2011 Great American Baseball Card Tour: AL Central

2011 Great American Baseball Card Tour: AL Central

Tour Stop #1: American League Central

Welcome to the first leg of our massive 30 team, 600 card tour of the best veteran and prospect baseball cards on the planet. Our tour begins with a look at the premier cards from each member of the American League Central. Our tour will conclude five stops from now with a 1-30 ranking of every team in baseball.

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:SAMPLE TICKET Image

  • Star 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.

Our next stop will be the American League East. Enjoy the tour and remember to refractor up when at all possible or in the case of Donruss Elite, die-cut up whenever possible (Status, Aspirations).

1. Minnesota Twins: B+

TWINS TICKET 456 Image The Twins have one of the strongest checklists in the baseball card world. They strike the perfect balance between veteran stars and high hobby upside prospects. Joe Mauer is one of the most beloved figures in the entire hobby, which means he has an extremely loyal fan following. When grading a team's checklist, having a top 5-10 hobby force can carry a team, especially when you received solid early cardboard coverage like Mauer (2002).

Should Justin Morneau fully recover from the head injury he sustained last year, his cards should see a decent boost in value, as he's one of the game premier sluggers. One player who could take things to the next level in 2011 is Delmon Young, who showed up at Spring Training with some added muscle. One player that needs to take things to the next level in 2011 to have any hope of hobby stardom is Francisco Liriano. His work ethic and focus are extremely disappointing for a player with his skill set.

Very few prospects in the game have a higher upside than Miguel Sano and Aaron Hicks. Hick's only problem is that he might have the worst card selection of any premier prospect in the game. Due to signing a post draft deal with Razor, he doesn't have a Bowman/Topps auto outside of a 2010 Topps Pro Debut Debut Cuts autograph.

One of the most under-looked prospects in the game is Ben Revere, who has done nothing but hit since being drafted 28th overall in 2007. The undersized, speedy and daring center fielder is the type of player collectors gravitate to. I personally wouldn't mind seeing the Twins trade Denard Span and roll the dice on the 22-year old spark plug sometime during the 2011 season.

Keep an eye out for the first Bowman Chrome autographs of P Adrian Salcedo, OF Oswaldo Arcia and SS Jorge Polanco. Each player is under 20 could blossom in upcoming years. All three are part of the Twins recent Latin spending spree.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2002 Bowman Chrome #391 Joe Mauer AU A RC Image ($300)
  2. 2002 Bowman's Best #110 Joe Mauer AU A RC Image ($250)
  3. 2002 Topps 206 Autographs #JM Joe Mauer D2 Image ($200)
  4. 2001 Bowman Autographs #BAJM Justin Morneau Image ($175)
  5. 2002 USA Baseball National Team Signatures #JM Joe Mauer /375 Image ($200)
  6. 2001 Bowman Chrome #169 Justin Morneau RC Image ($50)
  7. 2002 Bowman Heritage Autographs #BHAJM Joe Mauer C Image ($200)
  8. 2003 Bowman Chrome Draft #176 Delmon Young AU RC Image ($60)
  9. 1992 Bowman #460 Jim Thome Image ($8)
  10. 2002 Bowman's Best #168 Francisco Liriano AU A RC Image ($60)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP205B Miguel Sano AU Image ($50)
  2. 2010 Bowman Chrome Wrapper Redemption Autographs #WR4 Miguel Sano Image ($120)
  3. 2010 Topps Pro Debut AFLAC Debut Cut Autographs #AH Aaron Hicks /106 Image ($60)
  4. 2010 Bowman Platinum Prospect Autographs #MS Miguel ImageSano ($50)
  5. 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft Draft Picks #BDPP125 Ben Revere AU Image ($20)
  6. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP202B Kyle Gibson AU Image ($30)
  7. 2006 SP Authentic WBC Future Watch #58 Tsuyoshi Nishioka Image ($20-$40)
  8. 2007 Bowman Sterling Prospects #BR Ben Revere AU Image ($12)
  9. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP203B Max Kepler AU Image ($20)
  10. 2007 Bowman Sterling Prospects #JB Joe Benson AU Image ($10)

2. Detroit Tigers: B

TIGERS TICKET 456 Image The Tigers barely edged out the Royals for the #2 spot in the AL Central. Miguel Cabrera is the face of Tigers baseball cards. Unfortunately, his off field problems are concerning and one wonders how much longer the Tigers are going to look the other way, as he clearly needs help.

That being said, Miguel Cabrera is one of the 5 best pure hitters in baseball and if he can continue to put up mind-boggling numbers, the Tigers first baseman should be a sure shot Hall of Famer. Cooperstown won't and shouldn't use alcoholism as a reason to leave a player out, if they did that names like Ruth and Mantle wouldn't be part of the hall.

