Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Updates -- Looking Back on My Recommendations

So, it's been a while since I was active and I figured I'd check over recommendations I made during the preseason.  Here are a few that I'm proud of...

HUNTER MORRIS -- Strong Buy (2/22/2012)
Batting .308 - 20 HR - 82 RBI  for AA... I'm very proud to say I was high on him since last year.  He deserves a look at the MLB level.  The dude can flat out rake.
   
ROBERT STEPHENSON -- Strong Buy (2/23/2012)   
One of the best arms from 2011 BDPP is proving why I said he was a Strong Buy.

ZACK WHEELER -- Hold (3/6/2012) 
MATT HARVEY -- Buy (3/6/2012)
Do I need to give Harvey's recap of his debut? :)  As a Met fan, I'm extremely excited for Harvey.  And I'm even more excited for Zack Wheeler.  I sold Harvey's for profit after debut.  I'm buying Wheelers.

TREVOR BAUER -- Short-Term Buy -- Sell once he's promoted (3/20/2012)
Hopefully you did exactly that... if you held after promotion, you might have to hold long term or take a loss now.

FRANCISCO LINDOR -- Hold (3/22/2012)
Correctly didn't recommend buying as Profar seems to be the SS prospect everyone wants.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back From Break... New Posts Soon!

Tons to talk about as the season gets underway.  The 2 major headlines as far as I'm concerned are:
1.  Dylan Bundy is a god.
2.  Bryce Harper is as exciting as we'd all hoped. 

Any way, I just wanted to show my face, as I'm back from hiatus, and I plan to get back to posting shortly.  Thanks for being patient...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bear Market Now For Prospects... Why?

It seems prices are down across the board in terms of prospects.  Trevor Bauer chrome autos have dropped almost 50% despite his inevitable callup sometime this year, mid-tier chrome autos are selling for a few bucks, and I failed miserably trying to "dump" some excess prospects at nice prices.  Rather than go through specific pricing to prove it's a buyer's/bear market right now, I'd like to jump ahead and explore why the market seems to be very weak at the moment.

I have a number of theories as to why it seems impossible to sell your prospects right now for what you think they're really worth.  These are all theories, and I'd be interested to hear what other collectors think.

In no particular order, here are my theories:

1.  Collectors are in standby mode

With the season only a few days away, collectors may have pulled back the reins to see how it all pans out.  Who makes the MLB roster, what does my fantasy magazine say about these prospects, why do these stud prospects not even get drafted in fantasy leagues?  In other words, collectors are ready to sit back and passively enjoy imminent baseball.  Maybe the time for heavy prospecting is put on hold so we can all take a breather.

2.  A current eBay promotion

You may have noticed a ridiculous amount of eBay auctions this month, and most having an extremely unrealistic starting price.  This is because eBay had a promotion for free auction listings for anyone who has an eBay store.  Instead of paying incremental fees depending on your starting value, you can start an auction at any price you want, for free.  You have nothing to lose.

So, why would that affect pricing?  I think the fact that eBay is inundated with overpriced listings (the new auctions and the always over-priced Buy It Nows), collectors are just giving up looking through listings.  It's like finding a needle in a haystack right now, unless you know exactly what card you want and can search through the 50 or so listings of that exact card.  But, either way, if there are collectors out there who did in fact give up searching and buying on ebay, that's a decrease in demand and money in the market.  That alone makes prices decline.

3.  Flow of Funds

Another theory could be that funds are flowing into pre-sales of 2012 Bowman Chrome, which is due to be released this summer.  Since a case would run you a hefty penny, and thousands of pre-sales are made, all that money is taken out of the market.  This is also technically decreased demand, and results in lower pricing.

4.  Increased Supply

Maybe prices are shrinking right now because supply has hit a pivotal point.  As more cases are busted, more cards hit the market.  It seems to make sense that as time goes on, this phenomenon inevitably causes prices to decline because supply increases exponentially.  When 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft first came on the scene, if you liked a player, there were limited cards to buy.  So sellers could set their price.  Now, try searching for any specific auto from the set and you'll see hundreds of listings.

5.  Attention is focused back on stars and veterans

Finally, the last theory I have has to do with hype for the start of the season, and is the theory I put most of my belief in.  Simply put, with the prevalence of fantasy leagues and MLB previews, there really isn't that much focus on prospects.  They're more of a side note.  During the offseason, the stars are out golfing.  We can focus on prospects and speculate on the future.  But now, we're thrust back into reality and the plain truth is that Matt Kemp is more important than a potential SP2 named Nate Eovaldi.  And as crazy as it sounds, if you're a Nats fan, whether Jayson Werth can live up to his contract is way more important to your club this season than Bryce Harper right now.  So, in the offseason our heads are in the clouds of prospects.  Now that baseball is back, we stop daydreaming and realize we'll be spending the upcoming season rooting for old reliable veterans, not prospects.

