Is it just me, or have the last few baseball seasons exhibited a fairly remarkable renaissance for great young baseball players? Perhaps we will look back on this 2015 season as the pinnacle of the recent rookie classes. So far in 2015, nine of the top 15 prospects entering this season have already been called up the majors and will certainly have rookie cards in all the Topps sets going forward.
These days, three aspects sell new products: 1) Content (especially autographs which are hopefully on-card; 2) Price point; and 3) Rookie cards– whether they are signed or not.
The autographs help if the rookie players have signed contracts with Topps and those cards are available in packs. At this point who would not want a Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo or Joc Pederson card? Or even Byron Buxton or Francisco Lindor.
With this many young players, I suspect many collectors will pull good cards from their packs throughout 2015 and the secondary market will get a nice boost. And with this many prospects now on cards, it might even behoove collectors to look for rookies they like who are not among the current elite. If you go after a prospect like Addison Russell, who is younger than Bryant and playing a more demanding defensive position, both your short and long-term prospects are good when you look at what scouts believe he will soon become.
And, this year also shows the wisdom of the MLB and the MLBPA to adjust the rookie card rules a decade ago. Although today’s rookies had Bowman cards long before they hit the majors and those autographed ‘prospect cards’ sell for big bucks, their ‘official’ rookie cards are in 2015 sets and that should drive sales throughout the end of the year, especially in the larger fan market. Identifying a player’s debut to a particular season gives it some order and being able to announce something new during that time often means invaluable publicity for the hobby as a whole.
Long-time shop owner Alan Narz used to stress reaching out to local media, especially if in slightly less populated communities. To me, when the very first set comes out with Joey Gallo rookies, I would not only use my electronic mailing list to send out that notice to collectors but look at every local DFW media outlet to announce to the world that Gallo’s cards are out and they’re hot. Invite them to a show or your shop for a new angle on the arrival of a player everyone is talking about.
I know at our most recent show we had a gentleman come in who was not an avid collector or very savvy but was looking for cards of Bryant and Gallo. He ended up buying a couple of current boxes. I don’t even know if it is possible to steer him toward being a customer/collector but there is an encouraging sign that these young players are helping to build interest in newer products. Frankly, anything which can bring new people—and a few dollars– into the hobby is certainly a good thing.
And all of this synergy is exactly what the MLB and the MLBPA intended years ago when they adapted the updated rookie card rules. We sometimes like to tweak people when they make bad decisions, such as when they insisted Andrew Miller be held back as a rookie card way back in 2006 until the 2007 releases but we also need to realize when those actions are proven correct. And so far, the 2015 season in proving the wisdom of those rules instituted back in 2006.