Austin Jackson could see his cardboard stock rise with a solid sophomore campaign. It's easy to forget that A-Jax had one of the best rookie seasons of all-time for a center fielder. Something tells me he could develop above average power down the road.

Nick Castellanos and Jacob Turner are the cornerstone prospects in what is a fairly weak system depth wise. The 19-year Castellanos could end the 2011 season as one of the hottest hot corner prospects in the game, all he's missing is a first Bowman auto. The sky is the ceiling for the 2010 sandwich pick.

The Tigers biggest problem is largely not of their making, that being cardboard coverage. Many of the veterans on the Tigers roster were either casualties of the 90's overprinting era or simply didn't receive a proper treatment early in their careers.

The prospect checklist woes are a combination of poor depth and poor cardboard coverage. Castellanos' first Bowman Chrome autograph will do wonders for the coverage issue.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2000 Topps Traded Autographs #TTA40 Miguel Cabrera Image ($600)
  2. 2000 Topps Chrome Traded #T40 Miguel Cabrera RC Image ($50)
  3. 2000 Royal Rookies Futures Autographs #6 Miguel Cabrera Image ($50)
  4. 2005 Ultimate Collection #239 Justin Verlander AU RC /99 Image($300)
  5. 2001 Donruss Class of 2001 #258 Victor Martinez PH/625 RC Image ($50)
  6. 2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP246 Austin Jackson AU Image ($50)
  7. 2005 Bowman Chrome #331 Justin Verlander AU RC Image ($60)
  8. 2010 Bowman Chrome #198A Austin Jackson AU Image ($30)
  9. 1998 Leaf Rookies and Stars #211 Magglio Ordonez RC Image ($25)
  10. 2010 Topps Triple Threads #140 Austin Jackson Jsy AU RC /99 Image ($60)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2010 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #23 Jacob Turner/22 Image ($300-$400)
  2. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Franchise Futures Signatures #10 Nick Castellanos/699 Image ($25)
  3. 2010 Bowman Chrome Nick Castellanos USA Baseball Refractors Image (varies)
  4. 2010 Topps Pro Debut AFLAC Debut Cut Autographs #JT Jacob Turner /200 Image ($20-$30)
  5. 2009-10 USA Baseball #USA110 Nick Castellanos Autographs and Patch Autographs Image (varies)
  6. 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Signature Turn of the Century #9 Jacob Turner AU/799 Image ($25)
  7. 2008-09 USA Baseball Autographs Gold #113 Jacob Turner /175 Image ($50)
  8. 2009 Upper Deck Signature Stars USA National Team Future Watch Jersey Autographs #24 Nick Castellanos /899 Image ($10)
  9. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP218B Daniel Fields AU Image ($12)
  10. 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #140 Daniel Fields AU/749 Image ($10)

3. Kansas City Royals: B-

KANSASCITY ROYALS TICKET 4567 ImageBilly Butler is the only real saving grace in what is one of the worst veteran baseball card teams in the league. Don't be surprised if the Royals trade him at some point during the season to clear the way for Eric Hosmer.

In 2011, Alex Gordon could become 80% of the player everyone thought he was going to be when the Royals made him the #2 overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, but at 27 his cardboard clock is ticking. You have to be Josh Hamilton good to become a hobby superstar in your late 20's, which Gordon is not. Gordon's hobby stock also looked much more promising when he was a third baseman rather a corner outfielder.

In stark contrast, the Royals have one of the best prospect checklists in the entire hobby led by the trio of Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. The only thing stopping the Royals prospect checklist from receiving an "A" is the lack of an Eric Hosmer Bowman autograph. This is the result of Hosmer's contract with Razor (Aaron Hicks signed a similar deal). Should Topps reach an agreement with the talented first baseman, you can count on it instantly hitting the hot list.

As if the Royals weren't prospect rich enough as it is, they have #5 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft and something tells me they'll take a potential hobby star outfielder such as Bubba Starling, George Springer or Jackie Bradley Jr.

Although the current veteran checklist doesn't have a hobby superstar on it, that could soon change as soon as this year, as Mike Moustakas is ready to make the jump to the bigs. You also can't rule out the outside chance of the Royals going with a youth movement midway through the 2011 season (Myers, Hosmer, Montgomery, Crow, etc).

