2011 Great American Baseball Card Tour: NL East

2011 Great American Baseball Card Tour: NL East

Tour Stop #4: National League East

Welcome to stop #4 on our massive 30 team, 600 card tour of the best veteran and prospect baseball cards on the planet. So far our tour has taken us through the best cards of the American League. The next leg of our tour takes us to the National League East, a division that might be the strongest in terms of depth from top to bottom.

Each team was assigned two grades, one based on the strength of their veteran cards and one based on the strength of their prospect cards (any player who qualifies as a rookie in 2011 and beyond). Those two grades were then combined to come up with a single grade for each team. Grades were based on the following factors:

  • TICKETSAMPLE GABT ImageStar Power (veteran cards) - How many hobby superstars does the team have? Having a top 25 hobby force (Mauer, Pujols, etc.) can carry a team's veteran grade.
  • Star Potential (prospect cards) - How many potential future hobby superstars does a team have? Like Star Power, a top 25 hobby prospect can carry a team's prospect card grade (Trout, Harper, etc.).
  • Depth - How deep is a team's checklist in terms of collectible players?
  • Cardboard Coverage- This one is completely based on how well a team's players have been covered on cardboard. It also takes into account card quality, brand, autographs, print run, year and numerous other factors pertaining to the cards themselves. This one had less impact on overall grade than Star Power and Depth.

1. Atlanta Braves: B+

AtlantaBraves GREATAMERICANTOUR ImageThis might be the checklist with highest upside in the league. In second year slugger Jason Heyward, the Braves have the type of player you can build a team set around for the next 10-20 years. There might not be a player in baseball with more potential than the J-Hey kid.

Heyward has also been covered extremely well on cardboard since being drafted 14th overall in the 2007 draft. Very few young stars have received a more balanced treatment from draft day to rookie season than last year's NL Rookie of the Year runner-up.

It wouldn't be Braves checklist without mentioning future Hall-of-Famer Chipper Jones, who collected his 2,500 career hit the other night. Unlike 99.999999999% of cards printed during the 90's, Chipper actually has a finite first-year card thanks to a Topps tribute to troops. During "Operation Desert Storm", Topps distributed exclusive 1991 Topps cards featuring a "Desert Shield" logo to troops stationed in the middle-east.

The Braves prospect checklist features both depth and elite-level talent led by potential 2011 NL ROY Freddie Freeman and the top pitching prospect in the game, Julio Teheran. Both have received excellent cardboard coverage and already have big-time Bowman Chrome autographs.

Two other prospects with high hobby upside include 21-year old flame thrower Arodys Vizcaino and short-stop Matt Lipka - a sandwich pick from the 2010 MLB Draft that reminds me of Troy Tulowitzki at the same age. Vizcaino had a Bowman Chrome auto in 2010, while Lipka had a quadrilogy of autographed cards that included a 2010 Bowman AFLAC autograph numbered to just 37.

If it weren't for the depth of Atlanta's prospect checklist, the absence of an autographed card featuring closer Craig Kimbrel and starter Brandon Beachy would be far more glaring. Kimbrel could very well end up edging out teammate Freddie Freeman for NL ROY.

Another trio of Atlanta prospects to keep an eye out for during the 2011 baseball card season include C Christian Bethancourt, SS Tyler Pastornicky and SP Randall Delgado, all of which don't yet have a Bowman autograph.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP121 Jason Heyward AU Image ($200)
  2. 2008 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #JH Jason Heyward Image ($500)
  3. 2007 Bowman Sterling Prospects #JH Jason Heyward AU Image ($150)
  4. 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #106 Jason Heyward AU/750 Image ($150)
  5. 1991 Topps Desert Shield #333 Chipper Jones Image ($200)
  6. 2010 Bowman Chrome #200A Jason Heyward AU Image ($80)
  7. 2010 Topps Triple Threads #139 Jason Heyward Jsy AU RC Image ($150)
  8. 2003 Bowman Chrome #331 Brian McCann AU A RC Image ($50)
  9. 2006 Topps Chrome #354 Dan Uggla AU Image (RC) ($20)
  10. 2009 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP97 Tommy Hanson AU Image ($50)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2008 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #FF Freddie Freeman Image ($250)
  2. 2009 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP101 Freddie Freeman AU Image ($100)
  3. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP105B Julio Teheran AU Image ($60)
  4. 2010 Bowman Platinum Prospect Autographs Refractors #FF Freddie Freeman Image ($60)
  5. 2010 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #14 Matt Lipka/37 Image ($120)
  6. 2010 Topps Pro Debut AFLAC Debut Cut Autographs #ML Matt Lipka S2 Image ($30)
  7. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP211B Arodys Vizcaino AU Image ($25)
  8. 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs #ML Matt Lipka Image ($15)
  9. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #112 Matt Lipka AU/722 Image ($12)
  10. 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP87 Mike Minor AU Image ($30)

