Baseball Cards

Cole Hamels and the Trading Deadline

Posted on May 13th, 2015 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Photos, Players

One of the top off-season story lines wasn’t actually a story at all – it was the non-trade of Cole Hamels. Despite constant speculation and rumors throughout the winter, Hamels was not traded and remains a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Considering the low expectations for the 2015 Phillies, most expected that they would move Hamels to a hamelscontending team in order to acquire some young talent. That has not yet happened, but there is a long way to go in 2015.

Phillies Off to a Predictable Start

There have been plenty of surprised in the early 2015 season, but the Phillies have not been one of them. They are 4-9 after 13 games of the 2015 season, and have been outscored by 24 runs already. The expectation that they would be one of the worst teams in the National League appears well on its way to becoming reality. That means that by the trading deadline at the end of July, the Phillies should be safely in the ‘sellers’ camp.

Hamels Not Helping

The big gamble that the Phillies are taking is that Hamels will maintain his value throughout the season until the trade deadline rolls around. So far, that hasn’t necessarily been the case. After three starts, Hamels is carrying an ERA of 5.00 and has already walked nine batters. His total of 18 strikeouts is impressive, but the seven home runs that he has surrendered could be a potential warning sign to any possible trade partners. Certainly three starts won’t undo all of the good that Hamels has done in his career, but the Phillies are hoping for the maximum return trade value from their top asset – and his start to the season has not helped toward that end.

Boston Playing Well

One of the likely trade targets for Cole Hamels is Boston, as they have assembled a team that appears to have a strong lineup with a questionable starting rotation. However, the Red Sox have started 8-5 on the young season, and the rotation hasn’t been quite as bad as some were predicting. If the Red Sox don’t need to send young talent to Philly for Hamels, the market for their ace will suddenly get smaller. While there is always a need for quality pitchers, the package that Philadelphia is able to receive in return will be directly related to the size and competitiveness of the market as July draws to a close.


The Arrival of Kris Bryant

Posted on April 23rd, 2015 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Players

The biggest single story of the early baseball season has been Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. A top prospect and just 23 years old, Bryant certainly appeared to have done enough in spring training to earn a spot on the Cubs roster. However, Chicago chose to have Bryant start the season in the minor leagues, likely to delay the start of his service time for contractual reasons. Whatever the motivation behind his early demotion, Bryant is in the Windy City now and he is likely to make an immediate impact in the Cubs lineup.

Minor League Pedigree

Having played college baseball at the University of San Diego, the 23-year old Bryant has only played a total of 181 games at the minor league level. While that is a small sample of professional experience, the results have been nothing short of amazing. In those 181 games, he has hit 55 homeruns and driven in 152. He also showed impressive plate discipline, accumulating 99 walks along the way. All of that adds up to a minor league bryantcareer OPS of 1.092. It doesn’t matter which numbers are used, the minor league career of Kris Bryant has been short but memorable.

Big Power

Power is the name of the game for Bryant, even though he sports an impressive .327 career minor league batting average. That power comes from a 6’5’’ frame, and it seems very likely that he will be able to continue producing power numbers even facing the best pitchers in the world at the major league level. Just four games into his major league career at this point, Bryant already has a pair of doubles to his credit, along with four walks and four RBI.

Big Name Infield in Chicago

Many baseball fans and writers are predicting big things for the Chicago Cubs in coming years, and much of that has to do with the names that now line up across their infield. Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro, and Kris Bryant are currently the starting infielders for the Cubs. Each is young, and each comes with a background as a high-profile prospect. If even three of these players is able to translate into a quality major leaguer, the Cubs will have one of the best infields in baseball. If all four are able to do it, Chicago may just have what it takes to break the longest title drought in sports.

Victor Martinez Quickly Returns to Detroit

Posted on January 5th, 2015 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Players

While Miguel Cabrera gets most of the offensive headlines in Detroit – and for good reason – it was Victor Martinez that had an incredible season in 2014 and led the Tigers to another playoff appearance. While the Tigers fell short in the playoffs again this past season, they have been making regular appearances thanks in large part to the production of Martinez. As a free agent, and coming off of his best season, it was thought that Martinez would be one of the hottest commodities on the market this winter. In reality, that market never really heated up, as he quickly resigned with the Tigers for a lucrative contract.

