Feb 11

Top Catching Prospect — Jorge Alfaro

alfaroAfter injuries hampered Alfaro’s 2012 season, he played in a career-high number of games in 2013 and didn’t disappoint.  He was an international free agent in 2010 from Columbia and over a short period of time has skyrocketed up the prospect rankings – now ranked as either the #1 or #2 catching prospect, ahead of or behind Austin Hedges.

So what’s behind his meteoric rise?  Well in 404 AB’s, primarily with Class A Hickory in 2013, Alfaro had 18 HR’s, 61RBI’s, 72 Runs, a .265 Avg  and 18 Stolen Bases all coming from a converted infielder turned Catcher.  He’s a plus athlete with off the charts arm strength who can hit for power; however, his power comes at a price given his lack of plate discipline.  He has an aggressive approach to hitting and needs some refinement to his hitting for average.  His defensive performances appear to be increasing (I mean really, he’s only been catching for a limited amount of time) and with his arm strength, should develop into an everyday big leaguer – maybe as early as 2013.  Austin Hedges is better defensively but Alfaro has that offensive pop that prospectors get excited about.

His upside is really all-start player caliber – with almost unlimited fantasy upside but the downside is there too.  He has plenty of work to do in refining his catching skills and hitting but he’s too gifted of a player at a scarce position to ignore.  Remember when everyone was drooling over Carlos Santana a few years ago?  Well Alfaro is a catcher that could hit 25 homers and steal double digit bases.  That’s the kind of player prospects want to get in on early, before the big rush hits.

Alfaro’s Chrome auto base cards had been trading around $10-15 with refractors going for ~$25.  Those prices are starting to inch up to ~$30 now.  The Blue refractors and Blue Wave refractors are out there in the marketplace for between $50 and $70.  At these prices I find Alfaro too tempting of a player to ignore and want to amass a small army of his rookie chrome to prospect on. I recommend you do the same before it’s too late.

Lesson learned here – it’s the ceiling, not the floor, that’s driving this recommendation and hopefully his card prices in the future.

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Jan 28

Giolito- A pitcher you should……Buy!

Sorry for the long layoff, we have been super busy with our actual jobs. However, my research has not gone by the wayside and neither has my lust for speculating on prospect autos. I normally don’t recommend pitchers, but for a ceiling like Lucas Giolito at his current prices I am not only recommending buying, but I am recommending buying alot. Why? The reason is simple, his values are depressed and his potential is thru the roof. Think Archie Bradley+ in a better market for fueling demand. Jason Parks, one of my favorite prospect writers, said in his recent Baseball Prospectus Top 101 Prospects Chat,

 

Giolito

JoJo (SD): I’m not trying to be snarky but genuinely curious about the process regarding ranking Giolito that high when he had a small sample size of 36.2 ip in 2013. How much is his pedigree established in prior years weighed in the rank? Does your team have access to observe side sessions/non-game work? Do you simply not need a larger sample when the stuff and the opinions of those you trust are so strong? Thanks.

Jason Parks on the Top 101 Prospects: In Giolito’s case, I’m not looking at the results. In 2013, I wanted to see signs that the pre surgery stuff had returned. A healthy Giolito is a frontline prospect, a pitcher with an excellent combination of size, present strength, two pitches that project to the elite level, and a third that shows above-average projection. Once the command returns, I expect Giolito to step forward as one of the premier arms in the minors, a rare number one starter in the making. For me, that ceiling warrants high praise despite limited professional experience.

 

And:

Joe (Washington): Which five players have the highest ceilings on this list?

Jason Parks on the Top 101 Prospects: Buxton, Baez, Bogaerts, Giolito, Gray (no order)

That is some serious praise including Giolito with the cream of the crop for ceiling. Giolito features true 80 grade fastball, a 12/6 hammer curve in the making and a potential plus change up. He plays in a great market, and has the size that makes you less worried about his previous injury history. As of this posting Giolito base autos were selling for $22-25. At those prices you will easily double your investment by this time next year on Lucas when he is the top pitching prospect in the game. He has that kind of ability.

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Oct 25

Another Rangers minor league talent…Nick Williams

 

Now that's a nice card!

Now that’s a nice card!

