Sports Cards: 5 MLB Players Whose Stock Is Up After Hot Start

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2022

Sports Cards: 5 MLB Players Whose Stock Is Up After Hot Start

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Nothing goes together quite like the baseball card market and overreacting to a hot start over a small sample size at the beginning of a new season.

    Every year, it seems at least a few players see their market sky-rocket amid a red-hot start to the new campaign. Chicago White Sox designated hitter Yermin Mercedes was the perfect example last year as he came out of nowhere to become a legitimate hobby target.

    Cleveland Guardians rookie outfielder Steven Kwan and Chicago Cubs outfielder and former Japanese League star Seiya Suzuki are prime candidates this season, but neither of them have any MLB licensed cards aside from a few "Topps Now" cards that were released earlier this season which have limited market appeal.

    However, they are not the only ones who have seen their markets take off in the early weeks of April, and ahead we've highlighted five players whose hobby stock is on the rise.

    Various eBay sales spanning the last three months were used for each player's 1st Bowman Chrome autographthe most sought after early card of a player in today's marketto help illustrate the way their stock is trending.


Jeremy Pena, Houston Astros

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Key Card: 2020 Bowman Chrome Prospects Auto #CPA-JP. 


    eBay Sales Progression

    Feb. 20: $56
    March 20: $95
    April 3: $160
    April 13: $255

    The Houston Astros decided to sit out this offseason's shortstop carousel as they watched homegrown star Carlos Correa depart in free agency without making any splashy outside addition to replace him.

    They instead turned the starting shortstop job over to top prospect Jeremy Pena, who entered the year with just 30 games played above the High-A level. He impressed in that short stint at Triple-A to close out last season, when he hit .287/.346/.598 with 10 home runs in 133 plate appearances.

    The 24-year-old's market has been trending up ever since he was handed the starting job following a strong spring, and a pair of three-hit performances in his first four MLB games have only fueled the flames.

    With a clear path to playing time, strong offensive tools and a spot on a contender, Pena has to be viewed as a hobby-relevant rookie and a viable AL Rookie of the Year candidate.

Owen Miller, Cleveland Guardians

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    Owen Miller
    Owen MillerNorm Hall/Getty Images

    Key Card: 2019 Bowman Chrome Prospect Auto #CPA-OM


    eBay Sales Progression

    Feb. 27: $1.25
    March 19: $7
    April 10: $10
    April 14: $30

    Anyone scooping up the Owen Miller 1st Bowman autographed cards during the offseason for a couple of bucks each is reaping the rewards now.

    The 25-year-old was acquired from the San Diego Padres in the Mike Clevinger blockbuster at the 2020 trade deadline, and he hit a forgettable .204 with a 50 OPS+ and minus-1.1 WAR in 60 games last season serving as a utility man off the bench, but he's been a revelation in the early going this year.

    Somewhat lost in the shadow of rookie standout Steven Kwan, Miller was hitting .524/.545/1.048 with five doubles, two home runs and six RBI through his first six games entering play on Thursday. In the process, he has quickly pried the starting first base job away from Bobby Bradley, and he should see regular at-bats as long as he keeps hitting.

    This is a good example of how buying low on a prospect who still hasn't gotten an everyday opportunity can pay off big if he makes the most of it when he does get his chance.

Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Key Card: 2020 Bowman Chrome Draft Auto #CDA-SS


    eBay Sales Progression

    Feb. 24: $19
    March 29: $40
    April 8: $55
    April 13: $94

    A fourth-round pick out of Clemson during the abridged 2020 draft, Spencer Strider was impressive enough in his pro debut last season that he closed out the year in the MLB bullpen for the eventual World Series champions.

    The 6'0" right-hander possesses a 70-grade fastball that touches triple digits, and he backs it with a wipeout slider. He used that two-pitch arsenal to rack up 153 strikeouts in 94 innings in the minors last year, and he pitched his way onto Atlanta's Opening Day roster with a strong spring.

    He made his 2022 debut out of the bullpen on Opening Day and threw two perfect innings, striking out five of the six batters he faced to capture the attention of more than a few people in the hobby.

    It's always risky to invest in pitchers, especially relievers, but his impressive performance on April 7 and electric stuff have helped give his market a shot in the arm to begin the season.

Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds

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    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    Key Card: 2018 Bowman Chrome Prospects Auto #CPA-HG


    eBay Sales Progression

    Feb. 7: $88
    Feb. 23: $100
    March 31: $145
    April 10: $185

    It feels like a decade ago that Hunter Greene was the talk of the 2017 draft class as a dynamic two-way player with an arm that gave him generational-talent upside on the mound.

    In the years since, he's endured some ups and downs, including a 2019 season that was washed out by Tommy John surgery and then another year on the sidelines when the 2020 minor league slate was canceled. He returned strong with a 3.30 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 106.1 innings in the upper minors last year, and with Luis Castillo and Mike Minor both sidelined to start the year, the Cincinnati Reds made the somewhat surprising decision to include him in the Opening Day rotation.

    Still just 22 years old, he threw 56 fastballs in his first start of the year and averaged 99.7 mph, limiting the Atlanta Braves to four hits and three earned runs while striking out seven over five innings to earn his first MLB win.

    Similar to Jeremy Pena, his market saw a spike when he was named to the Opening Day roster, and the hype has continued to grow following his stellar debut. As always, the general rule is to avoid pitchers, but Greene has a chance to be the rare exception.

Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

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    Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

    Key Card: 2013 Bowman Chrome Prospect Auto #BB


    eBay Sales Progression

    March 13: $200 (BGS 9.5)
    April 7: $325 (BGS 9.5)
    April 8: $400 (BGS 9.5)
    April 10: $420 (BGS 9.5)

    Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton is a legitimate AL MVP candidate if he can just avoid spending extended time on the injured list.

    That's been easier said than done over the course of his career, and it's part of the reason his market has been so volatile over the years. After signing a seven-year, $100 million extension, he raked in spring training and is off to a hot start now that the games matter.

    The 28-year-old has two doubles and three home runs in his first 25 plate appearances, as he's picking up where he left off in 2022 when he racked up 42 extra-base hits and 4.5 WAR in only 61 games and 254 plate appearances.

    He has only topped 100 games once in his seven MLB seasons, and that will continue to be a major factor in his hobby market, but for now people seem to be buying him as a legitimate superstar in 2022.

    We're comparing BGS 9.5 sales here since he's been around a bit longer and has an elite prospect background, so there are fewer ungraded versions of his top rookie card on the market as a result.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, while pricing is pulled from eBay sales histories.