A Question of Age

In terms of performance at the plate, there were no doubts as to what Martinez accomplished in 2014. His OPS of .974 led the American League, and he was highly ranked in just about every offensive category. As primarily a DH, his value is tied to the performance on his bat – but that bat is about as valuable as they come. However, Martinez has been in the league for some time, and will be going into his age 36 season in 2015. That means that the four year contract he signed with the Tigers will carry him through his age 39 season, while paying him a total of $68 million. If the Tigers are going to look back fondly on this contract, they are going to need to hope that Martinez stays healthy and productive right up to his 40th birthday.

Other Questions for Detroit

While getting Martinez back in the fold likely means good things for the 2015 martinezversion of the Tigers, there could be signs of trouble ahead. The starting pitching in Detroit, such a strength in the past, is starting to show some cracks. Max Scherzer, one of the best starters in baseball, is a free agent currently and unlikely to return to Detroit. David Price was acquired by trade last season, and has one year remaining before he hits free agency. There is a good chance that 2015 will be his last in Detroit.

And then there is Justin Verlander. With a full six years left on a massive contract, Verlander struggled mightily in 2014 and remains a question mark heading into 2015. If he is unable to regain his previously dominant form, the Tigers will have a major problem has they have a large portion of the payroll dedicated to the big right hander. Without elite performance from Verlander, it seems unlikely that the Tigers will remain at the top of the A.L. Central, especially with the Royals coming off of a World Series appearance.

Where Will Jon Lester Cash In?

Posted on December 15th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Players

Until a few months ago, Jon Lester’s entire career has been played in a Boston Red Sox uniform. Lester has had considerable success with the Red Sox, and the team has had great success as well. For those reasons, most people assumed that Lester would be a lifelong Red Sox member despite his impending free agency. It seemed like only a matter of time until the two sides would agree on a contract extension that would keep Lester in place throughout his prime.

Maybe not so fast. Prior to the trade deadline this past season, Lester was traded to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes. Of course, at the time, the Red Sox were out of the race and didn’t want to risk losing Lester for nothing at season’s end, so they made the move to add the Cuban slugger. Even still, many people expected that once the season ended, Lester would sign back with Boston. However, as the offseason has moved along, it has become clear that the Red Sox aren’t the only team with designs on signing the powerful lefty.

The Windy City Comes Calling

While the Red Sox are still very much in the mix for the services of Lester, the lesterChicago Cubs are another strong contender who appears will to spend big (among others, such as the Giants and Cardinals). The Cubs are in a great position to bring in a high priced free agent because much of their roster is made up of young, talented, and affordable players. If they can combine and experienced veteran with the ability of a Jon Lester with their young core of talent, the fortunes of the Cubs could finally be turning around. In the end, the team that is able to offer an extra year on the contract will likely be the one to win the bidding.

Which City Offers More Potential?

While the past decade would indicate that Lester would be better off returning to Boston if he wants to win, the future might look different than the past. The Cubs are a young and talented team, and the Red Sox are signing older free agents in an effort to recover from a disappointing season. Only a year removed from a World Series title, the Red Sox seem to be farther away than they have in recent years. Of course, the addition to Jon Lester would go a long way toward putting Boston back near the top of the A.L. East.

The money that is offered to Jon Lester is likely to be pretty similar between Chicago and Boston, so it will likely come down to where he prefers to pitch. Does he go back to the familiarity of Fenway Park, or accept a new challenge with a young Cubs team? It will be interesting to see how this decision is settled.

Trout Should Finally Get His Trophy

Posted on November 6th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Players

For many people, Mike Trout has been the unquestioned best player in baseball for the last couple of seasons. However, in each of those two years, he has lost out on the Most Valuable Player award to Miguel Cabrera. The debate has been a lively one, in terms of which player is actually better, or more valuable to their team. Cabrera’s contribution is almost entirely thanks to his bat, as he doesn’t run well and isn’t particularly adept on defense. Alternatively, Trout is the ultimate all-around player – he has great power, elite speed, and excellent defense in the outfield. While Cabrera still had a good season in 2014, he wasn’t troutquite up to the level that he was in ’12 and ’13, likely setting the stage for Trout to get his first MVP.