Which leaves us with one question... so what?  Well, if you're smart, you're buying a ton of prospects right now.  There are incredible deals everywhere if you know where to look.  Ironically, a "weak" prospect market is the perfect time to buy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Walker Weickel Update, Lucas Giolito


I hope I'm not boring you with a third post related to Walker Weickel, but it bears repeating until collectors realize how good this kid is.  I reiterate that he will be drafted amongst the top-10 in June and will garner major attention as June approaches.  In addition to Weickel's solid performances to start the 2011 season, Lucas Giolito, the nation's [former?] No. 1 right-handed pitching prospect, got injured.  He won't throw for a month and could be out of action up to 10 weeks after spraining the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.  Guess who could be in line to grab that distinction of the No. 1 right-handed pitching prospect...

I made money on a bunch of Weickels, but recently got back into the action and picked up another large lot of Weickel 2011 Bowman Chrome USA 18u Autos (1 orange, 1 gold, 2 blue, 5 Xfractors, 8 Refractors) to add to an orange that is currently being graded.  He has been lights out this year, plays for a nationally ranked undefeated team, and the 2012 MLB draft is right around the corner.

For some reason, I can't find Weickel's cumulative stats so far (if anyone can find these, please help!!!). 

Here are some blurbs related to some recent performances.  It appears Sir Weickel can hit as well:

3/21:  Weickel -- 5 IP, 2 Hits, 7 K, Titans improve to 14-0... Wieckel also hit a solo home run in the second inning.

3/20: Walker Weickel and Michael Hennessey -- 2 R or less in 10 of their 12 wins.

3/7: Weickel -- 10 K, in a complete-game victory for the Titans (9-0).

3/3: Weickel went 2-for-4, HR, 2 RBIs for Olympia (8-0)

3/2: Weickel went 3 for 3, with 2 HR for the Titans, who remain unbeaten at 7-0.

3/1: "Walker Weickel is a lanky 6-foot-6, 205-pound righty from Olympia High School on the west side of Orlando. Keith ranked Weickel ninth on his list, and at Weickel's season debut the scouting community appeared to agree, with more than 50 scouts in attendance, including a number of crosscheckers and scouting directors. The thing that gets scouts excited about Weickel isn't so much what he does well (which is plenty), but what he doesn't do poorly." -- MLB Draft Blog at ESPN

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland)


Francisco Lindor (SS, Indians)

Francisco Lindor is an 18-year old prospect who is already generating buzz this Spring.  Cleveland selected Lindor 8th overall in the first round of the 2011 draft.  The most interesting aspect of this is that drafting the high schooler in the first round broke Cleveland’s 9-year streak of only drafting collegiate players in the first round.  So, what made Cleveland go against their custom and take a chance on a young high school bat?

Basically, Lindor is extremely advanced with solid all-around tools.  He is a very strong defensive shortstop, and projects well up the middle with a plus arm, range, and glove.  He projects as a top of the order threat with a plus bat and plus speed.  Scouts are torn as to whether power will develop.  He has a very slight frame (5’11” and 175 lbs), and my prediction is the power will be below average.  However, his slight frame and slick defense almost guarantees him a future at SS (i.e. a bit like the opposite of Hanley Ramirez and his enormous frame).

Scouts, managers, and the front office all rave about the kid’s maturity and potential.  Yet, there are negatives, as no high school draftee is MLB ready.  Lindor’s swing is supposedly inconsistent at the moment and he occasionally leaks his front side.  This is a very fixable problem and with more experience, consistency will develop and when his swing is right, Lindor's hands move quickly through the zone.

Lindor has two Bowman Chrome autos, a 2010 Bowman Chrome USA auto and a 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft auto.  Both autos go for an average of $20 per base, sometimes a few bucks more, sometimes a few bucks less.  It might seem counterintuitive that collectors don’t value the 2010 BC USA auto higher than the 2011 auto, but it most likely has to do with the fact that Lindor’s 2010 auto is a sticker, whereas the 2011 Draft auto is your typical on-card auto (a key aspect of BC autos that has made BC the top prospect product).

Since Lindor will most likely lack power (in my opinion) and is still so young with reported inconsistencies in his swing, I hesitate on buying a chrome auto at $20.  His glove will most likely be enough to advance through the system, but until I see a full year’s worth of hitting, I can’t go all-in on the kid.  Slick fielding shortstops with average bats simply don’t garner too much demand in the hobby (unless their name is Ozzie Smith).  So, for now, I’d HOLD any Lindor autos I have, but I’ll pass on acquiring any.

Recommendation: HOLD


Lindor's ticket to the bigs...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Analysis of a Losing Investment -- Strasburg


Analysis of a Losing Investment -- Strasburg

A few posts ago, I proposed a risky short-term investment in Strasburg.  I hypothesized (upon seeing prices of completed ebay listings) that Strasburg autos tended to sell much cheaper in auctions than Buy It Nows.  One of a few reasons for this is that there weren’t too many competing bidders in high end auctions, whereas an avid Strasburg fan tended to spend the extra dollar on a more expensive Buy it Now.  It was also intriguing that Buy It Nows were so overpriced that it may have made cheaper Buy It Nows much more attractive, even if they were more expensive than auction sales.

