Hobby Musings: Ohtani injury no reason to panic on 2018 baseball – The baseball and hobby worlds were shaken recently when Angels P/DH Shohei Ohtani hit the disabled list with a sprained UCL. The time he’s expected to miss ranges from a few weeks to a few seasons depending on the severity of the injury. Given the impact Ohtani has had on the early 2018 baseball card market, the injury news was met with reactions of disappointment in the hobby world.
The injury timing was rough given that both his Topps Finest and Bowman Superfractors were pulled within a few days of each other and only days before his injury. If there had been more time for bigger price tags to be attached to those cards, it undoubtedly would have helped the value of his other autographs. The hobby community has seemingly acted with the same panic and stock dropping that typically happens when a star rookie struggles or gets injured.
Some have suggested that it has essentially killed the 2018 baseball card year. I have a hard time agreeing with that Ohtani’s sentiment. The news definitely hurts. It was also likely a blow to anyone who had invested heavily in him or had been hoping to sell their own big Ohtani pulls for a profit. That being said, I wouldn’t have any major concerns about him until it’s announced exactly how long he’ll be out. Card collectors and speculators have short memories with rookies, especially when it comes to baseball. However, his injury time is minimal so far and if he comes back and performs as well as he was before it happened, this will all be a minor blip on the radar in the long run.
In the meantime, there are plenty of other rookies, top prospects and young stars to help sustain the baseball card market this year and for the foreseeable future.
Asked about what he’s seen from his customer base since Ohtanin’s injury, Michael Fruitman of Mike’s Stadium Sportscards responded, “I was actually in the mountains Sunday through Tuesday, but looking back at box sales from those days, I saw our collectors bought multiple boxes of the new 2018 Topps Finest among loads of other recent products. 2018 Topps Series 2 MLB hit Wednesday late in the afternoon and I am seeing box sales about where I expected them to be with him being out of the lineup. My set collectors are still excited about it, but our gamblers didn’t leave work, run through stop lights and make their way over here to get the first few boxes…yet.”
When asked if he had seen a downturn in interest for Bowman since it happened, Blowout Cards’ Matt Thomas responded, “Yes and no. It’s a bummer for sure in the hobby as an injury like this affects interest, but at the same time, it’s a chance to hopefully take advantage of low single prices.”
Thomas’ comment brought to mind a complaint from collectors that Bowman was too expensive this year because of the Ohtani craze. A large part of that complaint centered around that fact that single prices had been driven up as result of the higher box prices. Per his point though, now is as good a time as any to get those singles. It also provides a chance for people to potentially grab Ohtani autographs or other desirable cards at a discounted rate while some scramble to unload their stock. A risk to be sure until his injury status is more clear, but one with some upside if the news ends up being positive.
The big question overall is how will this affect the buying of 2018 baseball products. Last year was exceptionally strong because of its rookie class, especially Aaron Judge. Helping fuel that consistent performance was Judge having such a strong year for most of the season. With Ohtani, that presents more of a question mark for 2018. Asked why people should continue to chase 2018 baseball products with the looming news of Ohtani’s injury, Thomas replied, “There are plenty of flagship releases to come in 2018 that will deliver big hits and plenty of excitement.”
Adding to Thomas’ point, while Ohtani was certainly the prize of the 2018 MLB rookie crop, he hasn’t been the only big rookie to hit the scene. The Yankees’ Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have made their marks in New York so far. In Atlanta, a pair of exciting youngsters in Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies have also been having successful rookie campaigns. Similar to last year, there are several rookies this season to get excited about. Is the hype outside of Ohtani as big as Judge, Bellinger and Benintendi was last year? Not yet, but it’s still a pretty impressive rookie class.
Asked which other rookies collectors may chase down in lieu of Ohtani, Fruitman replied, “2018 is not a one trick rookie pony as Austin Meadows, Ronald Acuna, Rhys Hoskins and Gleyber Torres were already household names, if your household follows such things. Sadly, local prospects David Dahl and Ryan McMahon have not blown up like many hoped they would, but they were not pushing sales at any point this year.”
Even already-released products like 2018 Bowman shouldn’t be dismissed with the news of Ohtani’s injury or the news of his autographed Superfractor being pulled. Bowman has a been a fairly strong product, especially in recent years, and it’s not always easy to go back and find sealed boxes. I don’t expect 2018 to be any different because of the strong rookie class. You also never know who might still emerge from that product. Even if prices dip on sealed boxes, it wouldn’t be the worst decision to snap a few up and sit on them for down the road.
Reflecting on his own experiences with another injured hot rookie, Fruitman recalled, “As a shop owner who survived 2010 after Steven Strasburg went out, this is old hat. We offered our collectors case breaks with many of the products that hit and fortunately we were solid enough where we could sit on many of those products. Many like Bowman Chrome have not only come back from their depths, but have performed very well as collectors are now looking back at the other players who emerged that year.”
Ohtani’s injury reminds me of late 2017 football when both Dalvin Cook and Deshaun Watson were injured during their rookie seasons. Both players were enjoying successful campaigns and their card success reflected that. I expect that success to reignite if both players come back and play well this year, even with a new rookie class in place.
For Ohtani, like Cook and Watson, the injury hasn’t all of a sudden taken away his talent. His play on the mound and at the plate has met, if not exceeded, the expectations placed on him. From a card standpoint, it would have been a lot worse if he had mediocre performances. Plus his injury, while potentially time-consuming, isn’t one that screams career-ending.
So before you panic about Ohtani and his cards taking a dive, take a deep breath. There’s still some time before the full extent of his injury is known. In the meantime, try and score some nice deals that you haven’t been to thus far. Even if the news ends up bad, there will still be plenty of hot new 2018 baseball product releases to come including in Allen & Ginter and Triple Threads.
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