With apologies to Shohei Ohtani (AL) and Bryce Harper (NL), I don’t believe either player will repeat as their respective league’s MVP this season. Ohtani put together an incredible campaign in ‘21, both on the mound (nine wins, 156 K’s) and at the plate (46 home runs, 100 RBI), while Harper was launching extra-base hits practically every other day (42 doubles, 35 home runs). But I don’t think either superstar will return with the same success in the batter’s box this season. That being said, you just never know.
This entry features six players (three from either league) who I feel will be in contention for MVP consideration this year, provided the injury bug doesn’t sting. More importantly, from a collecting standpoint, I’m going to shine a spotlight on their individual autographs and how those could become hot(ter) commodities in the months ahead. Only time will tell if their autographs become some of the hobby’s most sought-after, but either way, baseballs provide one of the best signing surfaces, preferably on the sweet spot with a blue ballpoint pen. Plus, they fit nicely on a shelf and present beautifully inside ball cubes.
Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
“Bogey” has been a staple in Boston’s infield since 2014. He came up for a cup of coffee in 2013, when the Sox won the World Series, but did not start at shortstop until the following spring. Through the past eight seasons, he’s been a consistent threat at the plate, averaging 154 hits, 18 dingers and 76 RBI, and has posted a career .978 fielding percentage. And 2022 could turn out to be the best season yet for the 29-year-old, three-time All-Star.
His scrawl, with its swashbuckling “X” and its distinctive, long-flowing “g,” could also gain some hobby momentum this year. Currently, Xander’s signature on a single-signed baseball fetches as much as $100 on the secondary market so it behooves Boston backers to get to Fenway Park early and often to try and land Xander’s autograph on a Rawlings baseball before or during batting practice. Either that or camp out in the Red Sox hotel lobby when they’re on the road. His authentication fee via PSA Autograph stands at $20, so it’s an important safeguard to put in place if you ever choose to sell it down the road. Bogey’s signature is legible and certainly one worth collecting, even if you don’t reside in Beantown.
Aaron Judge (Yankees)
Big No. 99 always strikes fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers and fans alike. Whenever the 6-foot-7 rightfielder sporting Yankee pinstripes steps up to the plate, you know he’s capable of launching the next pitch into the bleachers. In fact, in his first four full seasons, the burley slugger turned 145 fastballs into round-trippers including an AL-rookie-record 52 in 2017. Last year, after hitting 39 homers and knocking in 98 runs, he finished fourth in AL MVP voting. This year he should be another Top 5 candidate.
His signature, with its powerful leadoff “A” and equally distinctive “J,” has been an escalating collectible since his MLB debut. Now a baseball signed by the Fresno State product commands up to $200 on the secondary market, so it’s certainly not an inexpensive buy-in. And his PSA authentication fee on any single-signed item stands at $35. But wouldn’t it be nice to catch the affable star on a sunny day at Yankee Stadium and ask him for his John Hancock? Chances are he’ll come through for his adoring fans, especially those wearing gray wigs and donning judge’s robes.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays)
As the son of a Hall of Fame outfielder, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had plenty of expectations heaped upon him. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Vlad Jr. made his MLB debut in April 2019 as a 20-year-old third baseman. Last season, playing first base, Vlad Jr. (nicknamed “El K”), hit a league-leading 48 home runs to go along with 29 doubles, 111 RBI and a .311 batting average. For his efforts, he finished second in MVP balloting behind Ohtani and should easily vie for top honors again this year.
With its very noticeable double-lines execution, Vlad Jr.’s signature is a tough one to miss. It’s a popular item, especially north of the border, but also draws a crowd in ballparks across the country. Its secondary market value hovers in the $100 range and could go higher if the 6-foot-2, 250-pound batsman wins the MVP crown and the Blue Jays make it back to their first World Series since 1993. His autograph authentication fee at PSA is $30, which is a smart add-on for a young player’s scrawl whose stats and popularity continue to climb.
Mookie Betts (Dodgers)
Now considered the premier outfielder in the major leagues, Betts is a sought-after player for baseball teams as well as collectors. His 2018 AL MVP campaign for the Boston Red Sox was monumental – he led the league with a .346 batting average, belted 32 home runs, drove in 80 runs and collected 30 stolen bases – but his ability to win his second World Series title in three years playing for the L.A. Dodgers (2020) was almost as impressive. Playing in just 55 games in the COVID-shortened season, he collected 64 hits including 16 home runs and drove in 39 runs. Beyond his batting prowess, the steady rightfielder also earned his fourth of five Gold Glove awards. Lastly, he finished second in NL MVP balloting that year.
To get a single-signed baseball from this uncanny ballplayer would be something special. His signature, with its secondary-market price averaging $150, is always in demand. His autograph, which costs $30 for PSA to authenticate, includes a unique “M’ to start and closes with a swooping loop that connects to the “B” in his last name. Still a folk hero in Boston, his legend continues to grow with every new season. What else can he accomplish? Well, he has bowled four perfect 300 games, so there’s always the PBA Tour once he decides to hang up his cleats.
Manny Machado (Padres)
In an injury-free world, this spot would have gone to San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. However, by virtue of his broken left wrist and two months’ (minimum) worth of recovery time, Padres teammate Manny Machado gets the nod. The durable third baseman has always shown flashes of brilliance and even finished third in the 2020 NL MVP voting following the pandemic-shortened season. But this year could be Machado’s time to shine as he will be called upon to lead the Friars to greater heights with Tatis on the DL. With career averages of 142 hits, 25 home runs and 75 RBI over 10 seasons, the aptly nicknamed “Baby Face Assassin” represents the next best thing for the San Diego faithful. It will be Machado’s job to keep “Slam Diego” in baseball’s vernacular week after week.
His single-signed baseball costs about $75 on the secondary market and could go higher based on his potentially explosive output this season. Manny’s signature is easy to recognize with its double “M” type delivery on the sweet spot followed by his uniform number 13. His authentication fee via PSA stands at $30. Machado remains an attractive MVP possibility based on his ability (and eventual follow-through) to pick up the slack in SD.
Juan Soto (Nationals)
At age 19, Soto made an eye-opening MLB debut in 2018 by hitting 25 home runs, 22 doubles and finishing second in the NL ROY balloting. But it was his incredible performance a year later that made Juan Soto a household name. Not only did he hit 34 round-trippers and knock in 110 runs, but he led the Washington Nationals to the franchise’s first World Series title. In the Nats seven game Fall Classic against the Houston Astros, Soto batted .333 (9 for 27) with three home runs and seven RBI. He also recorded a jaw-dropping 1.178 OPS. In the past three seasons he has finished inside the Top 10 in NL MVP voting including a runner-up spot last season (29 home runs, 95 RBI and 111 runs). This year could be Soto’s for the taking.
A baseball signed by Soto currently commands $125 on the open market with his authentication fee from PSA listed at $25. His autograph sports a complete signature with every letter clearly visible and an unwavering line extending from the “J” in Juan to separate his first and last name. If the Nationals make it back to the postseason in 2022, their chances of winning will largely rest on their pitching rotation as well as the 34 inch Old Hickory maple bat swung by Soto.
Getting your signed baseballs authenticated by a third-party provider like PSA is important, for resale opportunities as well as your own peace of mind. You can even go as far as to get your autographed baseballs graded by PSA, where both the signature and the condition of the ball are jointly examined and given grades. The choice is up to you, but always remember to have fun with your collecting pursuits and say “thank you” to the signer. Being courteous goes a long way every day.