Invest in These Players as the World Series Gets Closer
After three nail-biting Game 5 Division Series games, the American League and National League Championship Series are underway. With both the big-market Yankees and Phillies out of the running, four lower profile teams have the chance to shine under the lights of the World Series.
Below is a look at one player from each team to watch who could gain more hobby notoriety now that they're approaching the game's biggest stage.
Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
The Rangers have the most dangerous lineup of any team left in the playoffs. Ian Kinsler is coming off his second season with at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases and is one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in the game. Kinsler was able to stay healthy all year and had career highs in games played, home runs, and walks. He has been a spark for the Rangers all year, finishing the regular season with seven leadoff home runs. He hit another, his biggest, last week to start Game 5 against Tampa Bay. With his ability to hit for power, speed and play great defense, Kinsler can become a breakout hobby star with a strong ALCS showing. Besides several rookie cards in 2005 products, Kinsler has many early autographs in 2006 sets.
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Verlander's amazing season did not go unnoticed by the hobby. A virtual lock to win the American League Cy Young, the pitcher is also in the running for AL MVP. Winner of the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award, Verlander also has two no-hitters to his credit. He has the potential to be the most dominating pitcher in the playoffs. Verlander has several high-end autographed rookie cards from 2005 including Bowman Chrome, Topps Chrome, Leaf Limited, SPx and SP Authentic. Also popular are Verlander's Bowman Chrome Blue and Gold Refractor parallels.
Chris Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals
Chris Carpenter is no stranger to postseason play as he was with the Cardinals during their World Series runs in 2006. He was outstanding in his Game 3 start against the Tigers, throwing eight shutout innings. The former Blue Jay was also with the Cardinals in 2004, but was injured for the final series. A Cy Young winner, Carpenter is the team's ace.
Carpenter threw a gem last week, blanking the favored Phillies in a deciding fifth game. If Carpenter can continue to lead the underdog Cardinals to postseason victories, he has an opportunity to reach the hobby levels of baseball's elite pitchers. Most of Carpenter's baseball cards are cheap and could see sustained profits beyond a postseason surge as he has proven himself as one of the game's best. This could be the time where collectors finally acknowledge it. Carpenter has rookie cards in both 1995 Bowman and 1995 Bowman's Best. His first autographed card in a major league uniform didn't come until 2000 SkyBox Autographics. Following that, his next signed cards weren't until 2005.
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Ryan Braun has had a solid hobby following for most of his career. While he stands somewhat in the shadow of slugger Prince Fielder, Braun had a career year and is a leading candidate for National League MVP. He got off to a hot start in the first round, leading all hitters with a .500 batting average. The 2007 NL Rookie of the Year led the Brewers to a first place division, batting .332 while garnering his first 30-30 season, clubbing 33 home runs and swiping 33 bases. With Fielder possibly leaving Milwaukee in the offseason, Braun will become the undisputed face of the franchise. His key rookie cards are his 2005 Bowman Chrome and Bowman Sterling autographs.
With the media attention and hobby spotlight out of the big markets, Texas, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee have the opportunity to dominate the headlines and gain national attention this October. These four players have the potential to be the key to their respective team's success during the Championship Series. With the crack of the bat or a dominant performance on the mound, they could gain long-term hobby gains and add value to your collection.