Posted by: portersprospectreport | May 30, 2008

2005 Bowman Draft and Chrome–More Wheat Than Chaff

Since its inception in 2002, Bowman Draft and Chrome has persistently ingrained itself into the hubris of almost every baseball card prospector as being the measuring stick by which all other rookie products are judged.

Upon its issuance in late 2005, the then $55/box product boasted the much ballyhooed first year chrome autographs of 1st round picks Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Drew and Jared Weaver. As the next two seasons progressed, so did the collecting industry’s infatuation with this set as super phenoms like Ryan Braun, Colby Rasmus, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Matt Garza nudged their collective ways to the forefront of the the autograph spotlight. In addition to the autos, chromies fell in love with first year base cards like Clay Buchholz, Troy Tulowitzki, and Baseball America’s #1 prospect of 2008, Jay Bruce.

A set of this grandeur would, alone, satiate the cravings of virtually every chromie. However, ’05 has distinguished itself as a truly elite product as several unrefined gems available in ample and affordable quantities. Below, I have listed 2 autos and 6 base cards that I believe to be relatively undiscovered values available in the set.

    Autos:

1.) John Mayberry Jr.—Texas Rangers OF

Currently selling on Ebay between $14-$17 each, Mayberry has steadily progressed through the much improved Rangers farm system and currently resides at AAA Oklahoma where he has compiled a .296 BA between his AA and AAA stops with 8 HR, 29 RBI and 5 SB. Last season Mayberry hit 30 HR, 83 RBI and High A and AA stops and added 17 SB. Mayberry has had trouble controlling the strike zone in the past, though, his early returns from AAA (13 K’s in 104 AB’s) are a pleasant change.

The Skinny:
5-tool talents with 6-6 230 lb. frames are a dime a dozen…in the NBA. In watching him play, I am reminded of a young Dave Winfield who only needs to patch up a couple of holes in his long swing before he is ready to be another powerful cog in a much improved and talented young Texas Rangers team. Mayberry has only the platoon of Marlon Byrd and Milton Bradley impeding his progress to the LF spot in the Ballpark of Arlington.

Dollars and Sense:
Mayberry’s chrome autos are bargains under $20. I believe this card will sell between $30-40 after his September call-up. For a real bargain snatch up his Bowman Heritage autos selling at $5 a pop. For mass quantities, Topps Chrome Traded RC’s can be purchased for under $1 each. The Rangers franchise is on the rise and collectors are taking notice!

2.) Chris Volstad—Florida Marlins RHP

Volstad is a king-sized 1st round HS pick who throws a hard 2-seamed sinker between 90-92 that hitters pound into the ground more than twice as often as they hit it into the air. Volstad, at 21 years old, is already pitching at AA Carolina and is 3-2 with a 2.96 ERA.

The Skinny:
Volstad is a big workhorse who throws strikes and is advancing quickly through the Marlins’ farm system. While he doesn’t possess the electric fastball of his Florida counterparts Ryan Tucker (more on him later) and Andrew Miller, his solid control and heavy sinker will offer him plenty of opportunities to win for the Marlins.

Dollars and Sense:
Volstad’s chrome autos sell in the $12-15 range, however, his ’05 sterling autos are considerably less at $5-7 each. Although the Marlins franchise offers little to the interests of the collecting industry, Volstad is close to being ML ready and a September call up for him is not out of the question. If granted, his cards should double if, and when, he wins.

    Base Cards:

1. Michael Bowden—Boston Red Sox RHP

Bowden’s progress has been somewhat overlooked due to last season’s emergence of Clay Buchholz and this season by Justin Masterson. The fact remains, however, that Bowden has 3 major league quality pitches and is putting a superb season together at AA Portland. Bowden is 4-3 with a 2.20 ERA and is holding opposing hitters to a lowly .180 average.

The Skinny:
Bowden is a Red Sox prospect who is more than a year younger than Masterson and two years younger than Buchholz. The Red Sox seem content to allow him to continue to develop at Portland but a September call up seems to be reasonable to expect. I would expect that a promotion to Pawtucket will happen by July, likely sooner, if he continues to pitch well. Keep an eye on his Pawtucket starts as that will have great bearing on whether or not he earns some September MLB appearances.

