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Whose rookie card should you invest in? Buster Posey vs. Gary Sanchez

When looking into a possible head-to-head comparison article, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the catcher position and compare the two players with the highest value baseball cards.

The average fan should not be surprised to find that Buster Posey would emerge as one of the candidates. Posey has easily been the best overall catcher in the game ever since he won the NL MVP award in 2012, combining steady middle of the order production at the plate, with solid defense and pitch framing abilities.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 2.14.54 PM.pngThe second player, Gary Sanchez, may catch some by surprise to already be one of the two most expensive catchers collectors can buy, despite playing only 55 career games. Of course the reason why collectors are so excited is because what Sanchez did once he was called up last year was out of this world.

Sanchez put up a .299/.376/.657 batting line with a monstrous 20 HRs (Posey only knocked out 20HRs twice in his career) and an arm that you do not dare run on.

If you are interested in getting Posey’s 2008 Bowman Chrome base auto (BGS 9.5), considered his most sought after card, it’ll cost you at least $200 if you are lucky. That is a pretty fair value for a player who is at the top of his position, has an MVP award, and the best position player on three championship teams.

A career WAR of 33 is not too bad through his age 29 season. But because of the games lost to injury, he’ll need to stay productive through his late 30s (a la Carlton Fisk) to have a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Now for the real surprise, Gary Sanchez’s 2010 Bowman Chrome base auto will actually cost you more that Posey’s. Part of the reason why is a non-baseball factor and that is that mint condition copies of the card are really hard to come by.

On eBay, you’ll find at the most a BGS 9 ($270), or a BGS 8.5 ($150). I even saw a BGS 7 go for $150 recently. There are plenty of ungraded cards out there as well so perhaps once those cards are graded we may see more mint condition cards on the market.

From a baseball perspective, it’s easy to be excited about Gary Sanchez. A terrific defensive catcher who could legitimately hit 40 HRs is so rare it’s almost mythical. That makes his ceiling a cross between Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza.

However, we really need to contain our excitement because underneath the exciting 2016 stats lies some reasons for caution.

First, if you really enjoy advanced stats, read this phenomenal article by Fangraphs where they search for comparable players using exit velocity data. The good news is that they suggest the strongest comparables are Yoenis Cespides and Nelson Cruz, two legitimate power hitters.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 2.14.25 PM.pngThe down side is that their prediction is that Sanchez probably had a couple more HRs more than he should have. The other bad news is that the other comparables are your typical high power, high strikeout players like Kris Davis and Keon Broxton. We saw this a bit in September and October where Sanchez had a .225 BA compared to a .389 BA in August.

The high price, and the fact that we will probably see a pull back from Sanchez’s 2016 totals cause me to lean towards Posey. With that said, two or three years from now, we might be talking about Gary Sanchez as the best catcher in the game.

Right now though, for his card value to climb higher, he’ll have to prove that he is a top 10-15 player in the whole league. However, before jumping in with an investment I would like to see a bit more from Sanchez first.

DK

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