Nick Williams was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft by the Texas Rangers.  If you haven’t checked out the Rangers farm team, take a look…it’s full of talent.  Williams is a plus athlete with explosively fast hands.  He can flat out hit and that’s just what prospectors are looking for in a raw talent.  His athletic nature and physical maturity scream upside but he’s going to need some time in the minors to work on his defense and his swing mechanic.  His bat speed and swing project plus-plus raw power but his mechanics otherwise, including balance, can be off sometimes.  Speed is not his issue and many scouts belief he’s a plus-plus runner with explosive raw speed.  His defense will need some work and remains raw but his power/speed upside should get him MLB at bats in the future.  He’s still very raw but with his power potential, he should climb prospect rankings in the next year and beyond.

For 2013, in 404 plate appearances, Williams had a .293 average with 17 HR’s, 70 runs scored, 60 RBI’s, and 8 stolen bases.  He still needs to work on his strikeout rate and other portions of his game but he’s got the tools to be a stud.  As far as his chrome prices go they’ve dipped a bit since their release.  Blues are trading for under $50 and refractors and base cards are going for under $20/$10 respectively.  I want to pick up a few of his cards here and there and see what this prospect can do…I believe it will happen sooner rather than later.

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Jun 17

The Ultimate Astro? Carlos Correa – Future Star

correaCarlos Javier Correa, Jr. was drafted first overall in the 2012 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros straight out of Puerto Rico.  The young shortstop gem was only 17 at time he was drafted, and, despite being the youngest high profile player in the draft, was ranked by several  major publications as a Top-Ten pick.  Baseball America has him rated as the #13 overall prospect and MLB.com has him #28 overall in its 2013 rankings.  Baseballprospectus has him #26 overall.

With Correa, the name of his game is tools because he has all of them.  Correa has at least above-average defense tools, excellent athleticism/hands, and a plus arm – almost guaranteed to stick at SS when he finally hits the big leagues.  Most scouts believe that his defense is ahead of his offense; however, he still has above-average speed and has a real chance of displaying above-average power at a premium position as he progresses.  The only real question appears to be his BA.

Through 2012, playing in two rookie leagues, Correa hit only .258 with 3 HR’s, 28 runs, and 12 RBI’s in 190 AB’s…and so far through 214 AB’s in 2012, he’s hitting .304 with 4 HR’s, 41 runs, and 44 RBI’s.  The spike in his BA year over year is really impressive – not to mention his OPS rising from .705 to .830.  My take on this is that Correa is learning the ropes fast, leaving fans and prospectors to continue dreaming on what’s in store in the future.

His Bowman chrome prices are currently around: $50/$60 base auto, $80/$90 refractor, $220/$240 blue autos, and up from there on his gold, orange, and red.  These prices are off around 20% to 30% from where his chrome debuted, and I think should hold steady for the time being, until his next advancement or until signs of a power swing come around.

He was drafted for his  high ceiling, and, given the high marks scouts  report on his work ethic and tools, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that his cards prices are going to improve as he continues to hone his skills in the minors.  See, more recently, Jurisckson Profar, Xander Boegarts,and Manny Machado for some examples of hot SS prospects whose card prices jump after some time in the minors.  Correa is every bit of the prospect these guys are with one caveat, he’s younger and got more time to grow.  I’m in on Correa seeking to buy, grade, and flip when the time is right.  With any luck, he becomes the next Machado and we all know how coveted his rookie chrome cards are.  Happy Prospecting out there.

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May 21

Is Renato Nunez finding his power stroke?

nunez picRenato Nunez, through 142 AB’s in 2013 playing single A ball, is hitting .290, slugging .573, and has 9 HR’s, 25 runs, 27 RBI’s, and 44 strikeouts.  Prior to this year, he played 1 year in the Dominican summer league and 1 year in the Arizona Rookie league leaving more to be desired.  Over his first two years, in a total of 354 AB’s, he only hit a total of 9 HR’s.  Is this 6-1, 185 lb Venezuelan young draftee finding his power stroke?  Well, maybe.

Scouts say that he’s got the right mechanics in his swing, has a solid average hit tool potential, with plus power potential, and can drive the ball well, but, he still strikes out way too much.  Perhaps this a product of his young age (18) but he’ll need to improve on his patience and pitch recognition as he advances through the minor leagues.  That shouldn’t be difficult for Nunez given his age and in light of the glowing reports on his work ethic.  If he can take another step forward this year by improving on his strikeouts, I believe his power will develop with age and prospectors could have a great minor leaguer on their hands.