A Deserving Winner

With no disrespect to the incredible talent of Miguel Cabrera, Trout probably should have won the MVP at least once already given his all-around game. Even on nights where Trout doesn’t hit a homerun or drive in a runner with a hit, he can still help the team by drawing a walk and stealing a base, or by taking a hit away in the outfield. If salaries were no factor and general managers could pick any one player to start a franchise with, there is little doubt that each and every one of them would select Trout as their top choice.

If you are a baseball collector of cards and other items, you should already have a section in your collection for Mike Trout collectibles. It is not hype to suggest that by the time he is done, Trout could very well be among the best players to ever play the game. Through the first 3+ years of his career, Mike Trout is on a pace that has rarely, if ever, before been seen in baseball history. No baseball collection will be complete without at least a few items representing this incredible talent, regardless of which team you happen to root for.

Eyes on a Different Prize

Of course, the award that Trout has his eye on this season is not the MVP, but rather a World Series title. The Angels are the top seed in the American League playoffs, and Trout will form a scary tandem with Albert Pujols for any opposing pitcher to deal with this October. Although their pitching took a big hit with the loss of Garrett Richards, the Angles are still going to be a tough team to knock out of the playoffs thanks to a solid bullpen and intimidating lineup. If Trout is able to help lead the Angles to the World Series title, he likely won’t be worried at all about who ends up taking home the MVP award.

2014 Major League Baseball Playoff Predictions

Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Teams

With the 2014 regular season in the books, baseball fans across the country turn their attention to the playoffs and get ready for another October full of drama and surprises. While the baseball playoffs are often unpredictable, this year seems even more wide-open than most, making predictions a serious challenge to say the least. While the following guesses are almost sure to be wrong, here is our projection for the outcome of the 2014 baseball playoffs.

Wild Card Round

In the American League, the A’s will visit the Royals and the Pirates will play host to the Giants. These are only one-game playoffs, so a quick nine innings will decide who moves on to the division series in each league. The A’s and Royals are both low scoring teams who rely on their pitching, which is also true of the Giants. However, the Pirates seem to have a little more danger lurking in their lineup.

Winners: Royals over A’s, Pirates over Giants

Division Series Round

If those results hold, the division round would be as follows: The Los Angeles Angels would play the Royals, and the Tigers will play the Orioles in the other American League series. In the NL, the Nationals would face the Pirates, while the Dodgers and Cardinals will hook up in a rematch of last season’s NLCS. cabreraDespite the fact that the Angels and Nationals have the best records in their respective leagues, all of these series seem wide-open and each could be closely contested.

Winners: Royals over Angels, Orioles over Tigers, Pirates over Nationals, Los Angeles over St. Louis

League Championship Round

Those results would set up a series between the Royals and the Orioles, and the Pirates and Dodgers. In the American League, it would be a serious contrast of styles, as the Royals are built on defense and pitching, while the Orioles love to hit homeruns. In the National League, the high-priced roster of the Dodgers would be taking on the younger group from Pittsburgh anchored by superstar Andrew McCutchen.

Winners: Royals over Orioles, Pirates over Dodgers

World Series

In an unlikely World Series matchup, the Kansas City Royals would face the Pittsburgh Pirates. Each team has struggled for most of the last 20+ years, although the Pirates did manage to make it into the playoffs last year as well. The Royals will have the advantage if they can get even a small lead and turn the game over to their bullpen, while the Pirates will hope to get the games to be higher scoring where their better offense would have an advantage.

Winner: Kansas City Royals

Felix Hernandez is King

Posted on October 9th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Players

One of the biggest stories of last offseason was the Seattle Mariners surprising acquisition of Robinson Cano. The Mariners had been struggling for the better part of a decade, and no one expected for the future Hall-of-Famer Cano to end up taking his game to the Pacific Northwest. It was a high priced gamble for Seattle that has already paid off – the Mariners had their best season in years in 2014 and were just one game short of Wild Card position in the American kingfelixLeague. With Cano locked up for years to come, it seems that the Mariners might be on the right track after all these years.

