3 Undervalued MLB Stars & Their Baseball Cards to Watch in 2019
By Richard Rowell, ThePit.com Contributor
With the baseball card hobby as hot as it’s been in years, many current MLB players have seen great appreciation in their rookie cards. However, there are still some of the game’s current stars that haven’t yet seen the expected value of their cards be realized going into the 2019 season. Here are 3 guys who are arguably among the top 20 players in the game right now who will likely see a considerable bump in their rookie card prices just based on their current projections going into the year.
** Paul Goldschmidt **
Even leaving the hitter-friendly desert of Phoenix, Arizona, Paul Goldschmidt projects as a top 20 hitter in the game according to the FanGraphs Depth Charts projections. Interestingly, this sandwiches Goldy in between two Colorado Rockies hitters, Daniel Murphy and Charlie Blackmon. Of course, Murphy is probably a bit underrated himself and going to a big-time hitter’s park. Blackmon is already an established slugger. That projection is also probably extremely conservative. Steamer and ZiPS only see him hitting 27 home runs, while other projection systems including the fans predict 30-plus. Also, his 83 RBI in 2018 is quite low for him and more a result of the Diamondbacks lineup than anything he did. The fans are probably right to expect 100 RBI or so and double digit stolen bases.
Fantasy baseball tends to value Goldy higher than other top first baseman such as Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto, and Anthony Rizzo because of his steals. At 31, he certainly shouldn’t be in decline. He’s a plus defensive first baseman with great baserunning ability and while he’s not yet in the Hall of Fame discussion, it’s not impossible that he could soon be on the bubble.
With the Cardinals agreeing to a 5 year extension with Goldy, he’ll be playing in St. Louis for the near future. That’s good news for his cards (no pun at all intended), because Cardinals fans tend to be pretty bullish on buying their stars’ rookie cards. While he’s no Albert Pujols, Cardinals fans are right to be excited about him. Yet, you can still find a Paul Goldschmidt 2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects auto BGS 9.5/10 auto for just under $300 and the refractor for about $425. A great year from him could result in a great investment, pushing his top rookie cards into the $400 to $500 range.
** Joey Votto **
Going into the 2019 season, Fangraphs has Joey Votto ranked as the #8 hitter in the game with a .881 OPS and .381 wOBA with 21 home runs. That wOBA mark puts him right in between Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Ramirez! The reason that he’s undervalued in fantasy baseball is a lot of his wOBA mark comes from his projected .415 OBP, while Stanton and Jose Ramirez have projected .563 and .523 SLG marks respectively.
These Depth Chart projections come from a combination of the ZiPS and Steamer projection systems. But, FanGraphs also features a FANS projection system, which is a survey of FanGraphs users. They peg Votto to have a truly great year, with a .412 wOBA with a .313/.440/.533 batting line with 27 home runs. If that’s the case, that would make him the second most valuable hitter in the game behind Mike Trout.
Votto had an even better 2017 season than that, so it’s reasonable to believe that 2018 was just a down year. Of course, at age 35, he could actually be in decline. Then again, the Depth Charts projection takes into account his down 2018, so he’s still more valuable than some people may realize.
There’s reason for optimism in Cincinnati this year with their big addition of Yasiel Puig to the lineup and Alex Wood and Sonny Gray to the pitching staff. Because of fans being a bit more excited about the Reds, it’s reasonable to expect that people will be buying rookie cards of the Reds. But with Eugenio Suarez taking a lot of the spotlight away from Votto, and because Votto’s cards are on the older side, it would seem Votto’s rookie cards are undervalued.
Votto’s best rookie autograph card is his 2004 Bowman Signs of the Future on-card auto. ThePit lists his BGS 9.5/10 auto at $425 and his PSA 10 at $495. For a guy who is on the Hall of Fame bubble going into 2019, that’s lower than you would expect. Stanton’s comparable rookie card, the 2008 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects auto is in the $600 range going into 2019. A big year out of Votto could mean big things for that and his other key cards such as his 2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks card.
** Jose Ramirez **
As probably the #3 overall pick in most fantasy baseball drafts, it may surprise you to learn that Jose Ramirez’s rookie autograph cards aren’t selling for as much as you would think. A PSA 10 copy of his 2014 Topps Chrome Rookie Refractor Autograph sold for just $131.50 on eBay in mid February 2019 and even other PSA-graded parallel refractors haven’t been topping $250. That includes the black refractor graded in BGS 9.5/10 auto.
Why aren’t Jose Ramirez rookie cards selling that well when he’s ranked so highly among fantasy baseball experts and the #9 bat in baseball according to the FanGraphs Depth Chart projections? Ramirez may have the perfect storm of factors making him undervalued. First, he wasn’t a highly regarded prospect, and for some people, he still came out of nowhere. Secondly, he plays in Cleveland, and he’s a bit overshadowed by his more famous teammate Francisco Lindor.
Also, some of Ramirez’s detractors point to his small size, as he stands only 5’9, so there are people who think he can’t sustain his power output. We’ve seen the even smaller Jose Altuve at 5’6 become a 20 HR / 30 SB threat. Ramirez seems to have already proven himself as a 30 HR / 30 SB threat. His cards should skyrocket with another big year, and he doesn’t even have to hit 39 HR again. Even if his depth chart projection of 28 HR and 25 SB and a .380 wOBA proves accurate, his Chrome Rookie Refractor is still far, far undervalued. He may be the best investment on this list.
Who else do you feel has rookie autograph cards that are extremely undervalued going into the 2019 MLB season? Let us know in our Facebook Pit Discussion Group:
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