Tuesday, May 11, 2010

File This Under Buyer Beware

I get it, Stephen Strasburg is hot all around the hobby. Pulling one of his autos out of a box of 2010 Bowman is equivalent to a nice payday for most people. Its gotten to that level, as seen by some recent sales/presales of his cards from the product. However, cards like this one dont fall under prospecting anymore, as the prices are are so high that I cant condone anyone even thinking about buying now.

For those of you who dont get it, Prospecting is the practice of buying unproven players at low prices and selling them after call up for higher ones. Most good prospectors focus on a handful of players that they find to have good potential to make the big leagues, and then buy a few lots of their cards to grade and then stash for their big debut. The key focus of this practice is taking advantage of a team's fans looking to buy the rookie card of the most recent addition to the squad. Buying low, selling high(er) is the mantra, and whoever thinks that paying this much for Strasburg is going to get them any money back on a prospecting investment is going to be sadly mistaken.

I realize that buying these cards may actually be more about the A) rarity of the card or B) popularity of the player for a team that has NO ONE else, but I actually believe a lot of these huge spikes are from buyers who think they are about to get in on the next big thing before it (he) happens. The problem with that is pretty easy to explain, especially considering who the first pick in this year's draft is going to be, and which team he will play for. First, Strasburg plays in a black hole of hobby value, as Washington is a terrible place to invest any money. Look at players like Ryan Zimmerman. Like Bradford with the Rams, the Nationals are terrible, and I doubt that will change anytime soon. Strasburg could end up like Tim Lincecum and put together a few Cy Youngs, but the Nationals have a much smaller following than the Giants. Add in that Lincecum's cards are still selling at relatively the same price as Strasburg's are now, and you have to wonder what the odds are that they are going to end up at similar platforms of performance.

Rather than being the next Johan Santana, Strasburg could also end up like Mark Prior, as fire-ballers have more of a propensity to burn out quickly. Because of this fact, there is zero reason to invest now while things are as high as they are rather than later when he has a few years under his belt. If Strasburg had lower sell values and didnt cost a car payment to obtain, it may be a little different.

This is a similar situation with Starlin Castro and Jason Heyward, as both players have played above their pay grade for the first few weeks of the season. People are using this small sample size as an indicator of of things to come, which has led to huge prices. Im not saying that either will or will not continue on the pace that they are on, just that it isnt worth spending hundreds now when they are at their peak.

I remember when Adrian Peterson hit his peak after his NFL record rushing game. It was a feeding frenzy of people trying to get in on the 84th floor rather than the ground floor. I had been buying Peterson cards as a Vikings fan all year, and all of a sudden I was faced with triple prices from people who were trying to invest. His values have remained high, but no where near where they were. This is a guy who has been one of the best at his position since that time frame, what about those that havent replicated that initial success?

Strasburg could have a great career, but he may also have a junk career. Investing in him at these prices is way too big of a risk to take, especially with Bryce Harper coming along next year. There is always a next big thing, but there have only been one Albert Pujols and one Alex Rodriguez. If it were 20 bucks, hell, go nuts, but this is a TON of money. Buyer beware.


  1. Buying google stock at it's peak is too late... same goes for Strasburg! Now I just gotta hope a pull one... cha-ching! I'll buy it back for $5 in 10 years when he blows his arm out.

  2. I have been advocating Lincecum as a sanity check yardstick for Strasburg's future performance for months now.

    You are right on target about Strasburg prices being on the 84th floor right now, and only a fool would buy, even if you could guarantee somehow that Strasburgs first three years would be equal, much less better than, Lincecum's.

    The real problem is paying 84th floor prices, when then building itself doesn't even have 50 floors. That's not prospecting--it's predating on the uninformed.