Already a Star Shining Bright

However, lost in the discussion about Cano coming to Seattle, was the fact that the Mariners already had a legitimate superstar on the roster. Felix Hernandez is a Cy Young winner who is on a very short list of the best pitchers in the world. Most would agree that Hernandez, known as King Felix in Seattle, is the best pitcher in the American League, and is probably the pitcher on the planet not named Kershaw. While a starting pitcher doesn’t play every day like a second baseman does, there is no debating the star status of the King.

Still Getting Better

Amazingly, it would seem that Hernandez actually had his best-ever season in 2014. It didn’t seem possible for him to improve on his previous years, but he managed to take home the ERA title in 2014 and will very likely be the winner of the Cy Young award for the second time in his career. Beyond his on-field statistics, Hernandez has become an institution in Seattle and is easily the most-popular player in the city. He has already signed a long-term contract extension, and he and Cano are poised to be the face of the Mariners for many years to come. Hopefully for Mariners fans, it is a partnership that will lead the team back into October soon enough.

In terms of collectibles, Felix Hernandez is certainly one player you want to have represented in your collection. Rookie cards of the King are highly desirable, as are pieces that relate to his 2012 perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. If you are serious about assembling a collection that represents all of the best players in baseball from each time period, Felix has more than earned his spot for the last several years in Major League Baseball. Be sure to track down a few of your favorite Felix-related pieces and add them to your collection. If the Mariners are able to make it into October and the King adds a ring to his already impressive mantle, your collection will be all the more impressive.

What Happened to Justin Verlander?

Posted on July 7th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards

For almost a decade, Justin Verlander has been among the very best starting pitchers in all of baseball. The powerful right-hander has spent his entire career in Detroit, and has racked up incredible strikeout totals along with low ERA’s and a Cy Young Award. Recently, the Tigers awarded him with a big contract, and for good reason – it appeared to be a sure thing that Verlander, barring injury, would remain an excellent starting pitcher for years to come.

However, so far in 2014, that has not been the case. Verlander is enduring one of the toughest stretches of his career, and it is starting to verlandercause concern about whether or not he will be able to regain his dominant form. The numbers, for the most part, tell the story. Through 15 starts, Verlander has a 6-7 record with a 4.98 ERA that is among the highest in the league for qualified starting pitchers. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that he has only struck out 69 batters in 97.2 innings, while walking 41. To be sure, this is not the Justin Verlander that we are all used to seeing.

What has gone wrong?

It is hard to pinpoint exactly what has caused Verlander’s struggles so far this year. His velocity is down from where it has been in previous seasons, so that could certainly be playing a part in the results. Without the overpowering fastball to set up his impressive breaking ball, Verlander might just be a little less worrisome to opposing hitters. Not having to fear the heater blowing right past them, batters are more able to adjust to off speed pitches.

Is He Hurt?

Of course, when a great pitcher starts to struggle, the conversation will quickly turn to whether or not he is hurt and just pitching through the pain. That is always a possibility, but doesn’t seem to be the case with Verlander. Other than the dip in velocity, he hasn’t shown obvious signs of injury, and certainly isn’t letting on to anything being wrong in his arm. Only time will tell if there is an underlying injury that can be pointed to as an explanation for his struggles, or if he is just dealing with a dip in performance.

Justin Verlander Baseball Cards and Memorabilia

Just because he is going through a rough stretch right now doesn’t mean you should cross Verlander’s name off your list of collectibles to pursue. With a long track record of excellent performance, there is a good chance that Verlander will get things figured out and go back to being a productive starting pitcher in the near future. Even if he doesn’t reach his once lofty levels of performance, he could still return to being well above-average and a quality contributor to the Tigers rotation. Detroit has currently been passed in the standings by the Kansas City Royals, so getting Verlander to return to form could be crucial in getting the Tiger’s season back on track.

James Jones – Sleeper Collectible Candidate

Posted on May 26th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards

When thinking about ways to enhance your baseball memorabilia collection, you often have to think outside the box. Sure, you could pick up rookie cards of guys like Tanaka and Abreu this year, but won’t everyone else be doing the same thing? After all, those guys both had plenty of attention as they came into the league and no one will be surprised if and when they become stars.