Dollars and Sense:
Red Sox prospects are always in demand on the online market and once they make their debuts on Yawkey way, prices will go through the roof. Currently, Bowden’s chrome RC’s sell for $2-$3 each but I think the true value for Bowden’s cards lie in the $10 refractors and $20-$25 Bowman Sterling Jersey Autos. Bowden’s 2005 products are limited to Bowman Draft and Chrome and Bowman Sterling.

2. Josh Bell—L.A. Dodgers 3B

Bell has a solid 6-3 235 lb. switch-hitting frame that blasted 17 HR and 71 RBI over two levels last season. This season Bell has continued to progress a High A Inland Empire hitting .276 with 6 HR and 21 RBI this season. Strikeouts have been his bugaboo during his young career (55 K’s in 50 games), which could haunt him at higher levels. On the positive side, Bell has a .373 OBP due to 31 BB. This indicates to me that the plate discipline has improved considerably. Keep an eye on this ratio as he progresses.

The Skinny:
Bell’s only RC can be found in the ’05 Draft and Chrome series, which could prove to be huge if Bell graduates into the upper echelon of young power hitting prospects. His thick frame has not robbed him of any athleticism and his strong arm plays well at 3rd base or in a corner outfield spot.

Dollars and Sense:
Bell’s base chrome cards sell for $1.50 each, and refractors can be acquired for $8-10 each. There seems to be an organizational logjam at 3rd base with Blake Dewitt playing so well and Andy LaRoche waiting in the wings. The Dodgers are also really high on Andrew Lambo who has just as much, if not more, offensive ability and is only one level behind Bell. Although, Bell is probably 2 years away from the majors, I would not be surprised to see Bell become a vital part of a trade package. If this happens, we may see a bump in his value. For this season consider him a lock to hit 20-25 HR and 80-90 RBI. This production alone will vault the value of his only RC’s to the $2.50-3.00 range.

3.) Nick Weglarz—Cleveland Indians 1B

Weglarz currently is playing at High A Kinston and is hitting .264 with 5 HR and 20 RBI. This is following a solid 2007 campaign that produced a .276 BA with 23 HR and 82 RBI. Weglarz is a massive 6-3 245 lb. masher who has an incredibly advanced knowledge of the strike zone (45 BB vs. 39 K’s). At just 20 years old, Weglarz projects to be a 30-40 HR hitter in the major leagues.

The Skinny:
The Indians have a history of developing superior offensive talent and Weglarz’s power from the left side is reminiscent of Travis Hafner (before his power outage). Weglarz could stand to be a little more aggressive at the plate as his SLG is down this season from .498 to .421. I would keep an eye on this number. I think that the Indians would be best suited to keep Weglarz at Kinston for a complete season to further develop his power.

Dollars and Sense:
Several prospectors have taken notice of the power potential of Weglarz and his lack of true RC’s available. Regardless, regular chrome RC’s can be purchased for $2-$3 each. The supply in the marketplace of refractors have been limited recently as it seems that several people are sitting on his cards to see what he is doing. If you can grab a refractor for under $12.00…do it! I think great value can be found in his non-chrome RC’s as they have been selling in bulk lots in the 25-50 cent range.

4.) Nolan Reimold—Baltimore Orioles

Reimold is currently at AA Bowie, where he excelled late last season hitting .296 with 11 HR in 50 games. This season, Reimold’s power has yet to completely manifest itself (7 HR in 197 AB’s). However, his 6-4 207 lb. frame exudes power and athleticism. Reimold profiles as a 20-25 HR per season corner outfielder at the major league level with better than average plate discipline.

The Skinny:
Reimold has ’05 RC’s limited to each of the Bowman products (no autographs). Reimold tends to be streaky and prone to injury (perhaps that is why he is streaky). Reimold’s plate discipline has developed well and he has cut back on the strikeouts. At 24 years old, he is not a young prospect and his window to be an impact prospect will close soon if he does not progress more quickly.

