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I shared my color multiplier on Blowout Forums, and I was contacted by a member there. He offered a lot of good advice, one of which led me to this post. He was curious about the first sale to the last sale for the Top 5 and why the prices reacted the way they did.
For each prospect, all BGS 9.5/10 base autograph prices (both auction and fixed listings) have been compiled and put into a graph. I used my own discretion to remove outliers to better the results and insights of these graphs. I have determined which sales were “key events,” and I will provide an analysis for the change in pricing.
I could go on all day with analyzing these numbers, but I will keep it to the percent change year-over-year and the key events, so I do not lose anyone in the numbers.
- The variance in sales for 9.5/10s can be large, due to the subgrades of the card. Meaning, a BGS 9.5/10 with a 10 centering, 10 corners, 9.5 edges, and 9.5 surface will sell for a lot more than a BGS 9.5/10 with 9 centering, 9.5 corners, 9.5 edges, 9.5 surface (the lowest qualifications for a BGS 9.5/10 card).
- Sometimes, there are two sales on the same day that are $40 apart, most likely because of the difference in subgrades. Keep this in mind when reading and viewing.
- Another factor can be auction versus fixed-price sales. Sometimes buy-it-nows are far from the true auction prices; however, for the purpose of this post, I used both fixed and auction to get the most data possible. The elimination of outliers should help this flaw.
- A “gem” is the same thing as a 9.5/10, or a “gem-mint” card. The terms BGS 9.5/10 and gem can be used interchangeably, as you will see in this post.
- Last thing, I have noticed that MLB Pipeline’s archives are very hard to use. I used their archives as if they were ranked to start the year in February, but I realize that is not reality. I wish they would provide beginning and end of season rankings. I am confident that Tatis wasn’t the number 2 to start 2018 because of Ohtani/Acuna/Torres, but the archives lists 2018 archive with Tatis at 2, and then the big 3 rookies for 2017. I pointed this out in the Tatis write-up.
At one point or another, I have owned a card of each of these players. For fun at the end of the article, I will reveal how I did on the five sales.
Now to start analyzing the freshly ranked MLB Pipeline Top 5 Prospects for 2019.
5. Royce Lewis – Minnesota Twins
Prospect ranking over the years
2018 Average (including the two 2017 sales): $175.46
2019 Average: $230.58 (+31.42%)
$119.00 – 1/23/2018: The flaw with 9.5/10 prices
I highlighted this sale because it shows how the difference in subgrades plays a large part in the day-to-day prices. There were three sales on the 23rd: $155, $119, $156. That is a 23.23% drop and a 31.09% gain all in the same day. It is most likely due to the type of listing or subgrades.
$225.00 – 7/3/2018: Lewis posts a .984 OPS in June 2018
This is the first sale of Lewis gem that eclipsed $225. In June, Lewis hit 5 HRs, had 22 RBIs, slugged .604, and an OPS of .984. At 19 years of age, this warrants a big price spike of 29%. This is also around the time MLB Pipeline does their midseason rerank, and there is a good chance that contributed to the price jump. (Pipeline does not archive their midseason rankings).
$249.99 – 8/18/2018: Thriving after a promotion
The first sale of $250 (classic .99 cent trick) occurs after Lewis’ promotion to High-A. On July 14th, he was sent to the next level. A month later, he hit 4 HRs in under two weeks to go with 17 hits. From the previous sale, it was a 19% gain.
$230.00 – 1/30/2019: Lewis jumps into Top 5
Through the off season, Lewis’ prices were all over the place, with one big sale of $280 happening. On the 26th, MLB Pipeline made Royce Lewis the youngest player in the Top 5. The $230 is $6.76 lower than the previous one, but I imagine these will be trending up quickly.
- Royce Lewis’ path to a consistent $200 gem took quite a while to get there.
- There were plenty of buying opportunities even after his promotion to High-A.
- Moving forward, I expect Lewis autos to blow up in price as Spring Training approaches. He doesn’t turn 20 until June 5th, so half of the season he will be 19. If he starts hot and gets to AA early, expect a substantial jump in prices.
4. Victor Robles – Washington Nationals
Prospect ranking over the years
2016 Average: $85.23
2017 Average: $127.84 (+50.00%)
2018 Average: $157.09 (+22.88%)
2019 Average: $190.15 (+21.05%)
$69.03 – 9/26/2016: Offseason shock after a down year
In 2015, Robles went to the tune of a .352 AVG, .445 OBP, .507 SLG, and .952 OPS to earn himself a spot in the top 10 for 2016 after being unranked in 2015. Not only that, but he earned himself a 1st Bowman Autograph in 2016 Bowman. The first couple sales were hot, but once Robles started to struggle, it went south. In 2016, Robles got up to High-A, but struggled towards the end of the year. He posted a .280 AVG/.376 OBP/.423 SLG slash over the year, but more importantly had a .754 OPS or lower for the four months he was in High-A. From his first gem sale, this sale was down 49%.