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2005 Bowman Chrome #353 Billy Butler AU RC Image ($80)
  2. 2005 Topps Chrome #235 Billy Butler FY AU RC Image ($50)
  3. 2005 Finest #148 Billy Butler AU/970 RC Image ($50)
  4. 2005 Topps Pristine #183 Billy Butler FY AU Image ($80)
  5. 2005 Bowman's Best #103 Billy Butler FY AU RC Image ($50)
  6. 2007 Exquisite Collection Rookie Signatures #144 Billy Butler AU/150 Image (RC) ($40)
  7. 2007 Ultimate Collection #108 Billy Butler AU (RC) Image ($40)
  8. 2007 Exquisite Collection Rookie Signatures #189 Joakim Soria Jsy AU/199 RC Image ($25)
  9. 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #144 Lorenzo Cain AU/817 Image ($15)
  10. 2006 Bowman Chrome Alcides Escobar Refractors Image (varies)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2008 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP112 Michael Moustakas AU Image ($80)
  2. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP117B Wil Myers AU Image ($60)
  3. 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #123 Mike Moustakas AU/999 Image ($60)
  4. 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #62 Wil Myers AU/799 Image ($50)
  5. 2008 USA Baseball Junior National Team On-Card Signatures #87 Eric Hosmer Image ($25)
  6. 2008 USA Baseball Junior National Team Signature Jersey Black #UI6 Eric Hosmer Image ($30)
  7. 2010 Bowman Draft AFLAC Autographs #4 Christian Colon/49 Image ($250)
  8. 2010 Bowman Chrome USA Baseball Buyback Autographs #BC6 Christian Colon Image ($120)
  9. 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect Autographs #BDPP81 Christian Colon Image ($20)
  10. 2008 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP122 Mike Montgomery AU Image ($30)

4. Cleveland Indians: C+

CLEVELANDINDIANS TICKET4567 ImageTo me, there hasn't been a team that people overrated more in recent years than the tribe. Even before injury, Grady Sizemore was more of an idea than a future first ballot hall of famer. Very few five-toolers ever learn how to play at the speed of baseball, which is slow and methodical.

The one thing the Indians veteran checklist has going for it is Carlos Santana. Collectors like catchers, as the position is unique and requires a high degree of sacrifice. Santana is a potential switch-hitting superstar if he can stay healthy. There's only two Catchers I'd rather have in baseball (Mauer, Posey).

Unfortunately Indians slugger Shin-Soo Choo's stats are far better than the cardboard coverage he received during his early years as a pro, which is unfortunate, as a quality Bowman Chrome Choo auto could have done wonders for the Indians checklist.

The Indians have some quality prospects in their system; I just don't like them as some people do. Pitchers that aren't "the next big thing" tend to struggle in the hobby. Drew Pomeranz is a legit talent, but I just don't see him ever being a hobby star.

3B Lonnie Chisenhall and 2B Jason Kipnis are legit talents that I think will be above average major league players, but unfortunately these aren't the type of guys the card world goes crazy over, especially since the 2010 MLB rookie class forever raised the bar.

Two players worth keeping an eye on from the Indians 2010 MLB Draft class are OF Levon Washington and SS Tony Wolters.

Other than that, the cardboard stock of the Indians will ride on Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana's return from ugly injuries. Both sides of the checklist have a lot to prove in 2011.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 2000 Bowman Draft Autographs #BDPA38 Grady Sizemore Image ($150)
  2. 2009 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP108 Carlos Santana AU Image ($40)
  3. 2008 Bowman Sterling Prospects #CSA Carlos Santana AU Image ($40)
  4. 2010 Topps Triple Threads #188 Carlos Santana Jsy AU RC /99 Image ($40)
  5. 2010 Topps Chrome Rookie Autographs #198 Carlos Santana Image ($20)
  6. 2010 Bowman Sterling Rookie Autographs #25 Carlos Santana Image ($20)
  7. 2006 Topps Triple Threads #119 Shin-Soo Choo AU J-J Image (RC) ($15)
  8. 2000 Bowman Draft #109 Grady Sizemore RC Image ($10)
  9. 2007 Bowman Sterling Prospects #MLP Matt LaPorta AU Image ($50)
  10. 2006 SP Authentic #264 Fausto Carmona AU/399 Image (RC) ($25)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2010 Bowman Chrome USA Baseball Buyback Autographs #BC16 Drew Pomeranz /100 Image ($100)
  2. 2008 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP112 Lonnie Chisenhall AU Image ($25)
  3. 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect Autographs #BDPP82 Drew Pomeranz Image ($20)
  4. 2010 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP196B Jason Kipnis AU Image ($20)
  5. 2008 Bowman Sterling Prospects #LC Lonnie Chisenhall AU Image ($15)
  6. 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs #DP Drew Pomeranz Image ($15)
  7. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #192 LeVon Washington AU/199 EXCH Image ($15)
  8. 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #63 Jason Kipnis AU/319 EXCH Image ($12)
  9. 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP90 Alex White AU Image ($15)
  10. 2010 Bowman Chrome 18U USA Baseball Autographs #TW Tony Wolters Image ($12)

5. Chicago White Sox: C

CHICAGOWHITESOX TICKET 456 Image The White Sox have an extremely solid team and will contend for a division title in 2011, but remain one of the weaker baseball card teams in the league. The Sox have a cast of veterans that know how to win games, but fail when it comes to consistency.

