I’ve been slacking on the baseball card side of this blog so far and want to start righting that ship starting today. Being close to 40, I started collecting cards 31 years ago when I bought my first packs and eventual box of 1985 Topps baseball cards. There has been a ton of change in the industry, but Topps remains consistent as the only licensed manufacture of cards by both MLB and the Players association.
With that said, I had recently gone through some cards and was amazed at some of rookie card classes in recent years, which gave me an idea to rank the classes since I’ve been collecting.
Let’s take a look at what that looks like…
To start off, I am only going to use Topps and not any of its offshoot brands like Bowman or Finest. I’ll use the standard series cards and include traded/update sets as well. The term rookie card had only been defined in the last decade so things may not always be apples to apples. From 2006 on, a Rookie Card can only be established once a player has played in a Major League game. This makes update sets incredibly important as they catch the late call-ups in their sets. You’ll notice some overlap in the mid-2000’s because of this definition being established.
Additionally, Topps backed off rookie cards for a while it seemed by allowing Bowman (their rookie card brand since 1989) to get the first cards of players like Mariano Rivera, or other manufactures may steal the Rookie Card title altogether like Fleer did with David Ortiz. You’ll also notice duplication of some rookie cards in the ‘80’s since the players cards that came out in traded sets were considered XRC (extended rookie cards) since the cards were only sold in set form and away from the standard sets.
I’ll look at Hall of Famers, potential Hall of Famers, impact players, overall potential, etc. and remember…the PED era has nothing to do with anything in my opinion.
31. 1997; 29 total rookie cards (No traded or update set)
Key Rookies: Eric Chavez, Rod Barajas, Bill Mueller, Gil Meche, Jason Marquis, Braden Looper, Mark Kotsay, Kris Benson, Billy Koch, Richard Hidalgo, Ben Grieve
Why: No Hall of Famers and Chavez was truly only household name.
30. 1994; 92 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Paul Konerko, Jason Giambi, Jason Schmidt, Billy Wagner, Rusty Greer, Chan Ho Park, Brian Anderson, Terrence Long, Ben Grieve, Shawn Green, Billy Taylor, Kevin Witt
Why: Neither Konerko or Giambi are Hall of Famers, however both had impact over a sustained abmount of time. The list falls off very quickly after that
29. 1996; 26 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Scott Rolen, Sean Casey, Matt Morris, Raul Ibanez, Paul Konerko, Mark Bellhorn, Jarrod Washburn, Geoff Jenkins, Craig Wilson, Randy Winn, Derek Lee, Scott Spiezio, Brett Tomko, Shane Spencer
Why: Rolen could potentially be a Hall of Famer, however that’s to be seen. Casey, Ibanez, and Konerko are nice names, but Konerko’s 2nd card
28. 1995; 60 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Carlos Beltran, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Damon, Hideo Nomo, Richie Sexson, Michael Barrett, Bobby Higginson, Mark Grudzielanek, Brad Radke, Jay Payton, Rey Ordonez, Aaron Boone, David Bell, Ramon Castro, Scott Elarton
Why: No Hall of Famers again, but Beltran was a star for a while, Nomo was a sensation, and Johnny Damon’s numbers are surprising. That said, when key players include Scott Elarton and Brad Radke, well…
27. 2009: 80 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: David Price, Jordan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Alcides Escobar, Elvis Andrus, Koji Uehara, Josh Reddick, Rick Porcello, Mat Latos, Derek Holland, Chris Tillman, Gerardo Parra, Brett Anderson, Jonathon Niese, Tommy Hanson
Why: It’s to be seen if David Price is a Hall of Famer, but he could be. Jordan Zimmerman and Alcides Escobar are very solid, and Elvis Andrus at one time looked like a star.
26. 1992; 66 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, Brad Ausmus, Shawn Green, Cliff Floyd, Brian Jordan, Michael Tucker, Matt Stairs, Chad Curtis, Pat Listach, Ryan Klesko, Brien Taylor, Rico Brogna, Aaron Sele, Turk Wendell
Why: Manny should be a Hall of Famer, Nomar was up there with Jeter for some time and Varitek was a key figure in the Sox winning the series
25. 1998; 43 total rookie cards (No traded or update/set)
Key Rookies: Roy Halladay, Adrian Beltre, Code Lidle, Troy Glaus, Michael Cuddyer, Jack Cust, Robert Fick, Ryan Anderson, Jayson Werth, Brian Fuentes, Matt Clement, David Dellucci
Why: Halladay and Beltre are Hall of Famers, Glaus was big power guy, but not a ton to offer after those 3.
24. 1993; 123 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Derek Jeter, Todd Helton, Jim Edmonds, Todd Walker, Jason Kendall, Preston Wilson, A.J. Hinch, Paul Wilson, J.T. Snow, Sterling Hitchcock, Melvin Nieves, Dustin Hermanson, Woody Williams, Troy O’Leary, Mike Lansing
Why: The list starts off great and then it falls quickly from there. The only reason it is this high is because of impact Jeter had
23. 2002; 173 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Joe Mauer, Jose Bautista, Jason Bay, Dontrelle Willis, Rich Harden, Chone Figgins, C.J. Wilson, Gavin Floyd, Ryan Rayburn, Dan Johnson, J.J. Putz, Freddy Sanchez, Josh Barfield, Bobby Jenks, Neal Cotts
Why: Mauer will most likely be a Hall of Famer, Bautista has been great power and Jason Bay was at one point a budding star along with Dontrelle. Things get pretty weak after that.
22. 200; 65 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Braun, Hunter Pence, Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Hamilton, Phil Hughes, Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo, Homer Bailey, Tyler Clippard, Chase Headley, Miguel Montero, Adam Lind, Glenn Perkins, Kurt Suzuki
Why: No Hall of Famers in this group, however the names Braun, Ellsbury, Tulo and Hamilton have been at the top or towards the top on a lot of MVP ballots. Supporting cast Pence and Gallardo are nice as well
21. 2004; 175 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Felix Hernandez, Yadier Molina, Howie Kendrick, Phil Hughes, Kurt Suzuki, Erick Aybar, Homer Bailey, Huston Street, Nyjer Morgan, Blake DeWitt, Joel Zumaya, Carlos Quentin, Zach Duke, Dioner Navarro
Why: King Felix sure looks like a Hall of Famer as does Yadi. After that, not a whole lot
20. 2003; 140 total rookie cards
Key Rookies: Robinson Cano, Kevin Youkilis, Hanley Ramirez, Brian McCann, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Chien-Ming Wang, Franklin Gutierrez, Brandon Webb, Jason Kubel, Josh Willingham, Shane Victorino, Jose Contreras, Chris Duncan, Jeremy Bonderman
Stay tuned for 20-11