Ranked as the A’s No. 8 prospect by www.mlb.com coming into the 2013 season, all indications look like this guy’s future is promising.  It can be difficult projecting such a young raw player but given his offensive talent and focus, he’s someone to keep an eye on.  Perhaps he’s a bit of a high risk, high reward prospect but that’s who we like, right?  Well when the pay off at least.  If he can remain at 3B and improve on his defense, which by all indications is still pretty raw and inconsistent, he may have 25+ HR’s per year in his future and become an everyday name in the big leagues.

His base autos are going for ~$15 with refractors at ~$35 and Blues at ~$80 – somewhat consistent with say Lewis Brinson’s chrome.  As an aside, I like Brinson’s ceiling better than Nunez’s, but both players could make you some money.  Because of Nunez’s age and time remaining to develop his raw talent into everyday play time, I’m willing to bet he can improve on his K rate and improve enough on defense to be an every day starter in the bigs.  It will likely be 2016 before he sees his debut but for now, I’m taking a flyer on him as a “wait and see” and buying a few cards at current low prices.  As he continues to improve on defense and to get AB’s at the major league level, I’m going to keep an eye on his performance.  He’s young enough that you don’t have to load up this early…wait and see how he does first.

.

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May 14

The Byron Buxton Debate

The Buxton Debate


Byron Buxton is killing it right now and has 8 speed, 8 arm and developing power and patience. What’s the problem you say? Nothing, he looks great and appears to be an Eric Davis starter kit. buxton
  Fangraphs Page
My problem is his base Bowman autos are going for $110…basically the same as Taveras, and Taveras has dominated against older/better competition.Is the market saying Buxton > Taveras…if so are you guys buying the hype?

Based on his prices, even if the settle to $80, we are looking at buying buxton above where profar, bogaerts, taveras and other monster names were at the same age.

So is Buxton above elite and on the tier right below Harper/Trout? If he is I can understand buying. For me though l am inclined to watch prices settle and see what he does after a promotion or 2. I am on the fence so to speak, but are we looking at a Machado+ type of prospect?

Update: I am going to wait and see on Buxton. I would like to buy later but feel prices will settle in a month or two.

RyanW
www.baseballcardprospector.com

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May 03

Trevor Story- Buying Low on Mile High Prospect and May 8th Bowman Release Thoughts

Trevor Story has the defensive chops to stick at SS. While defensively, his skills will never set him apart at the position, the bat could be all star caliber.  photo 3d4fc14b-35c6-4a47-ad1d-1c4682f84e72_zps11e9be1e.jpg With the recent crop of SS prospects including : Baez, Bogaerts, Russell, Correa, and Profar, Story has been overlooked by the Prospecting Community. The current prices for his 2011 Bowman Draft Base auto range from $9-$15(See Price Guide). I just picked up the Blue Pristine card for $125 on Blowout and am really excited about that purchase. John Sickels had this to say before the season, “1) Trevor Story, SS, Grade B+: Borderline A-: I want to see how his contact issues look against better pitching, but overall there are a lot of things to like here. . .power, speed, walks, defense, a complete package if the strikeouts don’t eat him up. I don’t expect they will. Ranks a bit ahead of Dahl due to defensive premium.

Fast forward to today and the buying opportunity still exists because Story has struggled thus far in 2013, hitting just .143/.236/.240 with just 1 HR.

I asked, Mike Newman of Fangraphs in a chat if he was worried about Story.

12:49
Comment From RyanW

worried about trevor story?

12:49
No, I won’t start paying attention until the All-Star break. When I scouted Story on multiple occasions, I saw a great prospect. 100 PA’s and some K’s aren’t going to sway me.

I think that says it all. At his current prices the risk is low with high reward. I don’t think Story ever becomes a top 10 type, but the likelihood of making a nice profit exists.

 

In other notes, 2013 Bowman releases May 8th. I can’t say I am in love with the checklist, but it does have some high end names. I am sure as prices settle a bit the bargains will become more readily apparent. My gut feel is Byron Buxton is the way to go……even though I am not usually an advocate of the biggest names in a release. Depending on his price (as long as it is below a top guy like Taveras or Profar) is in reason I plan to jump in. His upside is just Eric Davis enormous…and he is crushing out of the gates and walking.buxton

Who are you guys targeting?

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Apr 10

Are you SOLD on Jose Fernandez?

Jose FernandezOne week before opening day of the 2013 MLB season, the Florida Marlins decided to call up 20 year old, elite pitching prospect, Jose Fernandez to the big league club.  Before the call up, he only had 11 Advanced-A ball starts and spent no time playing Double/Triple A ball.  The 14th overall pick in the 2011 draft is young and explosive with a plus set of skills that project to the top of a rotation – everything that a prospector wants to see in a player before investing.  He has a devastating fastball that sets the stage for his curveball, slider and changeup out pitches.  This kid can pitch and everyone knows it.