2. Philadelphia Phillies: B+

PhiladelphiaPhillies GREATAMERICAN TICKET ImageLed by folk hero Roy Halladay, the Phillies have one baseball's deepest and most balanced checklists. The only thing that stopped Philadelphia from capturing the top spot in the NL East had to do with cardboard coverage.

Players like Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels received spotty coverage during their early years in the league. The only saving grace for Utley and Halladay came way of an insert non-chrome Bowman autographs.

Should Utley comeback healthy, so would improve the health of the Phillies veteran checklist. The only thing that could prevent the post-season hero from being a first ballot hall of famer is health in my opinion. When healthy, there's not a second baseman in the game I would rather have on my side.

One of the oddest things in recent memory has been the inability of card companies to correct spell names like Domonic Brown and Jonathan Singleton.

Brown's 2008 autographed cards spell his name "Dominic", while Singleton's spelling has been all over the place, from "John" and "Johnathan". How card companies are able to spell names like Arodys Vizcaino, Garin Cecchini and Jurickson Profar correctly and not names like Jonathan and Domonic is beyond me.

Although Domonic Brown's early career cardboard coverage didn't include a Bowman autograph, it did include a solid mix of finite Donruss branded autographs during the 2008 baseball card season, including a Playoff Contenders Autograph numbered to just 98 that currently books at $600. Brown's first ever Topps/Bowman autographed card was seeded in 2010 Bowman Sterling.

Jonathan Singleton was one of 2010's breakout prospects. His swing is like clockwork, all he needs is seasoning. Though he plays first base, he will ultimately be shifted to the outfield due to Ryan Howard. Singleton's low maintenance swing should allow him to progress faster than most 19-year old prospects.

Keep an eye out for outfielders Jiwan James and Domingo Santana, as they are theoretically overdue for Bowman Chrome autographs. James is probably the most physically gifted player in the Phillies system, while scouts have compared the 18-year old Santana to a fellow Latin import by the name of Vladimir Guerrero.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 1997 Bowman Certified Ink Autographs #CA35 Roy Halladay Image ($500-$800)
  2. 2003 Bowman's Best #RH Ryan Howard FY AU RC Image ($250)
  3. 2002 Bowman Autographs #BACU Chase Utley A Image ($150)
  4. 2002 Donruss Classics Significant Signatures #205 Cliff Lee ROO/100 Image ($300)
  5. 1997 Bowman Chrome #212 Roy Halladay RC Image ($40)
  6. 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft #138 Ryan Howard RC Image ($25)
  7. 2003 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #47 Ryan Howard RC Image ($30)
  8. 2002 SP Authentic #223 Cliff Lee FW RC Image ($60)
  9. 2001 Bowman Draft #BDP69 Chase Utley RC Image ($20)
  10. 2001 Upper Deck Prospect Premieres #62 Ryan Howard XRC Image ($20)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2008 Playoff Contenders Season Ticket Autographs #21 Dominic Brown/98 Image ($600)
  2. 2010 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #20 Jonathan Singleton/127 Image ($300)
  3. 2010 Bowman Sterling Rookie Autographs #36 Domonic Brown Image ($40)
  4. 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #121 Dominic Brown AU/996 Image ($80)
  5. 2010 Topps Pro Debut AFLAC Debut Cut Autographs #JS Jonathan Singleton Image ($120)
  6. 2010 Bowman Platinum Prospect Autographs #JS Jonathan Singleton Image ($60)
  7. 2008 Donruss Threads #135 Dominic Brown AU/999 Image ($60)
  8. 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs #JS John Singleton Image ($30)
  9. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #140 Jonathan Singleton AU/699 Image ($40)
  10. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #165 Brody Colvin AU/819 Image ($15)

3. Washington Nationals: B+

WashingtonNationals GREATAMERICANTICKET ImageThe Nationals are hands down the most hyped hobby team in baseball over the past year. The Nats are often viewed as a two-man show, but there's a certain third baseman who has already proven himself at the major league level time and again that graces the Nats veteran checklist.

