Saturday, January 18, 2014

ACC Baseball on Cardboard

College baseball season is getting close and I am pretty excited to check out some of our local teams around Raleigh-Durham.   I am planning on making it to several games this year and have a list of players I want to see from various colleges making trips in to play one of the three Triangle schools.   Last year both NC State and UNC made the College World Series and this year look just as promising for both teams.  NC State is lead by star pitcher Carlos Rodon and shortstop Trea Turner.  The Tar Heels will be lead by pitcher Trent Thorton and outfielder Skye Bolt.  The rest of the ACC has some talented players as well and the conference should be pretty deep this year.  

While it's great to live in an area where I have several great college baseball programs nearby, fans all across the county have had more and more access to the best players in college baseball regardless of their location.  The availability of college baseball cards has greatly increased during the past decade mainly through the popularity of the USA Baseball program and its continued popularity amongst baseball card collectors.  Here's my look at four good players in the ACC who are already featured on cardboard:

Carlos Rodon-P
NC State

Rodon projects to be the National Player of the Year, the ACC Player of the Year, and should also be the first overall draft pick in the MLB Amateur Draft this summer.  He's won every individual award there is to win during his two years in Raleigh.  He has also played a few summers over at USA Baseball which means he has several autographs and relics cards floating around already.  Here's a look at an autograph:

Rodon is a pretty hard player to collect.  He has a few cards out on the market, but they are pretty pricey for a baseball player who has not thrown his first professional pitch yet.  The average Rodon card frequently costs more than $50 and the bidding is usually very competitive.  I've been trying to get my hands on one of his new Panini cards, have the money to make a serious offer, but have been outbid, sniped at the last minute on Ebay, and everything else.  You almost have to overpay to land a copy of his cards.

Here's a look at Rodon in action:

Trea Turner-IF
NC State

 Turner currently is projected as the top position player available for this summer's MLB Draft.  Turner had a great freshman year, but had battled the injury bug a bit last year which limited his playing time.  He is incredibly fast and has pretty good patience at the plate.  Like Rodon, he's been around the USA Baseball program for a few years and has several cards out floating about.  They are much cheaper than Rodon's, but I would not say they are cheap.

Turner autographed cards are frequently more than $20.  Not a terrible price, but he still has never played an inning of professional baseball.  I think Turner is a pretty safe bet for Major League teams, so I am not sure where he will go in the first round, but he will be in there somewhere.  I would also guess he is not in the minors a really long time.

Skye Bolt-OF
North Carolina

Bolt is still another year away from the MLB Draft, but should be a pretty high pick coming up in two years.  He's a very patient hitter who posted a great average average, on-base percentage, and walked more than he struck out during his first year in Chapel Hill.  He doesn't have a ton of pop last year, but I am guessing he still develops some good power.  His cards are all from releases put out during the past year.  There are some really cool ones out there, but he's already pretty popular.  I am not sure if people love the name, or they know the potential talent.

I have a base card of Blot, but his autographs are already north of Trea Turner.  Bolt also has some great relic cards that can be found for less than $10. 

Luke Weaver-P
Florida State

Weaver was a second team ACC performer last year in Tallahassee and projects as a top 10 pitching prospect for this summer's MLB entry draft.  I did not get a chance to see Florida State's baseball team last spring, so I cannot speak on Weaver's abilities first hand.  He did pitch for the USA Baseball team this summer, but honestly I made sure that I saw Rodon when I went to their games.  Here's what I know about Weaver: he throws in the mid to low 90s and has a pretty incredible strikeout to walk ratio.  He does have baseball cards.

Weaver's cards are pretty affordable with his autographs sitting below $10 and his relic cards sitting below $5.  Worth a role of the dice given he is likely a first round draft pick. 

Name to remember for later in the summer, they will have baseball cards soon:
Trent Thronton-P University of North Carolina
Landon Lassiter-IF University of North Carolina
D.J. Stewart-OF Florida State
Bryan Radziewski-P Miami
Mark Zagunis-C Virginia Tech
Mike Papi-OF/1BVirginia
Daniel Gossett-RHP Clemson
Brett Austin-C NC State
Brandon Downes-OF Virginia
Derek Fisher-OF Virginia

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