Welcome to Sets Revisited, a series where we take a look at sets of years past. This time around, we’re setting the way back machine to the Summer of 2017 to evaluate one of the hottest baseball sets in the last few years. The perfect storm of Aaron Judge in the East and Cody Bellinger in the West set the hobby ablaze. Long time collectors and new collectors returning the hobby simply could not get enough of these two sluggers. With a strong supporting rookie class, 2017 Topps Chrome was the highly anticipated pinnacle of the 2017 baseball season for Topps. Although Topps continued to release sets well into the off season, nothing quite captured the magic of 2017 Topps Chrome.
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Please note that any price speculation, player or card evaluations in this blog are the opinions of the writer – James Good in this case, and do not reflect the same views as COMC as a company.
The A Class – aka The Money Cards
It should really be no surprise to see this group of players leading the pack as the rookie autograph cream of the crop. While Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger went back and forth in the popularity contest while each running away with their respective league’s Rookie of the Year crowns, Alex Bregman and Andrew Benintendi quietly put together campaigns that would have put them in the running for those awards in most seasons. Meanwhile, Yoan Moncada and Ian Happ showed strong promise
Judge and Bellinger autos will set you back quite a few dollars, but both have the early makings of becoming iconic cards in the industry. If they’re anything like their fellow mega stars of the game (Giancarlo Stanton & Bryce Harper come to mind), their value should rise steadily for years to come. Benintendi, Bregman and Moncada are all more economical investment options, and could yield higher returns overall than the big two, but at a slower rate. Happ remains the wild card of the group, but has all the makings of a star and plays for a big market team, hence deserving a spot in the A Class.
The B Class – aka The Investment Group
I’v dubbed the next ten best cards of the 2017 Topps Chrome Rookie Auto class as ‘The Investment Group’ because several of these players have a chance to break out huge over the next several years and join the ranks of standout 2017 rookies above. Trey Mancini came into the season with a buzz and did not disappoint. His stock could rise substantially in Baltimore with the speculative departure of Manny Machado. Mitch Haniger flew under the radar for the Seattle Mariners in 2017, and despite injuries produced a stat line similar to Bregman. It wasn’t until he cranked out 10 home runs in April 2018 that his hobby stock rose significantly and the price of his ’17 Topps Chrome Auto rose from $4 to $15.
Yuli Guerriel‘s age (32) played a factor in his hobby value, but like Bregman, did have a huge spotlight shined on him (both positively and negatively) as the Astros claimed World Series glory. Teoscar Hernandez only played 26 games last year, but did hit 8 homers for Toronto after being traded in a deal that saw Francisco Liriano head to Houston. The price of his rookie auto has steadily risen ever since and his base auto is currently sold out at time of writing.
Matt Olson generated his fair share of hobby buzz by smashing 24 homers in under 60 games, but his value has tapered off in 2018 with a slow start. Josh Hader has increased his stock dramatically as a dynamic reliever who is an absolute strikeout machine. It’s likely that a large amount of Hader autos can still be found in $3 and $5 boxes at your local card shows – scoop them up because the kid is young and can deal! Hype for Alex Reyes is starting to generate as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. He is the Cardinals top-rated prospect. Tyler Austin, David Dahl, and Ryon Healy round out the group with similar long term investment potential as the rest of the B Class, but they’ve yet to put it all together at the big league level for a sustained period of time yet. Of the three, Healy has shown above average defense and pop in his bat playing for the Seattle Mariners as their everyday first basemen. Any of these three players can get hot in an instant and when they do, their chrome starts shining a lot brighter!
The C Class – aka High Risk, High Reward
Rookie Chrome Autos for starting pitchers tend to be somewhat polarizing in the hobby – they’re either very hot or very tepid. Highly touted pitching prospects often dominate Bowman prospecting speculation, yet fail to produce similar hype initially once they reach Topps Chrome. For that reason, I’ve dubbed this class as high risk, high reward.
The C Class is rounded out by two starting pitchers who have each shown that they deserve a spot in their team’s starting rotation, but have yet to show collectors a reason to invest with urgency. Luke Weaver and Carson Fulmer have all the makings of top-of-the-rotation pitchers, but are still developing at the big league level. Jessie Winker, Lewis Brinson, Bradley Zimmer, Hunter Dozier and Franklin Barreto have yet to really make a splash in the majors, but they show all the tools to be solid everyday players. Unfortunately, in an industry that is constantly chasing the next big thing, they’ll each have to step it up to gain recognition in the hobby beyond the local scale.
The D Class – A Couple of These Guys Will Prove Everyone Wrong
*Record scratch* *Freeze Frame*
Dansby Swanson: “Yup, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up here in the D Class….”
I know that this is going to generate some buzz, and a lot of people are going to disagree with my assessment. I hope that I end up being wrong, because I fully expect at least two or more of these guys to put together great big league careers. I expect that a few of these guys certainly won’t stay in the $5 price range either. But for right now, this is where Dansby Swanson belongs. He has all the potential to be a B+ or even an A- player years from now, but he has a long road to redemption. To say that his career up to this point hasn’t gone the way that him and a lot of speculative prospectors would have hoped would be an understatement. With all the young talent that is flowing in Atlanta, Dansby is going to struggle to regain his footing in the hobby as players like Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies pass him by.Although he has shown flashes of brilliance at times this season, he is currently a bottom of the order hitter on a team stacked with younger, and wildly more popular talent.
Of the rest of the players in this group, I’d like to highlight Jorge Alfaro, Chad Pinder, and Hunter Renfroe as the three most likely candidates to break out of this group. Pinder has also shown to be adept with the bat – cranking out 15 home runs in 2017 but striking out around 30% of the time.
The F Class – Available in Bulk on COMC!
I’m not going to say anything bad about this group of players. Every Topps Chrome rookie auto checklist is rounded out by a crop of guys who simply aren’t buzz worthy in the hobby. Some of these guys will have decent careers or fit niche roles very well throughout their career. However, for now they will forever be the ‘hits’ that could have been. For every Aaron Judge auto pulled from a pack of chrome with excitement, there is a Joe Jimenez or Reynaldo Lopez auto hit elsewhere with little fanfare.
The good news is that if one of these players do happen to break out, a feeding frenzy of flipping (say that one three times fast!) will happen because these players are all available in bulk on the COMC Marketplace! For the sake of optimism, I’ll take Rob Gsellman and Pat Valaika as my two candidates who could shift the market with a single performance.
Overall as a whole, I’m going to give the 2017 Topps Chrome Rookie Autograph class a collective grade of B+ This set has some serious potential to go down as one of the best in Topps Chrome history. Featuring two of the games most popular players with bright careers ahead, and several others with the ability to reach that level, this wasn’t a product where collectors were only chasing one big name. I highly enjoyed ripping my case of 2017 Topps Chrome in a hotel room while vacationing in North Carolina. Hitting a purple Judge auto at the height of his popularity will always be one of my favorite hobby moments, and the reason why this set is near and dear to my heart.