Stephen Strasburg captured the imaginations of collectors last Summer like very few rookies ever have. Even after undergoing Tommy John surgery, his cards still found a way to thrive in the face of adversity. What bodes well for Strasburg's long-term card value is his connection to Tony Gwynn, who managed Steve during his college days at San Diego State. The Padres Hall-of-Famer's grounded approach to the game rubbed off on the young hurler.

Along with Strasburg, whose cardboard coverage bordered on overload during the 2010 baseball card season hides one of the hobby's most underrated players in Ryan Zimmerman. The 26-year old leader of the Nationals is the National League's answer to Evan Longoria. Zimmerman's 2005 SP Authentic RC might be one of the 10 most underrated cards in baseball.

Then there's Bryce Harper, who has been the victim of statutory card making since the age of 16. Whether you like Bryce Harper or not, his cards will without a doubt be the hottest of the 2011 baseball card season.

Harper's first Bowman autograph is set to appear in May's 2011 Bowman Baseball. His presence on Bowman's auto checklist will have the same impact on the product as Strasburg's did in 2010, with both box and case prices possibly doubling.

Harper does have a Bowman AFLAC auto and Bowman USA Buyback auto from 2010, but neither qualified to carry the tag of "First Bowman Autograph". After Harper, the Nationals have some nice prospects in 2B Danny Espinosa, C Derek Norris, P A.J. Cole and OF Eury Perez. Although none of the four project as superstars, they project as above-average major leaguers with Cole carrying the highest upside.

Five years from now, this checklist will either feature several future hall-of-famers or several cautionary tales as to why it's never safe to pay thousands of dollars for a prospect's card.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2010 Bowman Prospects #BP1b Stephen Strasburg AU Image ($500)
  2. 2005 SP Authentic #181 Ryan Zimmerman AU RC Image ($225)
  3. 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft #BDP1B Stephen Strasburg AU Image ($300)
  4. 2010 Topps Triple Threads #171 Stephen Strasburg Jsy AU RC Image ($350)
  5. 2010 Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs #212 Stephen Strasburg Image ($200)
  6. 2010 Bowman Chrome #205B Stephen Strasburg AU Image ($250)
  7. 2010 Bowman Platinum Relic Autographs #SS Stephen Strasburg Image ($250)
  8. 2005 SPx #173 Ryan Zimmerman AU RC Image ($120)
  9. 2005 Bowman Chrome Draft #178 Ryan Zimmerman AU B RC Image ($50)
  10. 2005 Ultimate Signature #190 Ryan Zimmerman AU RC Image ($100)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2010 Bowman Chrome USA Baseball Buyback Autographs #18BC8 Bryce Harper Image ($1,400)
  2. 2010 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #9 Bryce Harper/230 Image ($1,200)
  3. 2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary Autographs #60ABH Bryce Harper Image ($700)
  4. 2010 Bowman Chrome 18U USA Baseball #18BC8 Bryce Harper Image ($80)
  5. 2008 Playoff Contenders Season Ticket Autographs #20 Derek Norris/39 Image ($150)
  6. 2008 Playoff Contenders #75 Danny Espinosa AU/395 Image ($30)
  7. 2008 Prime Cuts #122 Danny Espinosa AU/249 Image ($30)
  8. 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition TOTC #30 Derek Norris AU/744 Image ($20)
  9. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #63 A.J. Cole AU/819 Image ($10)
  10. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP185B Eury Perez AU Image ($10)

4. Florida Marlins: B

FloridaMarlins GREATAMERICANTICKET ImageThe pride of the Marlins checklist is found in Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how much pride Hanley takes in being a complete player or a team leader. There might not be a more apathetic superstar in baseball than Hanley, especially now than Manny has retired.

