Jackie Bradley Jr. Bursts Onto The Scene

There’s a reason why the Red Sox — fresh off their third World Series Championship in 10 years — allowed Jacoby Ellsbury to flee to New York following the the 2013 season with little resistance.

The reason was Jackie Bradley Jr. The same reason why Cuban import Rusney Castillo, who signed a $72.5 million contract in 2014, is trying to find his groove with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox.

There is a reason why former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and newly appointed baseball chief Dave Dombrowski rebuked the many trade offers for the multi-talented Bradley over the past three years despite Bradley’s anemic .198 batting average and .531 OPS in his 2014 major league debut season. That reason is coming to fruition on a nightly basis.

The previously all-field, no-hit center fielder has become one of baseball’s most dangerous offensive threats. Bradley is working on a 15-game hitting streak, the longest in the majors this season. During that time, he is hitting a robust .382 with four doubles, three triples, four homers and 17 RBI with a sizzling 1.215 OPS. Bradley’s .903 OPS for the season is 13th in the AL, just behind proven offensive forces Mike Trout (.964) and Josh Donaldson (.931).

Although the sample size is small, Bradley has been one of baseball’s toughest outs this season. Facing defenses stacked to the right side, Bradley has found the gaps with a powerful opposite-field swing. He has also been able to pull the ball with authority when facing pitches on the inner half of the plate.

With just parts of three major league seasons under his belt, Bradley already has a wide-array of baseball cards ranging no-glitz minor league cards to chrome and high-premium rookies. His earliest cards date back to his college days.

As the driving force behind the University of South Carolina’s first national championship in 2010, Bradley established himself as a highly-skilled offensive and defensive player worthy of first-round consideration in the MLB amateur draft. Bradley hit .368, with a mind-blowing 1.060 OPS, 60 RBI, 56 runs, 13 homers and seven steals in 67 games during the regular season. Ten hits during the World Series earned the Richmond, VA native the College World Series Most Outstanding Player Award. Bradley’s 2010 Topps “Collegiate Team” Triple Jersey is a great buy for $5.

Later tJBJRChat summer, Bradley threw out the first pitch at a Kansas City Royals game as Major League Baseball honored the South Carolina Gamecocks championship team. The recognition continued as Bradley was named to the Team USA Collegiate National Team.

The 2010 Bowman Platinum Rookie, Bradley’s first baseball card of note, captures the five-tool outfielder in his left-handed stance against a silhouetted baseball field background. This card is a great buy for $3 with the “Gold” parallel version selling for $8. High-gloss Bowman Platinum rookie cards gain significant value as rising stars develop. Trout, Bryce Harper, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey and Jason Heyward Platinum rookies are some of the hobby’s most sought-after cards.

Bradley’s first memorabilia card can also be found in the Platinum Series. His USA Autograph/Jersey card with a production run of 740 sell for $45 and are on the rise. The more scarce version, limited to a production run of 50, is approaching $100 in value. Be sure to keep the Platinum cards in protective shields, as fingerprints will appear on the silver or gold foil and edges chip with the slightest contact.

A subpar junior season, which ended with a wrist injury, turned into good fortune for the Red Sox. Watching a player with off-the-chart tools and advanced skills slip through the first round, the Red Sox pounced on Bradley with the 40th overall pick. He was actually their fourth pick of the day, behind highly-touted pitcher Matt Barnes, catcher Blake Swihart and pitcher Henry Owens. Bradley quickly proved his worth by reaching AA-ball in his first full season and finishing second in the system in batting average and first in on-base percentage.

Bradley’s 2012 Bowman Rookie — his first card in a Red Sox uniform — is a great buy for $1, while the chrome version is selling for $2.00. Still reasonably priced, now is the time to buy these cards. Chrome Refractor Autograph versions are selling for as much as $90.

Topps 2016 Baseball Makeover Is A Hit

The long overdue Topps Baseball makeover has finally happened. The 2016 base version features an almost-full-bleed photo — a distinct and much-needed difference from the white borders that became a pillar in recent Topps releases. The new look is similar to the popular Topps Stadium Club and Fleer UltrTrout 2016a sets of the early to mid 1990s. A faint smokey effect on opposite corners of the base cards seems to enhance the photo and adds to the modern design. Additionally, a diagonal team logo is placed in the corner alongside a small text box at the bottom.

Although change does not come easy for extreme traditionalists — a large segment of the baseball card collecting hobby — Topps deemed the change necessary moving forward. In a press announcement, Topps senior art director John Doldan stated, “We have had a white border for so many years and it was sort of a staple of the Topps design. I think we are trying to move forward and make the cards a little more modern and current. I think gradually we have been going in that direction and break from the past a little bit.”

The 2016 Topps Series One base 350-card base set feature rookies, veterans, future stars, World Series highlights, league leaders and team cards. Mike Trout was voted by fans and collectors to be card #1. One of the more colorful cards captures the infamous Jose Bautista playoff bat flip.

Bautista 2016 ToppsThe series also pays homage to late Topps patriarch Sy Berger and the history of Wrigley Field with special subsets. The 65-card “Berger’s Best” subset features an iconic card reproduced from each year since 1952. The “100 Years of Wrigley Field” features 25 of the most memorable Chicago Cubs moments.

The rookie checklist features:

  • Hector Olivera, Atlanta Braves
  • Henry Owens, Boston Red Sox
  • Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
  • Corey Seager, Los Angels Dodgers
  • Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
  • Michael Conforto, New York Mets
  • Greg Bird, New York Yankees
  • Luis Servino, New Yankees
  • Aaron Nola, Philadelphia
  • Stephen Piscotty, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

The new look combined with unique subsets and a decent rookie checklist makes 2016 Topps a winner. Looking forward to Series 2 in June.