Adrian Beltre's power at the plate and amazing defensive skills at third base have made him one of the strongest contenders among active players to one day make it to Cooperstown. As one of the top Dominican Republic-born players in baseball history, he has found success at every team his career has taken him. The following guide offers up some of the best Adrian Beltre cards available with an emphasis on his earliest releases.
The Los Angeles Dodgers scooped up Beltre from the Dominican leagues as an amateur free agent in 1994. He debuted in the majors in 1998, making him the youngest player in the league at the time. Beltre's breakout season came in 2004 when he led the NL with 48 home runs and 121 RBI, combined with a solid .334 batting average. Free agency later brought him to the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers, and he has enjoyed statistical success with each team. Proving his production at every stop, he is just one of the five players who has recorded more than 100 home runs with three different teams. Beltre is quickly approaching the 3,000-hit mark and surpassing that will all but guarantee a Hall of Fame invite.
As one of the top young sluggers in the game, Beltre was featured on many combination cards with other stars and retired legends. In 2005 Upper Deck Reflections, Adrian shares an autograph card with Albert Pujols. This card can command some of the highest overall prices for a Beltre autograph. In 2004 Upper Deck SP Prospects, he is part of a triple autograph with Los Angeles Dodgers great Duke Snider and prospect Blake DeWitt. In the Passing the Torch autograph insert from 2005 Donruss Elite, Beltre is paired with Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew for an unexpected dual autograph.
While a few pre-rookie cards make this list, Beltre has many more minor league cards that were not included. A company called Score Board issued minor league cards in 1997 and Beltre has a card from his brief time in the Florida State League with the Vero Beach Dodgers.
In recent years, Beltre has become a player that rarely signs for Topps and Panini sets, making multiple copies of his autographs a rare find on the secondary market. This also puts an added demand on the early Beltre autographs. In compiling this list the availability of each card was taken into consideration along with card value and aesthetic design.
Top 10 Adrian Beltre Baseball Cards
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The 1998 Topps Stadium Club set was divided into two series with the second series featuring a Future Stars subset. The Beltre card is part of this subset and shows him in the process of throwing. Over the course of his career, Beltre has earned the reputation as one of the best third basemen of his generation. He has five Gold Glove Awards—two while with the Mariners and three while with the Rangers—including the 2016 award as the best fielding third baseman in the American League.
The first of two pre-rookie cards comes in the 1997 Best set and features Beltre during his time with the Dodgers Class A - Advanced affiliate, the San Bernardino Stampede. Beltre's rise to the majors was a quick one as he jumped straight from AA-ball to the hot corner in Chavez Ravine.
One of the most innovative sets ever issued by Topps was 1998 Tek. The release took the 90-card checklist and created 90 different versions of the same base card. The reverse side of each card explains which design variation was featured on the card. The Beltre card below, featuring many squares inside each other, was pattern #36. Because Topps printed each design variation at the same rate, there are no short-print designs. However, building a full set that essentially includes 8,100 cards is nearly an impossible task.
For fans who covet the earliest baseball card appearance of players, the 1996 Best for Beltre is the card to own. Just 17 in the photo, it was later discovered that the Dodgers had actually broken major league rules by signing Adrian to a contract in 1994 when he was only 15. The Dodgers claimed it was not intentional and the confusion stemmed from Beltre's correct date of birth. Major League Baseball would ultimately fine the team and also banned them from recruiting players in the Dominican Republic for a year. Although not numbered, he also has another card in the 30-card set that shows him on the diamond.
As part of the print-on-demand Topps Now set that Topps introduced in 2016, the company would occasionally include relic cards featuring bases or jerseys. Beltre was featured on one of those relic cards towards the end of the set and it was available for purchase for 24 hours on September 23, 2016. The card honored the Texas Rangers clinching the West Division title which they would end up winning by nine games over Beltre's former team, the Seattle Mariners. The base version totals 99 copies and there are also four parallels with lower print runs.
Obviously, Beltre has many other cards that feature memorabilia pieces from throughout his career.
5. 1997 Bowman's Best Mirror Image Russell Branyan, Matt Williams, Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones #MI9
Beltre is showcased on an insert from 1997 Bowman's Best that features a total of four players, with a rookie and star player sharing each side. Given the name Mirror Image, the idea was that the rookie would live up to the star's legacy. Beltre is found alongside Braves slugger Chipper Jones.
The opposite side of the card features Cleveland Indians teammates Matt Williams and rookie Russell Branyan. Branyan would have a successful career, playing for 14 seasons and earning the nickname "Russell the Muscle" by having several seasons with great home run production.
As in previous sets, 1998 Topps Chrome again combined several up-and-coming prospects on a single card, sometimes striking gold by placing multiple future stars together. Beltre is featured with future All-Star Aaron Boone and Baltimore Orioles infielder Ryan Minor. Boone, son of legendary catcher Bob Boone, famously hit a home run in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS that sent the New York Yankees to the World Series over the Boston Red Sox.
The autographs featured in 1998 Bowman's Best were limited to just 10 total players with just five rookies or prospects. They were the five biggest prospects of the day, however, including Beltre, Kerry Wood and Jose Cruz Jr. Unlike many players, Beltre's current signature hasn't changed that much from his early years. His first and last name are often done in one single motion without lifting the pen and his last name appears to be underlined.
The 1997 Bowman's Best rookie card shows Beltre with a bat on his shoulder and the unusual #75 jersey. When Beltre finally made it to the majors, he would sport #29, which he has worn with all his other teams. The 1997 Bowman's Best set was divided between 100 stars and 100 prospects with the prospects receiving a silver chromium look while the stars were given gold.
Beltre's most popular rookie card is without question his 1997 Bowman Chrome appearance. Collectors have placed an even higher premium on the Refractor version (1:12 packs). There is also an International variation of each card on the checklist that featured the player's home flag added to the background. Those could be pulled one in every four packs with International Refractors being found one in every 24 packs. Mint Refractor parallels of Beltre's rookie card approach $300 with those rare gem-mint copies attracting prices that are three times as much.