In order to set your collection apart, you need to be more creative than other collectors and find players who aren’t so highly regarded just yet, but have the potential to reach great heights at some point. James Jones of jamesjonesthe Seattle Mariners is one player who fits this mold perfectly. You won’t find his name high on any prospect lists, but he has plenty of tools and the opportunity to make an impact in the Major Leagues this season. He has moved into the role of the starting center fielder for the M’s, and has at least one hit in every game which he has started (breaking a team record held by Edgar Martinez along the way).

A Lot to Like

Baseball is a game about tools, and Jones has plenty of them. The first one that you will notice when watching him play is the speed – incredible speed. Jones looks like he would be just as comfortable running track as he is on the baseball field, and that speed has already paid off in the form of infield hits and covering great ground in center. Beyond his wheels, Jones appears to possess a good eye at the plate, decent power to the gaps, and a rocket for an arm in center. As an indication of his arm strength, many teams were more interested in Jones as a pitcher than a position player when he was drafted out of Long Island University.

So with all of those tools, Jones sounds like a sure thing, right? Not so fast. His minor league numbers have been good, nothing that would seem to predict future stardom. At this point, he has played just 19 major league games, so it is too soon to get overly excited about his .316 batting average. A good start? Yes – but that is all it is, at this point.

Which is why James Jones deserves your attention as a collector. Outside of the Seattle area, he is pretty much an unknown at this point. There is a chance that he will never rise above the level of borderline Major Leaguer – but the potential for more is there considering his skills and natural athletic ability. Considering how easy it would be to obtain a couple pieces of memorabilia at this point, Jones is a player you should consider adding to you collection. If he does go on to reach great heights in the game, you will have some pieces that may escalate in value and will be fun to look back on.

The Growing Jose Fernandez Bandwagon

Posted on April 16th, 2014 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards

You really can’t be blamed if you have no paid much attention to the Miami Marlins over the last couple of seasons. They haven’t been particularly relevant or interesting, with the exception of power hitter Giancarlo Stanton. However, there is a new reason to watch the Marlins, and he is taking the National League by storm over the past year+. His name is Jose Fernandez, and you should expect to see a lot of him in coming seasons.

Just 21 years old, Fernandez hails from Cuba and is already one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball. In only 185.1 innings in the major leagues, he has already K’d an impressive 204 batter, while walking only 60. fernandezHe started 28 games last season for Miami, recording a 2.19 ERA along with a 12-6 record. He won the Rookie of the Year award, was an All-Star, and finished third in the Cy Young voting. Not a bad start to a major league career.

Fernandez dominates games with classic stuff that you would expect from a big right-handed pitcher. His fastball is intimidating, and he has the control over his secondary pitches necessary to make batters respect them. He hasn’t been doing it with smoke and mirrors – this kid has all the tools to be one of the best pitchers in baseball for years to come.

When you start talking young Marlins players, the natural question is whether or not they will stay with the team long-term. Miami has made some big trades over the years, and seen some impressive players head off for new cities. However, Fernandez is young and under many years of team control, so it seems likely he will remain in South Florida for the foreseeable future. Also, the Marlins have expressed interest in keeping Stanton around for the long-term, giving them the possibility of having a star player on offense and in the pitching staff.

Picking up some Jose Fernandez collectibles soon would be a great idea for any collector. Rookie cards should be easy to find since he was just a rookie last season and, given good health, his stock seems to be headed nowhere but up. Beyond his ability on the field, he has already gained many fans with a quick smile and great story. If you have a collection of cards or other items that highlight some of the best power pitchers in history – names like Clemens, Ryan, Johnson, and more – you will want to make sure Fernandez is represented sooner rather than later. He hasn’t earned a place among the greats just yet, but his ability is of that caliber.

Things seem to be turning around for the Marlins, who just might have a better 2014 season than most would expect. They probably aren’t ready to contend for a playoff spot in a tough division with Atlanta and Washington, but the Marlins are starting to build around two of the best players in the game in Fernandez and Stanton. With that kind of a base in place, winning seasons may be just around the corner.