$175.00 – 5/31/2017: Returning to form
Throughout the offseason leading into the 2017 season, Robles saw nice gains. A large bump occurred when he got reranked at 6 in February. Robles decided to kick it back into gear and by the end of May, he hit 5 HRs and had over a .921 OPS in April and May. 2015 Robles was back. After his hot streak, his gem increased 61% from the last sale in March.
$200.00 – 3/28/2018: Entering the Top 5
After making his MLB debut with a September call-up in 2017, Robles got ranked 4 in the 2018 rankings. With prospectors hopeful he would see a lot of time in the big leagues in 2018, the first couple $200 sales occurred in March. Injuries and Juan Soto had other thoughts.
$127.50 – 5/03/2018: Injury derails season
On April 11th, Robles sustained an elbow injury that kept him out until July. Injury shock occurred, and within a little over a month, his gems dropped 36%. What I get from this is a couple investors got scared and took quick cash, but within a month, they were back in the $150-$175 range. He did get some MLB action again at the end of the season, but he was able to maintain his prospect status due to not breaking the 130 at-bat or 45 days on the National’s active roster threshold.
$200.00 – 1/27/2019: One last shot
With this being Robles’ 4th time in the top 10, you have to ask yourself if prospect fatigue is going to set in soon (see, Brendan Rodgers). He is so talented and has the tools to be an All-Star next to Juan Soto, but it is starting to feel like if it’s not now, it’s never.
- Robles has been on some ride since becoming a Minor League player. A lot of people are banking on him not only reaching the Majors fast this year but producing as well.
- If he doesn’t prove himself quickly to start the year, people will get out of his cards.
- I think he is still a worthwhile investment. With $200 comes a lot of risk, but anything around $175 is worth the gamble to me.
3. Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox
Prospect ranking over the years
2017 Average: $189.41
2018 Average: $300.78 (+58.80%)
2019 Average: $381.29 (+26.77%)
$150.00 – 7/23/2017: From the North Side to the South Side
From the get-go, Eloy’s prices were hot due to him getting a Bowman Chrome Autograph in 2017, after he was already ranked at 23 in 2016. On July 13th, Eloy was dealt to the White Sox in a trade that will define the White Sox’s future. Going from one of the biggest markets in the game to a way smaller one hurt his prices, dropping his gem 37% just for moving from the North to the South.
$250.00 – 12/10/2017: Production sells
Trade shock is a real thing; however, production can make people forget. To end the season in AA with the Sox, Eloy had 3 HRs and slashed .368/.400/.614 with a 1.014 OPS in August. While it was not immediately realized, finally in December people started to go in and his gem jumped 67% from when the trade went down.
$204.50 – 4/6/2018: April struggle brings May power
At the beginning of April, a $204.50 sale set the tone for two-thirds of the month. While the power stayed, the contact was not there (.234 AVG in April), leading to the 22% drop in price. Eloy made a quick fix and had a MONSTER May, slashing .374/.419/.664 with 6 HRs and a 1.082 OPS leading to the big spike.
$399.99 – 8/1/2018: Eloy is not human
About time his gem hit $400. I thought he had a monster May, well let’s look at his July… in 16 games, hit 6 HRs, 7 2Bs and slashed .435/.455/.839 with a 1.293 OPS. Absolutely insane. No explanation needed for the $400 sale.
$255.00 – 10/11/2018: Someone is in for a payday
I am going to chalk this one up to offseason dip and MLB postseason money transition. After a crazy July, he had a great August too. What was I doing in October not grabbing these two sales for $255 and $256?
$343.88 – 1/29/2019: This is the year
Entering the 2019 season at age 22, this is the year the White Sox finally get their act together (hopefully) and let us see what this beast can do. Assuming they will wait to call him up until May and save the year of control, the excitement and hype will be off the charts. I for one, cannot wait to see him play in the MLB. This one from two summers ago still hurts.
- Through trades and down months, there were buying opportunities out there.
- Now, I wouldn’t bank on grabbing a gem for under $400.
- I’m expecting a 25+ HR rookie season out of Eloy.
2. Fernando Tatis Jr. – San Diego Padres
Prospect ranking over the years
2016 Average: $19.04
2017 Average: $84.79 (+345.22%)
2018 Average: $238.48 (+181.27%)
2019 Average: $328.51 (+37.75%)
$40 – 2/5/2017: From unranked to on the radar
Tatis Jr. went from off the grid to almost top 50 in one season. After he landed at 52, his gems went up 122%. So far, Tatis has the biggest percentage increase out of the top 5 prospects.
