Hobby Hotspot | Tracking the Hobby’s Monthly Trends

March 2024 Hobby Trends

Date: Mar 28, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: Hobby Hotspot, How To Collect
Length: 1082 Words
Reading Time: ~6 Minutes

Welcome to the latest column from RIPPED senior writer Greg Bates. Each month, he examines The Hobby’s current and emerging trends and offers expert opinions on all things collecting.

Opening Day for Major League Baseball is always special.

Every team starts with a clean slate—the eternal optimist baseball fan thinks their favorite club will go 162-0. It’s fun to see the veterans get another season on the diamond to prove their worth. For the prospects who earned a roster spot during spring training, it’s fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Prospects come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. Most top prospects were high draft picks or coveted international signees. But there are always some that slip through the cracks. Mike Piazza is one of the best examples. The Los Angeles Dodgers legend went from the 1,390th player selected in the 1988 MLB Draft — six picks from going undrafted — to a Hall of Fame career as one of the best catchers ever.

It’s become a common trend for collectors to latch onto a prospect early in their minor-league career before they’ve even cracked a big-league roster. Collectors amass a bunch of the prospect’s cards at a lower price point and then hope they make a splash in the majors. This approach is referred to as prospecting.

Hobby Hotspot | Prospecting for Gold

Prospecting, to a lesser degree, first became popular in the early 1990s. But it really surged when COVID-19 put a shot in the arms of collectors, investors, and flippers. First Bowman cards of prospects are all the rage.

Unlike 30 years ago, it’s easy these days to find out almost anything about a prospect. Multiple times a year, MLB Pipeline releases its Top 100 list of the best up-and-coming players in baseball. There are also Top 30 prospect lists for every MLB organization.

The prognosticators who compile the top 100 prospects lists continue to do better each passing year. Just look at 2022, when Bobby Witt Jr. was the No. 1-ranked prospect, Adley Rutschman was No. 2, Julio Rodriguez was No. 3, and Anthony Volpe was No. 8. These are four young players who are rapidly ascending to be the new faces of the game.

Since 1999, MLB has showcased its best prospects by running the Futures Game every year. Always scheduled a couple of days before the All-Star Game, the game’s top youngsters play against each other on the world stage.

Knowing the popularity of prospects, MLB took it one step further this year. The league unveiled “Spring Breakout” this spring training. Each MLB club was able to select around 25 of its top prospects to compete against another squad’s elite youngsters. Every team got to compete from March 14-17, as some players made a name for themselves. The main event featured the Baltimore Orioles vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates: No. 1 overall pick from the 2022 Draft and top overall prospect Jackson Holliday of the Orioles vs. the No. 1 overall pick from the 2023 Draft and No. 3 prospect, pitcher Paul Skenes of the Pirates. It was a prospectors matchup made in heaven. Skenes won the showdown, striking out the 20-year-old middle infielder. But both players acted the part. They will face off a number of times once they both reach the big leagues. That will be must-watch TV when it goes down.

Holliday and Skenes didn’t make their teams’ respective Opening Day rosters. However, several other top-10 prospects made their MLB debuts on the first day of the season. The Milwaukee Brewers threw 20-year-old Jackson Chourio in center field and let the No. 2 overall prospect do his thing. The Texas Rangers, coming off an impressive World Series run last season, promoted their top two prospects. Outfielders Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford are the Nos. 5 and 6 prospects in baseball, respectively.

I believe the 1st Bowman cards of Chourio, Carter, and Langford will be hot ticket items for quite some time. Keep an eye on these youngsters. You won’t be disappointed.

Hitting a Home Run

Over the years, I’ve dabbled in prospecting. It’s fun to focus on a young player and track his progress. You’re hoping and praying for the kid to be the next Mike Trout or Ken Griffey Jr.

While working on a story for Sports Collectors Digest on prospects to watch entering the 2019 MLB season, I spoke with a prospects guru. He told me about a special 18-year-old in the Seattle Mariners’ organization named Julio Rodriguez. The guru said the Dominican Republic product was impressive on and off the field and was going to be “really, really good.” Rodriguez wasn’t even ranked as a top 150 prospect at that point in his career.

I soaked in this insider insight from the guru like it was gospel, and went on eBay a few months later to look up Rodriguez cards. During a quick search, I realized Rodriguez’s 1st Bowman — a 2019 Bowman Chrome Prospects Auto — was the way to go. I looked up the PSA population report to discover there were only 162 PSA 10s of that card (it’s up to 249 as of this writing). I pulled the trigger on the sale. Fast-forward to April 2022, when the highly-touted Rodriguez made his MLB debut. Collectors were buzzing about his talent.

Hobby Hotspot | From the Mailbag

Thanks to everyone who emailed me to share their stories about my previous column. There was certainly a hodgepodge of topics and information sent my way. Let’s dive in.

“Not a hobby trend, but you should reprint these cards. So cool.”

– K. O’Sullivan

The 1989 Bowman card featuring Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr. was a beautiful design. The father-son duo made a big impact in The Hobby. Mr. O’Sullivan, I’ve passed your request along. So keep an eye out; your wish might just come true.

“I see you like writing articles about collections.”

– J. Lawton

This card collector went on to talk about his Albert Pujols rookie card collection. He said he’s picked up 187 of the known 197 cards. Impressive stuff. At RIPPED, we love talking about collections, collectors, and their PC passions.

Drop me a line at gbates@collectfanatics.com and let me know your tales about prospecting. I’d love to share some collectors’ thoughts in my column next month.

Fanatics Collectibles senior writer Greg Bates writes a monthly column exploring the trends of The Hobby. Prior to joining Fanatics, Bates was a freelance writer for 10 years for Sports Collectors Digest.

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