One of the hobby's most underrated youngsters is 21-year old outfielder Mike Stanton, who has as much raw power as any player in the game of baseball. The big x-factor for Stanton's card could be the opening of the Marlins new stadium in 2012. A new stadium could lead to increased interest in the Marlins and thusly increased interest in Stanton's cards.

Second-year outfielder Logan Morrison is one player I've always felt was overrated. I've never seen the "it" factor that followed the 21-year old through the minors. He's a nice player that should hit for average, but isn't a 30 home run middle-of-the-order factor bat many have billed him as. I personally prefer the gritty Chris Coghlan over Morrison, the hobby on the other hand does not.

For the first time in what seems like a decade, the Marlins prospect checklist is extremely weak. Had it not been for the drafting of 1B/OF Christian Yelich with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, this might be one of the 5 worst prospect checklists in the game.

Yelich should vault into the top 50 prospects in baseball over the course of the next 1-2 years. His plate approach is advanced for a 19-year old, which is one of the most important attributes when assessing whether or not a prospect has star potential.

Third baseman Matt Dominguez will eventually be a nice piece on a winning team, but his bat simply doesn't have the same upside his glove does. The one prospect who could rise from the hobby ashes in 2011 is 19-year old catcher Kyle Skipworth, who was a first round pick in 2008. Skipworth finally started to it put together toward the tail end of 2010, hitting 17 home runs in Low A.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2003 Bowman Chrome #334 Hanley Ramirez AU A RC Image ($200)
  2. 2003 Bowman's Best #HR Hanley Ramirez FY AU RC Image ($100)
  3. 2003 Topps Tribute Contemporary #106 Hanley Ramirez FY AU RC Image ($150)
  4. 2008 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP115 Michael Stanton AU Image ($120)
  5. 2008 Playoff Contenders #109 Mike Stanton AU/149 * Image ($400)
  6. 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition TOTC #74 Mike Stanton AU/100 Image ($300)
  7. 2010 Topps Triple Threads #186 Mike Stanton Jsy AU RC Image ($80)
  8. 2006 Topps Chrome #352 Hanley Ramirez AU (RC) Image ($40)
  9. 2006 Topps Chrome #348 Josh Johnson AU (RC) Image ($25)
  10. 2009 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP112a Logan Morrison AU Image ($30)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect Autographs #BDPP78 Christian Yelich Image ($25)
  2. 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs #CY Christian Yelich Image ($12)
  3. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #147 Christian Yelich AU/815 Image ($10)
  4. 2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP118 Matt Dominguez AU Image ($15)
  5. 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP92 Chad James AU Image ($12)
  6. 2010 Topps Pro Debut AFLAC Debut Cut Autographs #KS Kyle Skipworth Image ($20)
  7. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP186B Jhan Marinez AU Image ($10)
  8. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP184B Ozzie Martinez AU Image ($10)
  9. 2008 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP124 Brad Hand AU Image ($10)
  10. 2008 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #IG Isaac Galloway Image ($25)

5. New York Mets: B-

NewYorkMets GREATAMERICANTOUR ImageOutside of David Wright, the Mets other established stars received spotty cardboard coverage during their early years as a pro. Neither Jose Reyes or Johan Santana has an autographed rookie card. This is a checklist in transition, with a combination of injuries and apathy adding up to cardboard kryptonite.

Wright is the closest thing on the Mets veteran checklist to a hobby star. In 2010, Wright enjoyed a bounce back season of sorts, hitting 29 home runs, which was 19 more than he hit during his 2009 campaign. The 28-year old's cards still haven't fully recovered from his 10 home run season. Collectors expect one thing from the hot corner - home runs.

Ike Davis probably has the most room for growth on the veteran CL. Unfortunately, I don't know that he projects as a 40 home run hitter or a batting title contender. This might make it tough for Davis to gain more than above-average hobby cred due to the fact that 1st base is the most prominent power position in baseball.

For the first time in years, there's legit signs of life in Mets system. Wilmer Flores has an extremely high hobby ceiling. Many see Flores as a future middle-of-the-order force. The only question scouts have is whether he has the chops to stick at short stop.

