Monday, March 12, 2018

Spring Training Boosts

A phenomenon that I'll never be able to explain is the way Spring Training inflates card prices on top prospects/rookies.

We all know that Spring Training is meaningless. But it can be an indicator of who's due to make the team out of camp. When a prospect with a lot of potential and a lot of good counting stats in Spring Training emerges, their cards tend to hike up in value. I'm not sure why, but it just does.

I have two examples.

One is Miguel Andujar.

I acquired the Bowman Chrome autograph above for something less than $10 a few years ago (like 2015-ish?). This proved to be a very good deal because he started really developing and coming into his own the following year. Now here in 2018 he's vying for a spot on a big league roster with the Yankees who have no set third baseman.

As best I can tell, Andujar's value really soared last year when he made his MLB debut and had a monster debut game. Going 3-for-4 with a walk and putting up FOUR RBI in the process. He was sent down right after that and wouldn't be brought back up again until rosters expanded in September (where he only got seven at-bats), but nonetheless the value never really went down.

Fast forward to this spring, Andujar is beating the shit out of every meatball offering sent to him by prime roster-cut material on other teams, now his autographs are going for...


This is insane, but not exactly out of nowhere.

One of the things about Miggy is that he didn't really have a ton of cards. He had his Bowman Chrome stuff in 2013 but following that all he had were some cards in Bowman Chrome mini, an insert in 2014 Bowman, another insert in 2014 Pro Debut and then a whole lot of nothing until 2017 where he got some Topps Now cards.

This scarcity really pumps up the value on Andujar's cards and autographs. If you want a Miggy autograph your only real options are the Bowman Chrome autographs, Bowman Black autographs, and maybe an autographed version of some of his 2018 cards. All of which are incredibly overpriced due to this inflation. I'm sure that as more Andujar autographs get released this year (he's likely the Yankees' token rookie this year, along with Garrett Cooper) some of the prices will come down.

Still, you know that things are on Cloud Nine when even the base autographs are going for $200+. I don't see them exceeding the $300 mark though. That's usually the limit for base autographs for second tier prospects like Andujar, who one could argue really only got that boost in price due to scarcity and because of the Yankees Premium.

Either way, this spring has helped his value immensely. Now the folks who've been really in on him since 2013 can laugh all the way to the bank. Seriously, these autographs were like $5 at one point!

My other example is Walker Buehler.

Buehler is one of my favorite non-Yankees and has shown himself to be worth the chance the Dodgers took on him in 2015. The Dodgers drafted Walker Buehler out of Vanderbilt knowing that he was going to be out for a while due to his Tommy John surgery. Well a full year (and then some) from that surgery later, Buehler is showing himself to be quite the force for the Dodgers.

He already showed glimpses of his promise last season when he was called up. I know this because his card values really reflected it. The Buehler refractor autograph I picked up when he was still rehabbing went from $10 to around $40-ish by the end of the 2017 season. This spring?

He's reached as high as the $80's and has at least raised the floor to the $60 mark. It's not quite at Kershaw's 2006 Bowman Chrome levels (yet) but it's still something. The Dodgers starting rotation depth is injury prone (again) and Buehler either projects to be a huge part of their rotation straight out of camp, or join the rotation in some fashion later. He's a pretty safe bet assuming he doesn't get hurt. Which is a big if since he's a pitcher.

Sidenote, let me just insert a quick blurb about things one can infer from looking at Andujar and Buehler.
Andujar's going for almost quadruple what Buehler is going for because of the Yankee premium and because he is a position player. Pitching prospects are risky. Ever since the fall of Strasburg people have since started to realize that spending a shit ton on pitchers isn't a great approach. Hence why Buehler stays relatively low compared to Andujar. The fact that Buehler has a history with injuries and is on a team known for injuries certainly doesn't help. Or at least that's my interpretation of the difference between their values at least. Plus, keep in mind that Buehler also benefits from a big market effect. Not as much as Andujar, but still a lot more than if he were, say, a Royal.

Who needs certified autographs when you have IPs and TTMs?

Anyway this post was not made so I could brag about some pickups I made that's worked out so far. Nor is it me saying that spring training is the best time to make bank.
I don't know shit about flipping cards for profit because if I was actually smart enough to #prospect then I would've put my "talent" to better use by picking up more of these when they were cheap(er). Also keep in mind that my Carson Fulmer hope has not been met with the same type of result yet.

I made this post to highlight how Spring Training seems to give some players in the right circumstance a little push. Enough of a push to raise the value to surprisingly high levels.

Hindsight is 20/20 of course but maybe there is that part of me that regrets not picking up more Andujars or Buehlers though. Granted, picking up cards at $10 each is a tough pill to swallow but who cares when you can make back 6-times that later? Then again, the thing with prospects is that the return rate of 106% is never guaranteed. Just ask my Luis Torrens collection which has a return rate of in the negatives right now if you were an idiot who paid full price in 2014 (which luckily doesn't include me since I really started going full hog during his injured 2015 season).

Anyway, consider this post a prelude to a post I have in the works where I go into depth about prospecting and how it kind of works. This was one of the things in the post that didn't quite fit that I thought would work well as it's own post.

Seriously though, if Carson Fulmer could go on a huge run and find himself in the $50's that'd be great.

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).


  1. "Seriously though, if Carson Fulmer could go on a huge run and find the strike zone on a consistent basis that'd be great."

    Fixed it for you.

  2. I had no idea Andujar autographs were going for so much until you mentioned it on Twitter. Nice that I paid $3 for it a few years ago.

    1. Finance bros get all of the great deals.

  3. I guess I need to dig through my 2013 Bowman Chrome boxes to see if I have any Andujars laying around.