Among big bats like Kris Byrant, Vlad Jr., and Adolis García, let’s talk about who can provide top value for baseball card collectors.
The MLB season is heating up, and we’re suddenly about a third of the way into the quest for October. Some of baseball’s biggest names are performing at the blistering levels we expected all along, but a handful of others have popped up with surprisingly hot starts to the year — including some notable late bloomers.
Adolis García and Yermin Mercedes highlight the AL Rookie of the Year race after nearly a decade in the minor leagues. Meanwhile, established names like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Nick Castellanos, and Kris Bryant have either taken the next step or recaptured their elite forms of past years.
While there is still a whole lot of baseball to be played, there are exciting opportunities for fans of the hobby. Let’s look at four surging stars who could add value to a baseball card collection.
OF, Texas Rangers
This season, Rangers outfielder Adolis García has been one of the best stories in baseball. At 28 years old, his breakout is reminiscent of Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena in 2020, both electrifying players with tantalizing tools. The duo have more than their robust skillsets in common, however, having spent time together in the Cardinals system as recently as 2019.
(Sorry, Redbirds fans.)
García is a gifted outfielder, and a bit more well-rounded than Arozarena — but it’s not defense that drives card prices. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound centerfielder leads the AL with 16 homers while sporting a solid .283 batting average and sensational .567 slugging percentage. It is fair to say nobody saw such an explosion of output coming from García, but collectors who bought low on him a few years ago could end up enjoying a fine return on investment.
Before the season started, García’s 2018 PSA 10 Bowman Chrome Auto could essentially be had for the price of grading: roughly $20, with raw versions of the card selling for just a couple bucks.
Now, his Bowman Chrome Auto is selling for more than $300 as a PSA 10 and around $100 ungraded.
While García looks the part so far this season, we saw a similar craze around Arozarena after his historic 2020 postseason for the Rays. For what it’s worth, his card prices have effectively halved since their $300 peak after last season’s World Series against the Dodgers.
Right now, the red-hot Adolis García’s card prices are ballooning thanks to all the buzz, but if the Ranger hits the rookie wall like so many players do, those prices may even out. If and when that occurs, the shrewdest card investors may find the perfect opening to enter the García market.
3B/OF, Chicago Cubs
When it comes to resurgences, Kris Bryant has crafted one of the best recent MLB memory. Once one of the hottest names in the hobby, his card values took a dip after an injury-plagued 2020 season resulted in a paltry .204 batting average and four homers.
Not even a year later, Bryant looks like the guy who won the 2016 MVP and a World Series title at just 24 years old, slashing .316/.395/.596 through 52 games.
Ahead of the current season, Bryant’s PSA 10 2013 Bowman Chrome Auto dropped under $400 for the first time ever, offering a fantastic buying opportunity for KB believers. Those who didn’t waver on the third baseman are reaping the rewards, with the card now approaching $1,000 as a PSA 10.
If Bryant can crash the MVP conversation while still on the right side of 30 — and ahead of his impending mega-deal in free agency — there could still be much more room for the Cubs slugger’s card market to grow.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
1B, Toronto Blue Jays
Another player who struggled through the shortened 2020 season, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. confronted plenty of adversity as he stepped up to the majors; aside from the weight of the pandemic, his Blue Jays were displaced from their home field and cast as baseball’s nomads before finding a semi-permanent home in Buffalo.
Now, he’s reminding us why he was one of the hotly anticipated prospects of all time.
Frustrated with his down 2020 season, Vlad Jr. showed up to spring training 30 pounds lighter and ready to prove his believers right. Thus far, he’s done just that… and then some. He’s tied for the MLB in home runs, on-base percentage, OPS, total bases, and offensive WAR, and has walked nearly many times (33) as he has struck out (34).
Guerrero’s card never quite dipped like Bryant’s, but it has skyrocketed after letting out some air in the offseason. The young slugger’s 2016 Bowman Chrome Auto was fetching just under $1,000 as a PSA 10 after last season. After his torrid start to 2021, it had doubled already, pushing over $2,000.
None of these gaudy Guerrero numbers should come as a surprise, but concerns about whether the Blue Jays corner infielder would ever reach his sky-high ceiling were enough to chip away at his market price.
So much for that.
Just 22 years of age and only getting better, Vladdy is a top candidate to push towards the “most valuable modern cards not featuring Mike Trout” category alongside Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuña Jr.
RF, Cincinatti Reds
Finally, here’s a guy who is no stranger to making headlines thanks to his performance at the plate as well as his trash talk. Nick Castellanos is enjoying a career year for the Cincinnati Reds this season, leading baseball with a .364 batting average while also sporting a 1.062 OPS thank ranks second only to Vlad Jr. Almost a decade into his career, the 29-year-old looks better than ever.
For Castellanos, the move to Cincinatti proved to be a fruitful one. A gap to gap hitter, he had clearly grown frustrated with the Tigers’ Comerica Park, where he played parts of seven seasons — at one point, he even called the place a “joke” due to its uncommonly wide dimensions.
This season, the Reds outfielder is on pace to demolish his career high of 27 home runs in a season.
Ahead of the 2021 season, Castellanos’ 2012 Bowman Chrome Auto could be had for $50 as a PSA 10. Since then, the price has roughly doubled, but is still affordable at around $100-$120.
However, it’s worth noting that his future with the Reds is uncertain. The 29-year-old slugger has a potential opt-out after this season; if he continues to produce even 70% of what he’s capable of in the current moment, he will almost surely pull the trigger and re-enter the free agent pool.
The smaller market Reds are unlikely to meet his lofty price tag this offseason, and could trade him this summer to protect against losing him for nothing.
Also worth noting: Although his production at Great American Ballpark has been stellar, his road figures mirror his career stats, leading to reasonable questions about the sustainability of his baseball cards’ values over time.
With about two thirds of the regular season left to play, we have a whole lot of baseball ahead of us. Who will end up on top? Who’s beginning to plateau? The league’s pecking order will sort itself out as it always does — but in the meantime, collectors have some exciting choices to make that could create some long-term rewards.