Given all of his talent, and the Marlins recent decision to early promote Fernandez, in part due to injuries, what can prospectors expect when it comes to his chrome prices?  Perhaps more importantly, what can prospectors learn from the past and his early call up and apply to future investment decisions?  After what we expect to be his first full season in bigs, he’s no going to be ranked as a prospect.

First, let’s take a look at a few pitchers from the mid 2000’s time frame and see where their prices stand today.   Take for example, Tampa Bay’s pitcher David Price.  His 2008 base auto cards are now only trading for ~$35 with ~$70 refractors.  Madison Bumgarner’s cards are trading for slightly less.  The 2004 chrome for Seattle ace, King Felix Hernandez, even after all of his accomplishments at the big league level, sell for around ~$100.  Same goes for the 2005 Verlander base chrome.

Just a few weeks prior to Fernandez’s call-up, his chrome base auto cards were trading for ~$40 with refractors going for $50.  After the call-up, base prices jumped to $55 and refractors to $75, with graded 9.5’s jumping at even higher rates.  He’s not far off from the other elite prospect, Dylan Bundy, at these levels.  So what this tells prospectors, especially with regard to high risk / high reward pitching prospects, is that timing is everything when it comes to cashing in for a profit.

As I see it, unless the Pitcher is an absolute beast, along the lines of Darvish or Strasburg, the time to sell is when the prospect gets the call up.  In Fernandez’s case, given his lack of experience in the minor leagues, he’s likely experience some growing pains, and, only if everything pans out right, will his cards take the next step up to the Felix/Verlander price range.  Odds are against him rising to these heights, but then again, he does have that type of ability.  In the short run, after the dozen or so die hard Marlin fans buy up their prized pitching prospect rookie cards, I expect prices to drop again from the spiked prices.  Even if you think he’s the next star at the big league level, why not cash in on his promotion, let others buy the hype, and you restock on younger prospects that you plan to make a larger return off of.  Ok, if you’re a fan, keep a card for your collection but cash in on the rest of them.

Looking forward through the 2013 season, thanks to Bleacher Report’s article last September, a few names to keep an eye on for the call up – and to cash in on — include: Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Kevin Gausman, and Zach Wheeler.  See their full slideshow here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1332275-top-20-mlb-prospects-wholl-make-their-debuts-in-2013.  While other prospectors continue to fixate on hitters and avoid the high risk/reward pitching prospects, I’ll be looking to cash in and profit when these big league arms get the nod. Let me know what you’re thinking and if you have other Pitchers that you want an article on.

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Mar 06

All In On Lewis Brinson

I usually have at least a small position in every prospect I recommend as a buy. In the past I have usually found 1 or 2 guys each year that I load up on. Last year it was Javier Baez, for this year my absolute favorite buy is Lewis Brinson. . However, he doesn’t fit in the same risk/reward profile as Baez but his cards are much cheaper as well.I think he is hands down, the best buy in the 2012 Bowman Draft release brinson As of posting time Brinson Base Auto’s were going for $15, 3 weeks ago they could be had at $10. It seems the market is starting to get a sense of this guy’s upside but the prices don’t fully reflect it yet. I personally own about 20 Brinson’s including a Purple Auto and plan to keep buying more. The big question is why? Tools baby, Tools!

Brinson is a verifiable tool shed. Prior to the 2012 draft many national guys verified his huge athletic gifts, but weren’t sure about his polish. See Lewis Brinson draft video.Fast forward to short season ball and Brinson was already making adjustments, showing polish that others believed he lacked at draft time.  Jason Park’s of Baseball Prospectus wrote on September 10, 2012 regarding Memorable Prospect Debuts,

Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers (short-season AZL Rangers)
A few months ago, I wrote an article about raw athletes trying to develop into baseball players, most notably the players who have the physical gifts but lack instincts or feel for the game. At the time, Lewis Brinson was seen by many as this type of player: crazy raw tools with a heavy emphasis on the raw. Whether the misdiagnosed feel was a product of the showcase circuit or just small samples doesn’t matter, as Brinson showed up to professional ball looking very much like a baseball player. A true five-tool talent, Brinson has plus run, plus projections at a premium defensive position, plus raw power [potential], and the hit tool that was supposed to be woefully underdeveloped was much better than expected. Brinson has a lot of work to do, as the swing has a lot of miss, but he also created a lot of hard contact, leading the AZL in extra-base hits with 36. Not bad for an 18-year-old that many thought was a first-round reach based on his lack of feel for the game.—Jason Parks