So, I spent $700 on 4 Strasburg autos (2010 BC Ref Auto, Sterling Ref Auto BGS 9.5/10, and 2 Sterling base autos).  Not only would I implement my strategy, I happened to snag these autos at prices below average ebay sales.  I thought this might mean that even if my strategy didn’t work, at least I could break even.

Shortly thereafter, Strasburg hit a few rough starts in Spring Training and his prices fell dramatically.  I tried to recoup my investment, but failed.  As of right now, all of these autos are up on ebay via an auction with a starting price of $600 for the entire lot.

Unless bidders go nuts and pay top dollar, I expect to lose money.  Also, I lost out on other possible investments I could’ve used the $700 for…double whammy.

There are a few things I took away from this.  Most importantly, when it comes to high end players like Strasburg and Harper (a similar thing happened to Harper once he was demoted this Spring.  Sellers are flooding the market with Harper autos), the market is very susceptible to everything.  It’s irrational, but it’s reality.

Here’s how I see it:  the market saw a “struggling” Strasburg, trying to hit his spots, and not mastering the control that made him a stud pitcher in the past.  Yet, the reality is this is exactly the correct way to go about Spring Training.  With each start, Strasburg has been fine tuning his command.  And since he is relying on fastballs, it’s obvious MLB hitters have a chance.  So, instead of seeing a craftsman focusing on perfecting his game, collectors see an ERA of 4.00.  It’s a silly knee-jerk reaction, but it resulted in dumping Strasburg autos at lower prices.

Strasburg is fine.  He was fine at the end of last year when he returned early from Tommy John surgery.  He’ll be a top-5 pitcher for the next decade.  But, when all is said and done, my investment was a losing one.

Lessons:
  1. Never underestimate how fickle the market can be, especially with hyped players.
  2. High-end players are riskier as each percentage move involves more money
  3. Never try new strategies on higher priced cards


Trevor Bauer (SP, Arizona)


Trevor Bauer (SP, Arizona)

Trevor Bauer could be the next Tim Lincecum.  Their deliveries even look alike.  There’s no denying his talent and I think there’s a very safe and profitable short-mid term play here.

The buzz surrounding Diamondbacks camp this Spring was that Bauer could be slotted in the fifth spot of the starting rotation, due to an injury to Josh Collmenter.  Immediately, Bauer’s 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Autos increased about 20%.  I bought into the hype and promise and purchased a refractor auto for $65.  At the time, they were selling in the $80-90 range.

Shortly thereafter, news broke that Collmenter was indeed the #5 SP, and Bauer was sent back down to AAA.  Overnight, Bauer’s refractor auto went from the $80’s to the $60’s.  All of this price movement hinged on the simple decision of whether Bauer would be an MLB starter.  Talent, projections, supply, etc. – all of it was irrelevant as the basic price for Bauer is and has always been intact.

For this reason, I think you can safely assume that the opposite will be true if (AND WHEN) rumors/news break that Bauer will be called up.  If Collmenter gets injured or underperforms, Arizona will be quick to promote their prized pitching prospect.  Once this happens, the price of his autos will jump right back up to Spring Training pricing.

I believe this is a relatively safe investment that will produce modest gains (but gains, nonetheless), anywhere from a few weeks to a few months from now.  Most prospectors would hold their autos when Bauer is promoted, hoping for immediate brilliance, and a real payday on their Bauer autos.  I’m not that greedy.  I’d take the more conservative approach and pocket the profit.  Once collectors learn (or even have reason to speculate) that Bauer will be called up, I expect a 25-40% rise in pricing.  That’s a nice profit.  I’d cash in and move on… but as a fan, I’d definitely tune in to see Bauer’s magnificence on the mound.

It’s a pure situational play, but we should still pay some respect to the underlying prospect.  Trevor Bauer will be a beast for years to come.

Recommendation: BUY

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bryce Harper (OF, Wash)


Bryce Harper (OF, Washington)

The kid is cocky, talented, and his cards are severely overpriced.  No one denies the potential of Bryce Harper as a 5-tool stud in the making.  He’s been tearing up the competition since he was 9 years, when he accepted offers to play for travel teams.  Rumor has it that in one of his early travel league tournaments, Harper went 8-for-8 with 7 HR and a double.

Harper is young, and has shown glimpses of what he can do as the youngest player in AA, but can his Bowman Chrome autograph really be worth $300?!  I argue, no.  The reason is grounded in simple economics (as most of my analyses are): demand has peaked, and supply will continue to grow.

