Is Matt Olson Undervalued?

Matt Olson Cards

Why are Matt Olson cards so cheap? I’ve seen several variations of that question online in the past few weeks and while I had some answers ready, I realized quickly the question deserved a deeper investigation. So, that’s what I’m doing this week. This column normally focuses on multiple players at once, but the fact that Olson plays for my favorite team helped me dedicate a column to just one guy.

Olson is a baseball star. Let’s get that out of the way. He’s got the big contract, All-Star appearances, and will finish in the top five in MVP voting this year. His baseball bonafides aren’t in question though. It is his position as a star in the hobby that is up for debate. This debate can be answered in one of three ways: he is underpriced, he is priced appropriately, or he is overpriced. I’ll give each assertion my best shot and then choose which one seems right to me.

Olson as Overpriced

It is hard to make the argument that Olson is overpriced given his current low values. Or that’s the story many would like one to believe. Olson’s 2017 Topps Chrome RC auto has snuck past the $100 mark and sells for $110-$125 ungraded. That’s hardly cheap. It puts him about equal with Luis Robert, above Yordan Alvarez, and just below Pete Alonso. It is hard to argue that Olson is underpriced given that stellar company, but is he overpriced?

The big knock against Olson is that he’s got an uphill battle to make the HOF. The HOF is king when it comes to baseball card pricing. If you aren’t in it, or on the path to it, your cards just aren’t that relevant. Outside of the PED brigade, it is difficult to find hobby relevant retired players who aren’t in the Hall. Olson is below the median WAR for HOF-bound players his age at 27.0 instead of 35.5. That’s pretty far off pace. WAR isn’t the end all be all, but it is becoming increasingly critical in HOF determinations. Equally damaging is the fact he’s only made two All-Star games before turning 30. Baseball Reference’s similarity score puts him closest to Chris Davis, Cecil Fielder, and Glen Nobles. Fine players, but guys that are relegated to dollar boxes (and under) everywhere. 

He’s also likely to miss any big counting stats that could catapult him to the HOF. He’s at 219 home runs meaning he only needs seven more seasons of 40 home run production. Only, sure. He’s only hit that mark once (this year). If he averages 30, it will take over nine seasons putting him at 38 when he hits that number. It’s possible, but almost all players see a downturn in production with age. 

Olson as Undervalued

Maybe Olson has a shot at the HOF and we are just overthinking things. David Ortiz was a late bloomer that panned out. Maybe that is Olson’s path. On the plus side, he’ll be on a highly competitive team for the remainder of his career as the Braves have their lineup locked up for the next few years. This will also give him a shot at postseason heroics. One can argue that Olson should be the MVP this year which would boost his HOF case down the line. Unless Acuna falls off a cliff, this is wishful thinking though.

The best argument here is that maybe we place too much emphasis on the HOF. Olson should have several productive seasons with the Braves. If collectors respond to production, that means that Olson should have ample opportunity to see his cards increase in value. Maybe his cards will dip after retirement or when his numbers drop off, but hopefully that will be at least five years from now.

Olson as Priced Just Right

Ultimately, I think he’s fairly priced right now. He’s doubtful to make the HOF, but he’s got a path to get there and he’s playing awesome ball currently. The fact that he is priced close to Robert and Alvarez seems fitting as both also have an uphill path to the HOF, but a ton of talent. He’s also got room to grow if he continues to play at an MVP level. 

Wrap Up

He may be on my favorite team, but I still say that Olson is priced fairly, if not a smidge too high. I do think the Olson is undervalued camp has a tough argument to make, but it is not so outlandish to be unreasonable. Let me know what you think of Olson 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.

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