After Flores, the Mets prospect checklist is highlighted by SP Jenrry Mejia, OF Cesar Puello, SP Matt Harvey and OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Of those four, the 19-year old Puello has the most hobby potential.

Two players worth keeping an eye on that could see their stock rise drastically include 19-year old 3B Aderlin Rodrigez and P Juan Urbina. Keep an eye on 2011 checklists, as Rodriguez doesn't yet have an autographed baseball card.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2002 Bowman Chrome #385 David Wright AU A RC Image ($200)
  2. 2002 Bowman's Best #113 David Wright Bat RC Image ($50)
  3. 2002 Topps Pristine #166 David Wright C RC Image ($30)
  4. 2000 Finest #262 Johan Santana RC Image ($50)
  5. 2000 Bowman's Best #191 Johan Santana RC Image ($50)
  6. 2008 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP116 Ike Davis AU Image ($40)
  7. 2008 Donruss Threads #176 Ike Davis AU/250 Image ($60)
  8. 2008 Bowman Sterling Prospects #IDA Ike Davis AU Image ($40)
  9. 2001 Finest #134 Jose Reyes PROS RC Image ($50)
  10. 2001 Bowman Chrome #164 Jose Reyes RC Image ($50)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2008 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP111 Wilmer Flores AU Image ($50)
  2. 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition TOTC #96 Wilmer Flores AU/99 EXCH Image ($150)
  3. 2008 Playoff Contenders #127 Wilmer Flores AU/75 * EXCH Image ($150)
  4. 2008 Donruss Threads #145 Wilmer Flores AU/99 EXCH Image ($100)
  5. 2008 Prime Cuts #138 Wilmer Flores AU/249 EXCH Image ($60)
  6. 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs #CPU Cesar Puello Image ($12)
  7. 2010 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #10 Matt Harvey/230 Image ($50)
  8. 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition TOTC #48 Jenrry Mejia AU/844 Image ($30)
  9. 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect Autographs #BDPP84 Matt Harvey Image ($15)
  10. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP116B Kirk Nieuwenhuis AU Image ($15)

Best of the National League East:

Best Overall Card: 2008 Bowman Chrome Jason Heyward Auto
Best High Minors Card: 2008 Playoff Contenders Domonic Brown Auto
Best Low Minors Card: 2010 Bowman Bryce Harper AFLAC Auto
Breakout Veteran Card: 1997 Bowman Autographs Roy Halladay
Breakout Prospect Card: 2010 Bowman AFLAC Matt Lipka Auto /37
Sleeper Card: 2010 Topps Pro Debut Kyle Skipworth Debut Cuts
Prospects in Need of a Bowman Chrome Auto: Craig Kimbrel, Matt Lipka, Domingo Santana, Randall Delgado, Cesar Puello, Aderlin Rodriguez, Jiwan James, Jonathan Singleton, Kyle Skipworth, Derek Norris, Christian Bethancourt, Marcell Ozuna
Best Veteran Cards: Atlanta Braves
Best Prospect Cards: Atlanta Braves,Washington Nationals

Great American Tour Guide:

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1213061562824040 1 Image
R.A. DICKEY 2013 TOPPS TRIBUTE BLUE #63 30 99
$4.41
3214738601654040 1 Image
2011 Topps Tribute Gold WHITEY FORD Dual Patch AUTOGRAPH 15 20 Baseball Card
$150.00
1912115201584040 1 Image
2011 Topps Tribute Baseball Factory Sealed Hobby Box
$474.99
3710822710904040 1 Image
2011 Topps Tribute #6 Nolan Ryan BOX T2
$5.88
3710822710964040 1 Image
2011 Topps Tribute #25 Felix Hernandez BOX T2
$1.23
3710822711054040 1 Image
2011 Topps Tribute #33 Hank Greenberg BOX T2
$1.96
3710822711064040 1 Image
2011 Topps Tribute #40 Catfish Hunter BOX T2
$1.00
3710822711244040 1 Image
2011 Topps Tribute #7 David Wright BOX T2
$1.96



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Brett is a former contributor to The Cardboard Connection.

User Comments

  1. Another great article! I’m glad somebody FINALLY brought up the Dom Brown/ Singleton misspelled name thing, it’s just ridiculous.

  2. Agreed Daved

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