Let’s start with demand.  If you frequent the forums or watch Harper auctions, it’s clear he is, and has always been, in demand.  Everyone wants Harper autos.  People trade way too much for him and fawn over the higher-end autos.  Simply put, the kid is touted as the best prospect in MLB history, and everyone is aware of this.  Demand is at a peak, and it can do one of two things: stay at the peak or fall… so there’s no upside to demand, only downside.

Now, let’s look at supply.  Harper sells brands: Bowman Chrome, Bowman, Bowman Platinum, etc.  He is the best marketing tool Topps has, so it makes sense that, with every new product, we will see new Harper cards, especially autographs.  That is, supply of Harper autos will increase.  A good example of this is Harper's Bowman Chrome Rookies.  Once Harper's auto's hit the market, his 2010 Bowman Chrome USA card dropped from $75-100 down to $50.  Similarly, his 2011 BC card dropped from $10, and I've seen it sell for as little as a couple bucks on the forums.  I anticipate a similar effect with every new Harper card that saturates the market and dilutes the pricing of all Harper cards.

If supply increases and demand stays the same/decreases, Harper prices go down.  Now, I should point out the distinction between my passion for the game and investing.  I'm a Harper fan.  I think he'll have a great career, I'm excited to watch him play, have him on fantasy teams, etc.  He's good for baseball.  But, as an investment, I'm not buying.  If you have Harper autos, sell them and buy 50 other prospect autos with the ridiculous amount of money you’ll get.

Recommendation: SELL

Friday, March 16, 2012

Carlos Santana (C, Indians)

Carlos Santana (C, Indians)

Last year, Carlos Santana slugged 27 HR, but hit only .239.  Chalk that up to bad luck.  Throughout his pro career, Santana's BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play) consistently sat in the .300's.  Last year, it was only .263.  Each player has a relatively consistent BABIP from year to year.  Every now and then, there is an aberration, and it spikes or drops dramatically.  As a result, average rises and falls in lockstep.  This is what happened to Santana last year.  After contact, the ball just seemed to find the fielders.  It happens, and when you see a skewed BABIP, you can be confident that the year in question is not indicative of the player's true performance.  Add to that a very respectable OBP of .351 (despite the low avg) for Santana, and all signs point to a monster year.

You can expect Santana's BABIP to return to his normal .300+ levels this year -- meaning a much higher avg than 2011's .239.  This means we're talking about a potential .280-30 hr-100 rbi kid, who plays Catcher.  And that would make him a legitimate candidate to take over as the best offensive catcher in baseball.

His base autos from 2009 Bowman Chrome are in the $20-25 range, and I'm looking to pick a few up.  When the best player at a position has a Bowman Chrome auto, the results are pretty lucrative:  Pujols, Braun, Kemp, Justin Upton, Mauer, Posey... well, you get the idea.  Their chrome autos are some of the hobby's most sought-after and valuable cards of this era.

I believe Santana's chrome auto has a legitimate chance to double or triple this year, and for only $20, there is practically no downside (if he gets hurt or forgets how to hit, collectors will still value his chrome auto based on potential and it will remain in the $10-20 range).  Low risk, high reward is rare indeed... and when you find it, jump on it.


RECOMMENDATION: STRONG BUY, Medium-term investment



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cory Luebke (SP, Padres)

Cory Luebke (SP, Padres)

3.29 ERA, 139.2 IP, 154 K, 1.067 WHIP... 

That's all you need to know about Luebke's breakout season last year for the Padres.  The fact that his record was 6-10 is probably a sort of silver lining in that it may be the reason that his autos are still cheap (2007 Bowman Chrome Draft).

27 years old is a magical number amongst baseball enthusiasts.  It is widely regarded (and proven) as the year in which many players "break out" or have their prime season.  And even though Luebke (drafted 63rd overall in 2007) spent about four full seasons in the minors and only one full year in the majors, he is on every list of pitchers who are ready to have a monster season.

The most glaring stat for me, and quite mysterious, is how Luebke fared at home vs. on the road.  When I first started following Luebke, I wondered whether he was one of the many pitchers who was simply taking advantage of a pitcher's park (at PETCO).  Yet, his home ERA was 4.04, while his road ERA was a staggering 2.55.  I look for both numbers to revert to the mean this year (slightly above 3.00), which will mean a very productive season.

Luebke is a similar pitcher to Cole Hamels, a tall, lanky lefty with a plus fastball in the low to mid-90s, with a plus breaking ball.  He has a chance to quickly become the ace of the Padres staff.  Although sometimes hard to find, Luebke's base autos from 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft can be had for under $10.  I believe he is a very strong buy at this price.

RECOMMENDATION: STRONG BUY (07 BDPP Auto), Medium-term investment


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Andrew Cashner (RP, Padres) -- Rebound Candidate

Andrew Cashner is getting some attention this Spring lighting up the radar guns, averaging an amazing 102.2 mph on his fastball. 

