Hobby Musings: Baseball bringing hobby excitement in 2017 – It’s hard to believe that we’re already at another baseball season and the Cubs are defending their World Series title. One thing they’re not contending with though is their status as champs of the hobby.
Beckett’s Ryan Cracknell weighed in on this assessment by saying, “They’re the team right now. During the playoffs, Cubs cards were the most popular with the Topps Now Postseason sets and that was before they won it. That same popularity is reflected on the checklists for the 2017 Topps and Panini products that have been released so far. Their popularity is bigger than just Chicago, for sure.”
Even though baseball has lost plenty of stars like Derek Jeter and David Ortiz in recent seasons, the game is flush with a slew of young talent. It does beg the question however of the biggest baseball star from a hobby standpoint. When asked about this, Cracknell said, “I’d say it goes back to the Cubs with Kris Bryant, followed closely by Mike Trout. Besides the World Series ring and benefit from playing in one of the game’s biggest markets, Bryant has that extra bit of charisma.”
Sports Collectors Daily editor Rich Mueller went with similar names, but a different order. Elaborating, he said, “Kris Bryant was really hot late last year for obvious reasons but from looking at hot lists and hearing dealers talk, it seems like Mike Trout is still tops on the list as we start a new season. While strange things can happen on the way to Cooperstown, he seems about the surest bet to have a truly legendary career among the current crop of young stars and he’s already building a phenomenal list of accomplishments. It’s kind of interesting because he’s a New Jersey kid who is very popular in the NY-NYC area but of course, he plays in a huge market on the west coast and his kind of unassuming, quiet excellence sort of appeals to Middle America. all of those things ARE a pretty hard combination to beat.”
The hobby isn’t all about the established stars though. One of the best parts about each baseball hobby season is the new youngsters to add to the collection. As alluded to earlier, baseball has been blessed with a run of young talent over the past several seasons. That being said, there’s always room for new blood in the hobby.
When asked about which rookie could make an impact in the hobby, Cracknell responded, “It’s too early to tell with any certainty. Every year seems to have a sleeper or two that come out of nowhere. Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Andrew Benintendi aren’t going to be surprises. Yoan Moncada could bring another big hobby name to the city of Chicago as well. But again, he’s not exactly a sleeper. Neither was Corey Seager last year and he turned out to be as good as advertised.”
Topps’ Susan Lulgjuraj had this to say on the subject, “When it comes to young players, I see Andrew Benintendi making a big impact. He’s the top prospect in baseball, it’s his Rookie Card season, and he plays for a big market team. But Benintendi isn’t the only young player who Topps cards collectors will want. You have Judge, Sanchez, Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, and so many more rookies. It’s a great year to collect Rookie Cards.”
Mueller also offered his take by saying, “The general consensus is that Dansby Swanson and Andrew Benintendi are the favorites to win Rookie of the Year but often times we see someone emerge who is further down on that list. I think Albert Pujols was the 42nd-ranked prospect by Baseball America when he won the Rookie of the Year in 2001. Collectors generally prefer offense to pitching and among the names most of us know, a big slugger like Aaron Judge could generate a lot of interest if he can take the next step. Good young players from Chicago always generate a lot of hobby buzz and we could see Yoan Moncada become a big seller if he matures quickly. Of course if Albert Almora can play well enough to become too good to keep out of the lineup, there would be a huge rush on his cards.”
It’s relatively easy to pick out the big names in the hobby. One of the more challenging, and satisfying, aspects of the hobby is picking up on sleeper players. Whether it’s in fantasy or in trading cards, it’s fun to be able to say you picked up on that player before anyone else.
Lulgjuraj offered her take on who could fit the bill this year by saying, “A sleeper player is going to be someone who jumps out like Colorado’s Trevor Story did last season. It could be a guy like Cleveland’s Yandy Diaz or mid-season call-up such as Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier. That’s what is so fun about baseball. It’s a long season and there are players who can make a huge impact that will you have searching your Bowman cards to see if you have their prospect cards.”
Mueller offered a couple of different, but familiar names, saying, “I don’t know if you’d consider him a sleeper or not–and if he was, he woke everyone up Sunday night– but Randal Grichuk has the potential to put up big numbers. He was supposed to break out last year but had some issues that kind of put his name on the back burner heading into this year. Matt Harvey could reemerge. Right up until a week or so ago, there were some questions about whether he’d be ready to start the year but he was strong late in spring training and if he can pick up where he left off before the injury, he could get a lot of attention from collectors again. Aaron Nola of the Phillies is another big-time pitching prospect who has been on the back burner after an injury.”
Elaborating further, he did throw out a name that won’t be as known to collectors. “Another guy who was among the top power hitters in spring training is Jesus Aguilar, a first baseman who the Brewers picked up. It’s entirely possible he could wind up platooning with Eric Thames or worse but if the last few weeks weren’t a fluke and he’s found his stroke, he might be the ultimate sleeper. The only negative is that he’s 26 years old.”
Collectors will have plenty to look forward to this season from a trading card standpoint. Topps recently announced that National Baseball Card Day will be returning again this season in August. With an expanded reach, the company is looking to make it a bigger success than last year’s promotion.
When asked what we as collectors should be looking forward to this year from Topps in terms of products, Lulgjuraj said, “Fun! As many of the early products have shown, Topps has put together compelling products. 2017 Topps Baseball Series 1 had the Ultimate Card Giveaway with a great number of Rookie Cards. Heritage brought Topps’ history to the forefront showcasing one of the more memorable designs from the 1960s while Gypsy Queen was revamped and looks stunning. There’s no slowing down either as Topps Now kicked off on Opening Day. We’re excited to see what amazing moments will be on Topps Now cards this year.”