Dollars and Sense:
Cheap power is the selling point for Reimold cards. Bowman Chrome Draft base cards are available for as low as $.50, not bad for someone with his power potential. Left field has some potential openings for Reimold as only Luke Scott impedes his progress. If he stays healthy, Reimold could get a shot in Camden Yards in September. If so, his cards could become a sweet bargain.

5.) Craig Italiano—Oakland A’s

Italiano has had a hard luck beginning to his career, he missed most of last season after taking a line drive off of his face in May and he missed all of 2006 with a shoulder injury. The ’08 season has served as a renaissance for the 21 year old flame thrower and former 2nd round pick. Currently, Italiano is 6-0 with a miniscule 0.72 ERA and 63 K’s in 50 IP. Italiano features a 98 MPH fastball and looks to be developing as a starter after some speculation that he would be a future closer.

The Skinny:
The A’s have a plethora of young lively arms at all levels of their farm system, as well as their MLB rotation. With this in mind, it seems quite clear that Italiano is quite some way from the major leagues, as he is dominating at Low-A Kane County. He seems due to be moved to Stockton within the next couple of starts (what a rotation that will be!). Italiano’s control has been very good this season which indicates that the specter of last season’s freak accident is no longer haunting him.

Dollars and Sense:
Italiano has cards in all of the Bowman products and a chrome auto in the ’05 Topps Chrome update set. Predictably, the auto will carry the most demand and are currently selling for $8-10. Superior values can be found in the various refractors in the chrome draft sets. Blue refractors have sold for under $20 and X-Fractors are $8-$10. Collectors seem to be skeptical of his early success. If you are willing to be patient, Italiano could prove to be a solid value down the road.

6.) Reid Engel—Boston Red Sox

Ah, another Red Sox prospect! In a rich system, Engel is often overlooked by prospectors. I happen to like his extremely athletic frame (6-3 190 lb.), and the fact that he is a left-handed hitter who has historically hit lefties well. Engel is a 5-tool talent who has 15-20 HR potential. He is currently at High A Lancaster hitting .267 (only .108in his last 10 games) with 6 HR and 22 RBI.

The Skinny:
Engel is overshadowed by several other fine offensive prospects in the Red Sox rich farm system. Also, injuries have hampered his growth as a player. However, he just turned 21 and has the advantage of being in a system that can afford to be patient as he refines his skills. One caveat is that Engel is at Lancaster which is historically known for being a hitter’s paradise. Watch to see his progression when he reaches AA Portland (late this season or at the beginning of 2009).

Dollars and Sense:
Another case in which this is Engel’s only card. That, coupled with the fact that he is a Red Sox prospect, makes any achievements that Engel accomplishes more notable in the eyes of collectors. Engel’s chrome base cards are currently selling in the $1.00-$1.50 range on Ebay. Grabbing a 10-20 card quantity and holding patiently could prove to be valuable.

    Others to watch:

Brad Corley—Pittsburgh Pirates OF

An RBI machine who at AA Altoona has yet to learn to take a walk. If he does, he will hit in Pittsburgh’s outfield. Currently, Corley is batting .296 with 4 HR and 20 RBI and a .326 OBP.

John Drennen—Cleveland Indians OF

2 years removed from hitting a dinger off of The Rocket, he has not lived up to his immense potential, but he is still only 21 and his having a decent season at High A Kinston hitting .282, but the power has been non-existant to this point.

Matt Maloney—Cincinnati Reds LHP

Power lefty who will crack the Reds rotation at some point later this year. He has impressed at every level in the minor leagues and currently is a AAA Louisville with a 6-2 record (4-0 in his last 5 starts) and 54 K’s in 61.1 innings.

Ryan Tucker—Florida Marlins RHP

Flame thrower that has already caught the eye of many chromies. He is dominating AA 3-2 with a 1.38 ERA and 58 K’s in 65 innings. He will be in AAA and/or Florida very soon!

Brandon Erbe—Baltimore Orioles RHP

Horrible season last year but has incredible physical tools and is still just 20 years old. Currently 4-4 with a 4.84 ERA at High A Frederick.

I will be interested to see what comes of these players in the near future. I hope this thread helps you in your prospecting!

Please feel free to add your thoughts on these or other lesser known prospects in the ‘05 Bowman Draft Set.

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