Cashner, a former top prospect with the Cubs, was sent over to San Diego in the deal that brought Rizzo over to Chicago.  Cashner saw his struggles with the Cubs, but gets a new start in the pitcher haven ballpark of Petco.  Cashner is expected to be a middle reliever, setting up new Padres closer, Huston Street.  But Cashner's sights are on making the starting rotation as early as this year.

As most relievers in the hobby, Cashner's autos are dirt cheap.  He has no Bowman Chrome autos, but his Bowman Sterling and Donruss Elite autos are selling in the $3 vicinity.

When a former top prospect moves to the best pitcher's park in the majors, averages 102 mph in the Spring, and has rookie autos selling for cheaper than a Starbucks coffee, it gets my attention.

I look for Cashner to play a major role in the Padres dominant bullpen, similar to last year's Padres middle reliever (now with Texas), Mike Adams.  If the starting rotation stays healthy and the Padres are in the hunt, I don't expect a sudden move to the rotation for Cashner this year.  Why fix what ain't broke?  But, next year is a whole other story.  And if you have some spare cash, and time to wait, I think bright days are ahead for Cashner as the starting pitcher he was once expected to be.

I like Cashner's maturity with his new role, mixed with hunger and confidence -- "I feel great," Cashner said. "Right now all my focus is on the bullpen. If another opportunity comes up, it comes up. My goal is to win the seventh or the eighth inning job this year."

RECOMMENDATION: BUY (in bulk), Long-term investment

I topped out at 70 mph in high school.  Cashner makes me feel inadequate...

Daniel Vogelbach (1B, Cubs)

One of the hottest mid-tier players from 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft is Daniel Vogelbach (aka - chubby, fatty, twinkie boy).  Youtube him and you'll see why.  The kid's a monster who hits 500 foot bombs like he's using a fungo.  I was a Vogelbach believer when I saw those videos and saw his base chrome autos selling below $10.  But, I'm happy I no longer hold any Vogelbachs.

Vogelbach is currently the third best 1B prospect for the Cubbies.  Yes, third best.  Early Spring buzz has Bryan LaHair as the frontrunner, with Anthony Rizzo, a close second.  These guys have similar power as Vogelbach with a track record to prove it.  LaHair is batting cage spectacle for players and fans alike.  Hitting in the PCL (the best hitter's league, so always be cautious when using these numbers), LaHair put up gaudy numbers, and I mean GAUDY, in 2011.

In a brief stint at the MLB level, where he held his own, and a dominating season at AAA, LaHair batted .330 with 40 HR and 115 RBI.  Sick.

Oh, and if that doesn't pan out, we have a "former" top 10 prospect, and #1 organizational prospect, named Anthony Rizzo.  All Rizzo did in the PCL last year was hit .331 with 26 HR and 101 RBI.  Oh, and he had only 356 AB.  Jeez.

OK, so for Vogelbach to be relevant, 2 things must happen.  TWO studs with triple crown-esque numbers at AAA must fail and/or both get traded.  PLUS, Vogelbach would have to perform better than both, despite having a whopping 24 professional career at bats.  Basically, the first is nearly impossible and the second is a speculative concern.  Together, it equals a SELL recommendation for Vogelbach autos while they're "hot".

RECOMMENDATION:
Vogelbach -- SELL

Strasburg Investment Thoughts

***  Following this strategy brings significant risks.  Please proceed with caution.

My favorite player to watch is Stephen Strasburg.  I traveled to attend his first AAA game, where I was mesmerized by his dominance.  A short while later, I attended his first MLB game in Washington, where he performed one of the greatest starting pitching debuts in history.  Since then, I've been hooked.

Now, Strasburg's autos aren't cheap.  To invest in them is to think he'll continue to be lights out, even after Tommy John surgery.  But, I think there is money to be made if you find the right prices.

What I've noticed is that Strasburg (and some other big names like Harper) have auctions that end at a certain price.  Sometimes Buy It Nows are sold, well above those auction sales prices.  I think the logic behind this is bidders get a bit gun shy at the last minutes of an auction for higher end items... hence, a "lower" sales price.  Then, there are more prudent buyers who check out the Buy It Nows, where they can shop at their own pace.  The thing is, a vast majority of Strasburg Buy It Nows are severely overpriced, usually with Best Offers.  I believe a buyer who really wants a Strasburg auto (esp immediately after a solid start) will jump to the Buy It Nows and has potential to purchase the lowest price item.  Usually, this lowest priced item is much lower than similar BIN listings of the same card.  Yet, it is usually higher than the most recent auction sales prices.

For this reason, I have picked up some Strasburg autos at what seemed like bargain prices.  My goal is to price them above my cost, to a comfortable markup, with the hopes that it is the lowest priced Buy It Now available.  Then, with the hopes that a Strasburg fan snags the Buy It Now.

