One 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.