At that point, Brinson could be gobbled up around $8-$9 for his base cards. What happened, well Brinson didn’t land in the top 100 in many of the top prospect lists, but he did get mentioned in the Guru’s (Keith Law) sleeper prospects for the Rangers system on Feb 6th, Law stated (article)

“I was blown away by the changes Lewis Brinson made to his swing over the summer, setting up his hands a little lower and further back while shortening his stride, significantly improving his bat speed through the zone without any loss of power.”

And two weeks later Brinson is trading for $5 higher. I think it just goes to show you the power of ESPN on these prospects. ESPN and Keith Law are mainstream media. Fortunately, for us prospectors, Baseball America, John Sickels, Fan Graphs, Baseball Prospectus…etc are really just followed by the baseball nerds. Once a prospect hits Sportscenter his prices will pop…..just wait for Xander this year and sell sell sell him when he does.

Sorry for the tangent, the bottom line on Brinson is his tools were never in question. Rangers scouts were rumored as saying he had 1.1 upside, as in first round first pick upside. If you match those type of tools with the ability to make adjustments he has shown already, work ethic, and a little time and you have BJ Upton. Even if Brinson tops out as Cameron Maybin or even Chris Johnson his rise up prospect lists will be rocket powered and his prices will follow.  Agreed, Brinson is no Baez when it comes to his floor or risk level….but at $15 base price I still can’t get my hands on enough. The upside is a top 10 positon prospect, playing a good defensive CF only lowers his offensive requirements to reach it.  I am loading up on Lewis. Its much more of a roll of the dice than my normal super buy guys but the profits could be crazy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmCz9_6XmP8

Buy Brinson!

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Feb 24

Courtney Hawkins – The Power of Patience

courtney hawkins picThe Chicago White Sox drafted Courtney Hawkins with the 13th overall pick in the 1st Round of the 2012 Draft.  The team and its fan base are loving that decision and baseball card prospectors are also taking note.  The slugger wasted no time getting going in his first season by hitting, in 229 AB’s, 8 HR’s with 33 RBI’s, 39 runs, 11 stolen bases and a .284 batting average.  He did this for 3 teams, going from rookie ball to low-A ball to high A ball in Winston-Salem.  Such a rapid advancement is considered unusual for first-year players drafted straight out of high school, but, given his physical maturity and performance on the field, it’s hard to argue with that decision.

On the negative side, during 2012, Hawkins only walked 11 times and also struck out 56 times.  He certainly has the power to make it happen in the majors but he’ll need to refine his approach at the plate and cut way down on the K’s if he’s going to become a star.  He’s got a strong arm throwing in the mid-90’s and could project nicely in RF or maybe at as a corner IF.  For prospect rankings, MLB.com has him ranked 68th overall and Baseball America has him ranked 55th overall.

His potential to hit for power and his quick promotions through his rookie campaign have his Chrome prices trading around ~$28 base, ~$45 for refractors, and ~$95 for a blue.  There’s probably some price inflation here given his quick rise from high school draftee to high A ball in less than a year but where do prices go from here?  Honestly, it’s a tough call and there are good arguments to be made in both directions.  On the one hand, I don’t think we’re dealing with the next Profar, Xander, Wil Myers type, but, Chicago hasn’t had a really good prospect in a long time (Addison Reed? Gordon Beckham? Chris Sale? Frank Thomas?) .  Bleacher Report has him listed as the White Sox #1 prospect and my guess is that Chi-town has this guys back!

At current prices, I don’t think he’s a great buy, but, IF he gets it figured out at the plate, cuts down on the strikeouts, and continues to improve his pitch recognition, he’s got the tools, including raw power, to continue to drive his Chrome prices higher.  That said, it’s a really big IF.  Working in his favor is his young age and the fact that Chicago has no reason to rush him.  Working against him is his aggressiveness and a tendency to commit early on the off speed pitches.

I’m buying a few cards now just in case he continues his ascent and never looks back but the reality is that he’ll probably experience some growing pains as he faces better pitching.  When that happens, his Chrome prices will probably dip a bit, and, I’ll be ready to buy more.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it takes several years before Chicago promotes him to the majors as an every day power hitting RF.  As always, happy prospecting out there.

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