobby-relevant squad. I’m expecting a strong season from Mountcastle. His cards are super cheap currently as his Bowman Chrome Auto in PSA 10 grade goes for just over $100. Mountcastle’s Topps Chrome Auto RC goes for just under $100 in PSA 10 grade. His parallels are worth targeting specifically as they are not getting huge premiums currently.
Bryan De La Cruz- This is not the De La Cruz people are chasing. That’s Elly, this is Bryan. He had a strong debut last year in his call-up playing solid defense, but it is his bat that should be drawing collectors’ attention. Over the last 30 days of the season, only Aaron Judge and Yordan Alvarez posted higher .OPS numbers among players with at least 50 ABs. There is reason to believe this performance was more than a fluke as he posted strong AAA numbers earlier in the season. A full season of All-Star-level production across the leagues is nothing to sneeze at and suggests he is more of a late bloomer than a one-off. That said, I consider him more of a short-term buy than a long-term hold. You can find many of his parallels and autos for $5-$15.
Those are five of the guys I’m after. I’ll delve deeper into this topic when I do my baseball preview in a few months. Let me know who you are after in the comments. Also, if you haven’t checked out the insanely useful Card Shop Live app, what are you waiting for? It’s great for breaks, personal rips, singles, and hobby info. The breakers are all heavily vetted so no shenanigans here.