Here are my recent purchases:
Strasburg 2011 Bowman Sterling Ref Auto /199 - BGS 9.5 (10 Auto) -- $260
-- For me this is a no-brainer.  Base Auto 9.5 sell for $150-180, and I think I have a chance at finding a buyer anywhere in the vicinity of $300-350.

Strasburg 2010 Bowman Chrome Ref Auto /500 + Strasburg Sterling Auto -- $320
--- I've seen BC Ref auctions sell for $220, so I think I have a chance at a sale with a $250 BIN.
--- Sterling auctions have sold at $150.  If the BC Ref sells for $250, I can simply sell the Sterling at $150 to net $400 ($80 profit, 25%).  Or I can follow my strategy and go slightly higher than the auction and sell it for $175 BIN.  That would total $425, over $100 profit.

Strasburg 2010 Bowman Sterling Auto -- $100
--- pleasantly surprised when the seller accepted my best offer

Friday, March 9, 2012

Manny Banuelos Revisited

I posted that Banuelos was a strong buy before Spring Training, despite some low rankings by "experts" (e.g. Sickels gave him a B).  Since I can never be more elegant than these solid articles, I will simply post their links.  Basically, Banuelos is looking PHENOMENAL.  Luckily, pricing is moving up - slowly enough that I'd still buy.

Romine and Betances have not done much, but I am happy to report that things are looking VERY promising if you bought Banuelos when I recommended him.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mets Pitching Prospects: Wheeler, Harvey, Familia

My team is the Mets, so I'll start with them in my first organizational prospect report.

With an impending Madoff trustee lawsuit affecting their finances, the Mets were very quiet this offseason.  They neglected Jose Reyes' free agent status by not even making him an offer.  There are also rumors that the face of the franchise, David Wright, could be moved as early as this year.  Adding to that, the Mets financials were recently released.  The key numbers are as follows:
  • Citi Field revenues are down 30% since the park opened in 2009
  • Premium ticket sales are down 50%
  • Attendance declined 26%
  • Concession revenue is down 28%
  • Parking revenue declined 37%
Basically, the Mets are broke... financially.  But I argue that, in terms of young talent, they're actually pretty rich.  With proven talent scout at the helm as GM, Sandy Alderson made a nifty move last season by trading Beltran for renowned pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.  This move speaks volumes.  The Mets are rebuilding, both literally (they moved in the outfield walls this offseason) and figuratively.

Coming up quickly in the ranks are 3 legit stud SP: Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jeurys Familia.  Spring Training is a fun time to be a prospector.  With enlarged rosters and prospect invitees, I always find it very useful to see what teammates are saying about their prospect teammates.

One quote that stood out in my mind was reported by Kevin Kernan of the NY Post:
"After Jason Bay stood in against Harvey the other day, Bay asked Terry Collins: 'We’ve got five guys better than this?’"

Backman also weighed in on the young pitching talent:
"These guys [Harvey, Wheeler, Familia] could be a core of something at some point in time.  That’s how you try to create a dynasty.”

And after an intrasquad game in which Familia went 2 no hit IP with 2 K's, Daniel Murphy joked to his teammate, Kirk Nieuwenhuis:
“Better you than me on Day 1 to face that monster.”

It's quotes like these that generate buzz and there's a lot of buzz in the Mets camp this Spring, despite ongoing distractions (financial woes, injuries to Wright and Hairston, Ike's Valley Fever, and the sad passing of a legend, Gary "The Kid" Carter).  I'm buying into the buzz of the future rotation for my Mets.

Here are current prices of base bowman chrome autos of these stud SP prospects:
Zack Wheeler (2009 Bowman Chrome Draft): $20-25
Matt Harvey (2010 Bowman Chrome Draft): $12-20
Jeurys Familia (2010 Bowman Chrome): $20

Because of the recent spikes (Familia and Harvey rose 50-75%), I am cautiously optimistic with these guys, but I'm still buying Harvey and Familia.


Recommendations

Zack Wheeler:  HOLD (still far away from the MLB, too many other young SP getting investors' attention)
Matt Harvey:  BUY (any base auto you can find for around $15, slight premium for qty)
Jeurys Familia:  BUY (any base auto you can find for $10, slight premium for qty)




Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hunter Virant + Walker Weickel USA Autos Revisited

I am continuing a profitable (thus far) strategy to steer clear of the "hot" prospects (Bauer, Harper, Lawrie, Bundy, etc.) so I can continue picking up Bowman Chrome USA autos.  As I expected when I talked about Weickel -- analysts, scouts, and writers are slowly coming out of the woodwork and previewing the upcoming MLB Draft in June.  Part of any complete preview must include the top high school players.... and luckily for us, these high school players have Bowman Chrome USA autos.

Hopefully, you followed my advice and picked up some Weickel.  Since I wrote that post when this blog first started, Weickel has seen a significant spike in pricing and demand, and as such I cashed in my Weickel profits to the tune of about a 50% profit margin.  Now what?  The answer: Hunter Virant.

