When the Chicago White Sox drafted Carlos Rodon with the third pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, the team already had one of the game's best pitchers in Chris Sale. Given Rodon's quick ascension to the majors, Chicago's front office and fans might be hoping that there's another ace anchoring the starting rotation in the near future. For collectors, there were no shortage of Carlos Rodon cards available before his MLB debut in April, 2015 -- less than a year after getting drafted.
The first Carlos Rodon cards date back to 2012 when he was part of USA Baseball's collegiate squad. Panini included the pitcher in multiple sets that year, in products dedicated to the national team as well as others that focused more on major leaguers. A second wave of cards came shortly after the 2014 draft. Both Panini and Leaf made non-USA Baseball cards of him with an emphasis on autographs.
Rodon is one of the few first rounders left out of 2014 Bowman Draft Baseball, which would have been his first in a MLB uniform. Instead, that comes in 2015 Bowman Baseball where he's one of the Chrome Prospect Autographs.
Like any pitching prospect, there is a heightened level of risk when it comes to card values. Baseball is notorious for building up pitchers, only to see their careers derailed by an injury or a matter of just not living up to expectations. While there's a certain level of hype surrounding Rodon, it hasn't been on the same level as a lot of other recent pitchers like Stephen Strasburg.
Here's a look at the key Carlos Rodon cards released before his first rookie cards. Those should come later in 2015 now that he's made his MLB debut.
Key Carlos Rodon Prospect Cards
Please note that this isn't an exhaustive list. Rather, it highlights some of the more notable early Carlos Rodon cards. Click on the links or images to shop for singles on eBay.
Part of Panini's premium box set for the national team, this card is for those less concerned with autographs and memorabilia. It's a simple base card without any embellishments. The focus is solely on Rodon as the selling point.
The box set has several different Carlos Rodon autographs. This one is the most distinct. Signed in gold ink on a black background, it has lots of contrast and pop. Numbered to 100, there's not a lot of them out there either.
Another signed card from the box set, this is the most plentiful. However, the clean look and on-card signature are definite pluses. And with the bigger print run, it helps keep prices reasonable.
2012 Playoff Prime Cuts USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Game Jersey Signatures Carlos Rodon #18 #/199
2012 Playoff Prime Cuts was one of the card maker's pricier baseball products at the time. While it focused mainly on past and present players, it also had a smattering of USA Baseball cards. This Carlos Rodon card comes with an on-card signature and piece of jersey. Given the price of the product, even still today, and Rodon's place as a top prospect, it's relatively inexpensive.
Leaf Metal is answer to Bowman Chrome, this card comes with a lot of shine. Like Chrome's Refractors, there are also several colorful Prismatic parallels of varying quantities. Rodon is a short print in the all-autograph release.
Living up to its name, 2014 Leaf Trinity has three types of autograph cards and Rodon is included on all of them. The first is an inscribed card that comes with both his signature and a short note. Patch autographs may not have game-worn swatches, but the large patch window makes for attractive cards nonetheless. Pure cards are like cards made of plexiglass. They have a distinct layered look that allows the signatures to really jump out. All three of Rodon's cards in Leaf Trinity have multiple parallels.
2014 Leaf Valiant Baseball marked somewhat of a new direction for the brand. While still shiny and bright, it dropped the majestic touches that made it comparable to Donruss' (now Panini) old Crusade inserts. It has an on-card signature and multiple colorful parallels. The base version is an SSP, making it one of the toughest in the set.
The 2014 Panini Elite Extra Edition Prospect Signatures Carlos Rodon card was inserted in packs as a redemption. However, they're now live and being sent out. Besides beating Bowman Chrome to the punch, it comes serial numbered to a modest 299 copies. However, the lack of MLB logos keeps prices reasonable as many collectors prefer to hold out for Bowman.
Although it doesn't have the brand longevity of Elite Extra Edition, Panini Prizm Draft is even closer competition to Bowman Chrome. Rodon's Prospect Signatures card comes with an on-card signature and has many parallels that mix both color and patterns.
Although not out just yet, Rodon is confirmed to be in 2015 Bowman Baseball with a Chrome Prospect Autograph. His first in a White Sox uniform, it will likely be his most popular card that's widely available. An insert, it's not a rookie card. However, many often hold a player's first Chrome Autograph in a similar regard.