Unfortunately, the roster is also filled with guys whose rookie cards are from the 90's, which means overprinting and for some, no autographs. Adam Dunn is the cornerstone of their checklist, he's also one of card world's most under-appreciated assets.

The highest hobby upside guy in the White Sox system is OF Jared Mitchell, who is coming off an injury that cost him what would have been his first season of minor league ball. When healthy, he has electric athleticism and he could break out big time in 2011. You also might remember Mitchell as a wide receiver on LSU's 2007 BCS Title team.

Chris Sale has absolutely nasty stuff and a delivery that keeps batters guessing, but there isn't much value in Closer cards. Relief Pitchers are lowest on the totem poll when it comes to collector interest. Should Sale ever be converted to a starter, this would change, but I don't see that happening.

Third Baseman Brent Morel projects as a solid starter, which leads to winning baseball, but not winning baseball cards. Dayan Viciedo is the one established prospect that somewhat intrigues me hobby wise, as he's got legit power, but a broken thumb in Spring Training probably cost him his roster spot for the time being.

Top 10 Veteran Baseball Cards:

  1. 1999 Topps Traded Autographs #T50 Adam Dunn Image ($80)
  2. 1999 Bowman Chrome #369 Adam Dunn RC Image ($12)
  3. 1994 Topps Traded #112T Paul Konerko RC Image ($12)
  4. 1997 Bowman Certified Autographs #CA45 Paul Konerko Image ($20-$30)
  5. 1989 Upper Deck #787 Omar Vizquel RC Image ($3)
  6. 2008 Sweet Spot #102 Alexei Ramirez AU/399 RC Image ($50)
  7. 2004 Topps Chrome #235 Carlos Quentin FY AU RC Image ($20)
  8. 2002 Donruss Elite #252 Alexis Rios ROO RC Image ($25)
  9. 2008 SPx Mystery Rookie Redemptions #RR7 Alexei Ramirez #152 AU RC Image ($100-$200)
  10. 2000 Bowman Chrome Draft #69 Mark Buehrle RC Image ($10)

Top 10 Prospect Baseball Cards:

  1. 2010 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospect Autographs #BDPP92 Chris Sale Image ($30)
  2. 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects #BDPP88 Jared Mitchell AU Image ($40)
  3. 2009 Bowman Sterling Prospects #JM Jared Mitchell AU Image ($20)
  4. 2008 Playoff Contenders #76 Dayan Viciedo AU/395 * Image ($80)
  5. 2009 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #56 Jared Mitchell AU/370 Image ($30)
  6. 2010 Bowman Sterling Prospect Autographs #CS Chris Sale Image ($20)
  7. 2010 Donruss Elite Extra Edition #103 Chris Sale AU/655 Image ($20-$30)
  8. 2008 Donruss Elite Extra Edition Signature Aspirations #13 Brent Morel/100 Image ($20)
  9. 2009 Bowman Sterling Prospects #DV Dayan Viciedo AU Image ($20)
  10. 2010 Bowman Prospect Autographs #BM Brent Morel Image ($8)

Best of the American League Central:

Best Overall Card: 2002 Bowman Chrome Joe Mauer Auto RC
Best High Minors Card: 2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Moustakas Auto
Best Low Minors Card: 2010 Bowman Chrome Miguel Sano Auto
Breakout Veteran Card: 2009 Bowman Chrome Carlos Santana Auto
Breakout Prospect Card: 2009 Bowman Chrome Jared Mitchell Auto
Sleeper Card: 2007 Bowman Chrome Ben Revere Auto
Prospects in Need of a Bowman Chrome Auto: Nick Castellanos, Eric Hosmer, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, Jorge Polanco, Adrian Salcedo, Francisco Martinez, Jacob Turner, Avisail Garcia, Javier Azcona, Eduardo Escobar, Brandon Short, Andy Wilkins, Levon Washington, Tony Wolters, Alex Lavisky, Felix Sterling, John Lamb, Jake Odorizzi, Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura
Best Veteran Cards: Minnesota Twins
Best Prospect Cards: Kansas City Royals

Great American Tour Guide:

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Brett is a former contributor to The Cardboard Connection.

User Comments

  1. haha love that the Twins are at the top…simply the best!

  2. @brady boese: ha, I can’t decide whether I was biased or not, I seriously think they have the best cards in the division. Though the AL East is going to have a couple teams that top them.

  3. This is an awesome feature. thanks for the time spent compiling this.

  4. A Detroit pitching prospect (with inexpensive autos now) who is having a good spring training is Andy Oliver. Could be a good sleeper.

    Of course, I thought the same last year and that didn’t work out so well.

  5. @amorphous mess: agreed, he’s one to keep an eye on.

  6. awesome series, thanks for putting in the effort!

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