Hailed by some as one of the most athletic high school pitchers to enter this draft (and praised by Keith Law as a "projectable lefthander"), Virant is a step below Weickel.  Weickel is a top 10 pick.  Virant will fall later in the 1st round.  As such, people are flocking to Weickel, while Virant is still relatively cheap and unknown.

As I mentioned before, these Bowman Chrome USA autos have very limited print runs (about 900).  This brings about a very fortuitous opportunity when it comes to these cards... simply, at any given time, there aren't many on ebay.  That is why the Buy It Now option is critical to profiting with these USA autos.  If you do a search for completed auction listings on the higher end parallels, you will see very modest pricing.  However, you will notice a handful of much more expensive Buy It Now listings that have been purchased.  There is a logical reason.  Demand is still low, so there are no bidding wars.  Yet, all it takes is one prospector who REALLY wants to "get in early" on one of these future first rounders... so much so that they end up snagging a Buy It Now, regardless of the price, because there are simply no others available to purchase.

I will use a very recent purchase as an example.  I bought a Virant Orange Auto for $70 on a forum.  I put it up at a Buy It Now for $125, and literally within an hour, someone bought it.  We can assume Virant was on the buyer's radar and with such low supply out there, he had to act quickly when a high end Virant became available.  I did the same thing with a Virant Gold Refractor, paid $35, sold within a few days for $50 via BUY IT NOW.

So, in all, I'd sell Weickel for a profit and move to the next guy who might start picking up demand in the same way Weickel did, Hunter Virant.  And the best lesson in prospect investing:  don't be greedy.  Sure, I could've held the Weickels and possibly seen an increase when June rolled around, but I know I can make money NOW with other overlooked USA autos like Virant.  Always sell if the proceeds can be used towards a better investment.  Also, don't fall in love with players and spend all your time digging through scouting reports.
If you know a player will be a first rounder in a few months, his prices are low, and supply is low, that ALONE is logical enough to be a buyer.  So, I'm a buyer.

HUNTER VIRANT
RECOMMENDATION:  BUY

Good luck and post some comments if you were able to cash in on some Weickels.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Robert Stephenson (RHP, Reds)


Robert Stephenson (RHP, Reds)

For only about 5 bucks, you can own a 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Base Auto of a kid who threw 2 no-hitters in his first 2 starts last year as a senior in high school.  Oh, and he struck out 20 in the second of those starts.

Stephenson is currently a "raw" prospect (but name a high school draftee who scouts don't consider raw... you can't).  Despite reports claiming he needs "time to develop", Stephenson already throws in the low to mid nineties, and already has a feel for a change and a curve.

In my opinion, his ceiling is as high as any pitcher in the 2011 MLB draft (he went #27 overall), and this was a pitcher-heavy draft with guys like Hultzen, Bauer, Bradley, Bundy, and Cole.  That says a lot when you consider most of those guys have autos ranging from $30-50.

I expect Stephenson to dominate in rookie-level ball this year, and quickly rise up the ranks of top prospects.  Instead of spending $50 or so on a Bauer or Bundy auto, I'd much rather accumulate 10 Stephenson autos.  A strong outing early on (something like 6 IP, 1 Hit, 10 K), and possibly an appearance on the weekly Baseball America hot list could mean an easy double on your investment... almost overnight. 

RECOMMENDATION: STRONG BUY


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cory Spangenberg (2B, Padres)

I love gritty players... players like my boys from the 1986 Mets.  That's probably why I'm so high on Cory Spangenberg (2B, Padres).

Spangenberg is regarded by most to be the top Second Base prospect.  I expect low-end double digit HR as he fills into body (he'll be hampered at PETCO though), increased SB (rated a 70 on the speed scouting scale, which is elite), a hard worker, improving fielder, and great hitter.

He's the type of player who can grow a following, and quickly.  He's fun to watch, loves the game of baseball, and works his butt off.

His prices have fallen as money moves elsewhere (the new release of NFL Contenders, the big pitching prospects, power hitting prospects) and his base Bowman Chrome Draft auto can be had for a few bucks.  Simply put, how can you NOT buy the TOP positional prospect's chrome ink if it's only a few bucks?!?!


Useful links:
ARTICLE #1
Debunks the myth that relevant MLB second basemen are shortstops in the minors.  Not true, so no red flags that Spangenberg is at 2B right now.

ARTICLE #2
Nice, positive scouting report from baseballnewshound.com

STATS - MiLB
Spangenberg's minor league stats

Schoop vs. Spangenberg
Great comparison thanks to Craig Goldstein over at faketeams.com


Heir to a Prince

Prince Fielder is gone.  Who will take over at first for Milwaukee?

Early reports are hinting at Mat Gamel to get the nod.  Here are his MLB totals thus far:
171 AB - .222 - 67 K

That's about all I need to know to start buying Hunter Morris.  He's what you can consider a common auto from 2011 Bowman Chrome, yet he's shown no signs of being common.  For my money, he's a much better heir to the first base job than Gamel.