$146.50 – 9/15/2017: Tatis did it first
Remember Eloy’s monster months? Yeah, Tatis did it first. In August, Tatis shredded High-A in 16 games slashing .370/.539/.722 and a 1.262 OPS to go along with 4 HRs. That earned him a promotion to AA at 18 and a little over a half years of age and a 266% gem increase from before the season started.
$250.00 – 2/24/2018: Biggest jump ever to number 2?
There probably is another case like Tatis, but he went from 52 to 2 (or maybe more like 7, MLB archives are not making it easy on me) just like that. In three months his gems rose 130%. Tatis was poised to explode in 2018.
$350.00 – 7/21/2018: Tree Fiddy
Tatis got into a groove and hit 13 HRs in 64 games from May to July. Not only was there power, but the contact was off the charts for a 19-year-old in AA. .336 in May, .330 in June, and .295 through half of July more than warranted the $350.00 price tag.
$225.00 – 8/2/2018: Can more top 5 prospects get injured? (joking, of course)
Once again, a top prospect gets injured and prices tank. On July 21 (the very day a gem sold $350), Tatis hurt his thumb while sliding headfirst into second base. After 2.5 weeks, his gem dropped 36%. Scooping these up after his injury would have paid off in a big way.
$394.01 – 1/27/2019: Back-to-back
For the second straight year, Tatis got ranked in the top 2, something that will surely bring his prices up. With being 20 years old for all of the 2019 season and knocking on the door for the starting shortstop job in San Diego, the close to $400 price is becoming a reality.
- Tatis was the ultimate international signing (Soto as well) buy low, sell high. His stuff was dirt cheap.
- With playing a premium middle infield position and having the power and contact to be a perennial All-Star, I would not be surprised if these hit $500 by Spring Training.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays
Prospect ranking over the years
2016 Average: $134.04
2017 Average: $193.40 (+44.28%)
2018 Average: $772.55 (+299.46%)
2019 Average: $911.00 (+17.92%)
$201.38 – 6/28/2017: Surpassing $200
For the first time, a Vlad Jr. gem ran over two bills for a percent increase of 39% from before the season started. The power was not there yet for the 18-year-old kid who has been around power his whole life with his dad. However, for his age, the contact was (.300+ the April/May/June), and with growth and maturity power develops.
$570.00 – 2/16/2018: Big ranking for big Vlad
Vlad enjoyed a nice 1 spot (or 4 spot, thanks to MLB’s archives) in the updated rankings to send him over the $500 hump for the first time. Oh yeah, it doesn’t hurt to mention that Vlad finished the 2017 season slashing .385/.483/1.129 with 6 HRs in August.
$840.00 – 5/13/2018: The chase to $1,000
The next stop is $840 for Vlad gems. One of the highest prices of all-time for a pre-MLB debut Bowman Chrome Autograph sale. You think $840 is a lot? Just wait 12 more days.
$1,199.00 – 5/25/2018: For a base gem?
Want to know how to get a $1,199.00 base gem? At 19 in AA, Vlad threw down .438/.480/.768 slash with a 1.248 OPS. Oh yeah, remember that power that is supposed to be developed? Add 9 HRs to that May stat line, and you will get a 99% increase in 1.5 months. Ludicrous numbers.
$723.00 – 6/17/2018: The trend continues
“He’s too big… he can’t support his weight… he will strain muscles all the time.” For once, the haters (more like the people who didn’t buy at $200) finally got their wish. Around June 7th, Vlad pulled up running to first base and strained his hamstring. Once again, a huge drop. AKA: a buying opportunity. Someone got scared and dumped a gem leading to a 40% decrease in his prices.
$1,175.00 – 8/24/2018: Prove the haters wrong
Not only did he recover from his hamstring, but he got promoted to AAA (don’t forget, still 19). He finished the season in August by slashing .333/.409/.552 with a .961 OPS and 5 HRs. It seemed like when he was healthy, he was #1 on Baseball America’s weekly Hot Sheet. He ended the season hitting .381 with a 1.073 and 20 HRs. Hats off to Vlad for one of the best minor league seasons ever for a teenager.
$911.00 – 1/27/2019: No surprise
Vlad topped the 2019 Pipeline rankings to no one’s surprise. Winter fatigue or subgrades led to this $911 sale, but I will not be surprised when these are consistently $1,000 a gem come March.
- What is there to say? His prices are crazy expensive. Some people think it is absolutely ludicrous, but if other guys are pulling $400 at 22 years old, $1k for a 19-year-old son of a Hall of Famer seems less crazy.
If you take one thing away from all of this… buy top prospects when they get injured!
My Top 5 Sales
These are straight from my massive investment spreadsheet. I graded the Tatis myself and flipped it in a month. The Eloy was bought and sold in two weeks and was only a base autograph. All were sold on eBay except for Vlad and Eloy (no fees). But so everyone knows, I do keep track of my fee expenses!
At least I played Vlad right(ish)…for now.