After a long, hot summer, the kids are back at school and there is a bit of a chill in the air right now. The daylight hours are waning, and people are breaking out their long-sleeve flannel shirts. Autumn has finally arrived, so we can now look forward to cool nights, warm drinks and the excitement of the MLB postseason!
The 2021 season was a ton of fun. On the West Coast we saw flashes of brilliance from several San Diego Padres, and the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani had a season at the plate and on the mound unlike any we have seen before. Countless young players made names for themselves as Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis, Jr., Ronald Acuna, Jr., Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Rafael Devers, Bo Bichette and several more solidified themselves as stars-in-the-making. Six no-hitters were thrown in 2021, and Salvador Perez tied for the American League lead in home runs, and broke Johnny Bench’s 51-year-old record for home runs by a catcher. Now that the regular season has been put to bed, the best remaining teams in baseball are fighting it out for the title of World Series Champion.
This was a big season in trading cards as well. Riding the wave of hobby popularity that began in March 2020, collectors kept a keen eye on the MLB standings and spent their hobby dollars accordingly. Whether it was searching through dated material to find long neglected Ohtani rookie cards, grabbing every one of the Juniors they could find (Acuna, Guerrero & Tatis), or speculating on who might be the next big rookie, collectors spoke, or rather shouted, with their wallets.
Now that we are in the midst of the playoffs, and wrapping up the divisional-round battles, let’s catch up with some of the most popular hobby guys who battled in this year’s postseason.
Boston Red Sox – Rafael Devers, third baseman: Now in his fifth Major League season, Devers held down the hot corner in Boston. Long touted as a rising star and popular with collectors, he batted .279 with 38 home runs and 113 RBI while earning his first trip to the All-Star Game in 2021. In this year’s playoffs, Devers defines red-hot. Against the 100-win Rays, Devers led the Red Sox to a stunning ALDS win by batting .333 with two home runs and six RBI.
Tampa Bay Rays – Wander Franco, shortstop/third baseman: Arguably the top prospect in the game today, Franco started the season in the minor leagues. He made his MLB debut on June 22, and in 70 games batted .288 with seven home runs and 39 RBI. More impressively, he put together a 43-game on-base streak, which tied the big league record for players under 20 years old. In the Rays’ ill-fated ALDS against Boston, Franco batted .368 (7-for-19) with two home runs, four RBI and five runs scored. Fans and collectors alike are rightly excited about this young man’s future.
Chicago White Sox – Luis Robert, centerfielder: Robert won a Gold Glove and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2020, so the hobby was high on him going into the season. When healthy (he tore his hip flexor and only played 65 games), he has absolutely lived up to expectations. Heading into the postseason, he was healthy and flexed his muscles in Chicago’s ALDS series versus Houston by batting .467 (7-for-18). Chicago has been eliminated from the postseason, but Robert collectors have every reason to be excited.
Houston Astros – Carlos Correa, shortstop: Correa has been an Astros mainstay since winning the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award in 2015. He hit a career high 26 home runs in 2021, with one of his final blasts being a game-winner over the Tampa Bay Rays that clinched the AL West title for the ‘Stros. That kind of momentum bodes well for Houston, which earned its fourth division title in the past five years. In the Astros victorious ALDS against the Chicago White Sox, Correa batted .385 with two doubles and four RBI. The man is clutch.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Max Scherzer, pitcher: With three Cy Young Awards, eight All-Star Game appearances and a 2019 World Series championship to his name, Scherzer is one of the most decorated pitchers in the game today. A late-season add to the Dodgers rotation, Scherzer wrapped up the regular season with a 15-4 record and 2.46 ERA. His Game 3 start in the NLDS for the Blue Crew was nearly a pitching masterpiece: 10 strikeouts over seven innings. Unfortunately, San Fran’s Evan Longoria launched one of Scherzer’s fastballs for the lone run of the game. Stockpiling this pitcher is no longer much of a risk at this point in his career, so collectors can feel comfortable picking up cards of this probable Hall of Famer.
Atlanta Braves – Freddie Freeman, first baseman: Hobby star, Ronald Acuna, Jr., suffered a season ending hip injury midway through the season. Fortunately, the Braves still had Freeman. The 2020 NL MVP batted .300 with 31 home runs, 83 RBI and a league-leading 120 runs this season. The first baseman also posted a .998 fielding percentage after committing just three errors in 159 games. Now the postseason is here and he continues to shine! He batted .308 in the NLDS battle versus Milwaukee and is now getting ready to play in his second straight NLCS.
Milwaukee Brewers – Corbin Burnes, pitcher: The Brewers have one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers in righty Corbin Burnes. He only threw 167 innings but finished with an 11-5 record and league-leading 2.43 ERA. Baseball analysts were expecting him to benefit from a relatively fresh arm and potentially dominate in the playoffs. He started in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves and helped the Brew Crew score a 2-1 victory by pitching six strong innings, striking out six and yielding just two hits. Milwaukee may be out, but collectors are high on Burnes.
San Francisco Giants – Buster Posey, catcher: The perennial All-Star returned to MLB after opting out of the Covid-shortened 2020 season. The year off seemed to do him well, as his batting average, hits, home run, and RBI totals were his best since the 2017 season. Posey has already won three World Series titles and is providing veteran leadership that is so critical in the postseason. Heading into the Giants Game 5 NLDS showdown with the Dodgers, Posey is batting .313 in the playoffs. Collectors are often slow to show interest in catchers, but Posey’s rookie cards are once again garnering a lot of interest in open auctions.