Since Braun is out for 50 games, I don't expect the Brewers to contend.  So, it would behoove them to at least see what they have with Morris at first.  Even if he platoons with Gamel, I don't expect Morris' Bowman Chrome auto to stay at $3 as an MLB-relevant first baseman....  even a little price spike makes him a worthy investment.

Another aspect I'd like to add is that Morris could end up playing in the CAL league, a tremendous hitter's league, and the very same league Gyorko had his monster (inflated statistical) season at last year.  So, pick your poison:  MLB first baseman or elite power in a hitter's league where 30-40 HR is a feasible possibility.  Exactly.  Either option is good news for Hunter Morris collectors.

Recommendations: 
Hunter Morris: STRONG BUY

Own:
(1) Gold Ref Auto /50 
(4) Blue Ref Auto /150
(2) Base Auto

Monday, February 20, 2012

Cashing In on Yankees Prospects

Cashing in on Yankees Prospects

With the departure of Jesus Montero and an aging roster, Yankees fans are desperate for something to look forward to.  Despite the "Win Now" attitude that comes with rooting for a New York team, smarter fans are starting to take notice of the Yankees promising farm system: namely the killer B's and the catching prospects.

As teams begin Spring training, it's the perfect time to invest and speculate on players who can make an impact quickly and get that spike you need for a quick profit.  For me, there are no better names than 3 Yankees prospects, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Austin Romine.

The market has been buying heavily into another Yankees prospect, Mason Williams.  I predict this money begins to similarly flow away from Williams into the 3 guys I mentioned.  The reason being: Yankees fans have that "NOW" attitude.  Mason Williams is too young to make an impact at the MLB level, whereas Banuelos, Betances, and Romine ALL have a chance at making the roster and turning heads in the Spring.

The keys to a noticeable Spring are simple for these guys.  Both Banuelos and Betances, 2 pitchers with ace potential, have always had control problems.  If they show an improvement early on, the media will be all over them, and collectors will as well.

As for Romine, I love his potential for a pretty unique reason... the Yankees manager is Joe Girardi.  Romine, a terrific fielding catcher with mediocre potential at the plate, can easily win a spot on the MLB roster because Girardi (a former catcher) appreciates the art of catching and Romine is a protoypical catcher-first, hitter-second player.  Thus, he has a better short term outlook than a guy like Gary Sanchez, who is a terrible fielder and way too young to make the roster.

RECOMMENDATION:
Banuelos -- STRONG BUY
Betances -- BUY
Romine -- BUY

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sky-Walker Weickel

If a guaranteed first round draft pick in the June MLB Draft already had a Bowman Chrome auto, you'd be excited. But if there only existed 900 total copies, of all variations, you should be ecstatic.

Such is the case with Walker Weickel. Released in the 2011 Bowman Chrome USA 18u National Team Autograph insert set, Weickel's autograph (as well as the others in the set) have pretty limited print runs. The parallels are as follows:

  • Refractor: #/417
  • X-Fractor: #/299
  • Blue: #/99
  • Gold: #/50
  • Orange: #/25
  • Red: #/5
  • Superfractor: 1/1
  • Printing Plates: 1/1 - 4 different colored plates

That means only about 900 Weickel Bowman Chrome Autos exist.

Right now, this is an incredible investment. The smart investors are grabbing these for their collections at the moment, and supply is already starting to dry up. Once the June MLB draft comes around, Weickel will start becoming a household name (predicted by many to be a top 10 pick)... think Taillon or Pomeranz.

Once people start learning about Weickel and reading scouting reports, demand will rise quickly. Yet, the supply will not be there as most will already have been scooped up. Low supply + high demand = huge prices. Simple economics.

Recommendation: STRONG BUY

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Intro

This is a blog revolving around the investment of prospect baseball cards, geared towards the prospect collector who already has a moderate familiarity with the hobby. Rather than teach you what a refractor is, I delve right into strategies and predictions regarding prospects as they relate to cards.

My system revolves around "flipping" and "speculating".  Flipping is selling something soon after it is purchased (e.g. buy a lot of 10 cards, then sell them individually for a profit), whereas speculating is making an investment based on predictions of the future (i.e. buying a player whom you think will have a breakout season.)

Basically, I flip so I could have money to speculate.  The blog focuses on the speculation aspect, which encompasses a stock market-type mentality, and as such, each post will conclude with a Buy/Sell recommendation.

My name is Adam. In no way do I guarantee you financial success, but I still take great pride in mapping out and executing profitable investments.

I'd love to hear from you... questions, comments, criticisms, etc.  Make sure you follow the blog and check up on older posts as I'll be updating them as new information surfaces.  Also, be sure to tell your friends.

You can contact me at prospects4cash@gmail.com

Thanks for stopping by!  Enjoy and be profitable...