How I Research for Prospects using Fangraph.Com

When I started to get back into collecting I couldn’t believe how much cards of players who haven’t played an inning of Major League Baseball were going for. Hundreds to Thousands of dollars on players all on the potential or hope that they will be great. What’s worse, is when they get the call to be in the majors it’s sometimes brings that value of a card down because the hope is gone, it’s just reality now. Who wants to deal with that.

With all that said; I do find it fun buying players no one has heard of and making a profit. This is flipping at it’s dorkiest. This is what I do and what makes sense to me. I don’t have any data to show that this actually works or that their is a special stat or formula to follow that will correlate to card value rising. I’m strictly trying to predict will they continue to play well. Are their cards undervauled based off the stats I use when I compare them to cards with higher value? Let’s start….

I suggest to follow minor league players of the team you follow. As I write this I pause because if you are looking to flip it may make it more difficult to sell because you’ll want to keep him for your personal collection (pc). But let’s continue, how about we start by position.

Go to fangraphs.com and check out the 100 top prospects. The link I provided will send you to where you need to go. You can also go to the main page of fangraphs.com, scroll down, and on the bottom right hand side you can pick a team to take a look at their top prospects.

baseball card prospects

My thought process is simple. Players who walk a lot, don’t strike, and get on base typically are doing well. Plate discipline is important.

These are the stats I am looking for BB%, K%, OBP, HR, and Doubles.

BB% – this is just the percentage that a batter walks per plate appearance. I look for 10% or higher.

K% – this is the percentage that a batter strikes out per plate appearance. I am looking for 25%-20%. If it’s closer to 25% then I am expecting more HR’s.

RatingK%BB%
Excellent10.0%15.0%
Great12.5%12.5%
Above Average16.0%10.0%
Average20.0%8.0%
Below Average22.0%7.0%
Poor25.0%5.5%
Awful27.5%4.0%

OBP – measures a batter’s ability to not make an out. .350 is what I am looking for.

HR – Home run – you should know what a home run is! Double digits or on pace to get double digits for the year.

Doubles – When a player is standing on 2b after they hit the ball. 15-20 is what I’m looking for. If it’s a younger player I am looking for a higher number for doubles. This would indicate that as he get older he will get stronger and these doubles will turn into home run. If it’s an older prospect I am looking for home runs.

Age is also important. If they are older 23-25 they better be mashing the ball. Prices for their cards tend to not due well for older players.

Last but not least is who is playing their position in the majors? If your a ss and Franciso Lindor is blocking your way up, you may have a problem. Unless they are traded you may be stuck with a great prospect with no where to play.

I think BB% and K% are really important and can tell a lot about a player. But like I say chicks and middle aged men dig the long ball. If a player is hitting a lot of homeruns, his card value will be much higher than a good all around player.

Here are some examples:

Nick Solak – BB% – 12.4%, K% – 23.6%, OBP – .371, HR – 10, 2B – 9

Wow! Hits all of my criteria. I’m going to buy his card immediately. When you check to see his Bowman Card we see that it’s relatively cheap compared to other prospects with similar stats. Time to buy! I’m going to be rich! Their are a couple of problems that you have to research before you buy. He is 24 and Brandon Lowe who is also 24 is blocking his way up to the majors. Ohhh…. see you need the full picture before you can proceed. If the card is cheap enough he has solid stats. But just know he may need to be traded or moved to a different position for him to get into the majors.

Johnathan India – BB% – 10.2%, K% – 24.2%, OBP – .343, HR-7, 2B – 8

This is a solid prospect and their is a reason he is in the top 100. He pretty much meets all of my criteria. He is 22, was just drafted last year, and has some time before he hits the majors. He’s in A+ ball now and should be in AA by the end of the year. Time to buy! Come on, let me buy a damn card already! Hold on! Before we do that, we have to check one last thing. How does the price of his card compare to other 3rd basemen? Is their card value lower or higher? I’m getting annoying I know.

My next article will dive into how I evaluate if a prospect’s card is a good buy or not. I shared with you how I evaluate a prospect I would like to invest in. But my next article we will research if their card is a good buy.

Want to know what all of the stats mean and learn more about sabermetrics? Here is Fangraph’s Page to get our geek on.

1985 Baseball Card Investment Analysis

I wanted to start buying cards that I didn’t have the money or never got in packs as a kid. I remember seeing these cards at shows and just wondering what it would be like to have these cards. Now I can. Unleash the crakken! 

But I don’t just want to buy willy nilly, which is what I typically do. Which cards are better than other with regards to investment.

My initial thoughts were Donruss would be harder and more expensive to get a PSA 10 because of their black borders. The Topps Tiffany are really really expensive and have a low PSA 10 population. I took a look at the main rookies Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens, and Mark Mcgwire (only in 85 topps). I also took a look at Don Mattingly and Nolan Ryan since they both seem to be the next most expensive cards in a PSA 10. The chart below will show you their Population Report, Current Average Price, 5 year Avg price, and 10 year average price to show how the prices have trended up of down. 

This chart goes by brand and the thing that really popped out was the fact that there was less than 1% of a total of 44,404 cards submitted graded as a PSA 10 for the Topps Mark Mcgwire Rookie card! That is insane. Which is why the price is so high. But looking at all of this really didn’t give me any clear path as to what to buy. I sorted by % of total PSA 10 compared to the total amount of graded cards and it didn’t give me any information I could use. 

So, I then did the price percentage comparing the 5 year price to current price and 10 year price to current. The graph below is sorted by the high to low of the 5 year price to current pricing. 

On the 5 year graph the 2nd to last column on the right is what we are looking at. For some reason the 1985 Fleer Don Mattingly has gone up dramatically. Why? I don’t know. But everything that went up 50% or more had a PSA 10 pop % of 6.36 and lower. Scarcity is what is driving the prices to go up. Surprised that the Topps Mcgwire isn’t higher. I believe this indicates that it is slightly undervalued. But let’s look at the 10 year graph below to get a better idea of what is going on.

The 10 year %, the last column to the right, makes it more obvious what you should do. If you had bought all of these cards at the average price 10 years ago, you wouldn’t have lost money today. Outside of the Fleer Kirby Puckett the worst you would have done is around 23%. Not bad! What this is showing is that Topps and Topps Tiffany reign supreme. While scarcity is a factor it’s not the driving force. Brand is what drives these prices with Topps Tiffany holding the 3 out of 5 spots and out of the top 10 topps or topps tiffany are in 8 out of 10 spots. But again nothing is screaming buy me outside of the 1985 Topps Mark Mcgwire Card. His Tiffany cards has gone up 76%, but he regular Topps card has only gone up 42%. Not a terrible return.

Conclusion

So, what should you do? What I take out of this is that you should have bought them all. Yes, you heard me right. How would you be able to truly predict which card will be the most valuable? Not one of these cards lost value over the last 10 years. If you had bought one card of each at a total value of $3,375.25 and then sold them after 10 years at their average price, it would come out to $12,530.00. That would be a rate of return of 37%! This would be an amazing return on any investment, especially mid 80’s junk era cards. I am still a firm believer in scarcity in a card, but their are other factors involved which we can’t predict. But by buying a portfolio of cards you are reducing risk and minimizing your losses.