A strong Hall of Fame draft class in 2015 included three first ballot pitchers and a third ballot position player. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz all racked up over 3,000 strikeouts in their careers respectively (Johnson got well over 4,000) while Craig Biggio who was a lifetime Houston Astro, racked up 3,080 hits in his 20-year career.
Since Johnson, Smoltz and Biggio all got their big league careers started in 1988 while Pedro made his debut in 1992, their rookie cards are a part of what is known as the “junk wax era”. Most ungraded rookie cards can be had for pennies on the dollar , but their minor league cards are worthy of a look since they are a bit rarer, worth more and are really just fun cards to own (true for many well-known players).
In 1986, ProCards featured a set with two Hall of Famers from the 2015 class in addition to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine who were inducted in 2014. One of the cards in this set is of the third musketeer from the 1990’s Atlanta Braves dynasty—John Smoltz. Smoltz was a member of the Lakeland Tigers at the time, a class-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. This of course was before the Michigan native was traded to the Atlanta Braves organization in 1987 for Doyle Alexander who was an All-Star the next season.
The card itself might just be the most valuable one of Smoltz in existence. Sure he was also in the 1987 and 1988 sets, but this was his first card in the set or any for that matter. In a PSA 8, the card has sold for around $30 in the past, but now that he is in the Hall of Fame, expect sales and prices to increase. Several are on eBay now.
The other card from the ProCards sets is of Randy Johnson from his time in the Montreal Expos organization. Back then, he was a freakishly large prospect who could throw gas but had one problem– he lacked control. Of course, this did not end up being a huge problem in his career. He was one of one of the greatest pitchers of all time despite leading the league in walks a few times early on in his career.
As one the top pitchers of his time, his cards are highly coveted. Johnson’s 1986 West Palm Beach Expos cards vary greatly in price. Many have been graded with PSA 8s selling for around $50, 9s at around $275 and 10s listed for over $700. Johnson also had a few minor league cards in 1987 when he was playing in Jacksonville, including ProCards, Donn Jennings Southern League All-Stars and CMC All-Stars and appeared again with Indianapolis on a ProCards set in ’88.
A former catcher who finished his career as an outfielder, Craig Biggio is the first Astro in the Hall. Biggio started showing up in end of season big league releases like Score Update and Fleer Update in 1988 but he also has a couple of minor league cards from early that season. He’s in in the 1988 CMC set as a member of the Tucson Toros and in the more mainstream 1988 ProCards set.
The entire CMC Tucson Toros team set can be found for somewhere in the $15-$20 range, but it features Manny Hernandez on the top of the deck who won just two games in his big league career. The Biggio card is stacked away within and is not visible without opening the set. The Biggio card itself is cheap as it runs for a couple of bucks ungraded and $20 in PSA 8 condition although a PSA 10 might cost a few hundred.
In the peak of his career, Pedro Martinez was quite possible the greatest pitcher and fighter in Boston Red Sox history (sorry Don Zimmer) but 25 years ago, he made his cardboard debut at 18 years old as a member of the Great Falls Dodgers in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
The card itself was from the 1990 Sport Pro set that produced Minor League team sets for a number of teams that year. Relatively speaking, the Martinez card has been going for pretty cheap online, with PSA 10s available for around $75. Ungraded copies of the card can be had for a couple of bucks while the set itself with Pedro sealed within can be had for under $10. Martinez is also in the very inexpensive 1991 Classic Best set.