Despite basketball and football getting a vast majority of the headlines across the hobby, there will always be a magic feeling around baseball cards. Something about ripping into Topps Baseball, reading all the stats on the back of the cards, and collecting that year’s newest rookies while the winter turns to spring is something all longtime hobby enthusiasts can relate to.
So while Spring Training starts to wind down and Opening Day is rapidly approaching, we figured it’s time to ramp up the baseball card content over here on the Loupe blog. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to be taking a look at one rookie you should be collecting on each team in the league. There’s an overwhelming amount of young talent across baseball right now, which means there’s countless opportunities for card collectors to get in early on some future stars.
We’re going to start this weekly series in one of the most interesting divisions in all of baseball: The AL Central. While there appears to only be two teams with a chance of winning the division in the White Sox and Twins, there’s an abundance of interesting storylines that will be worth watching as the season progresses. Will Cleveland’s stacked rotation be enough to carry their lineup to a successful season? How far away are the Tigers, who have built up a consensus top three farm system in baseball?
Anyway, let’s dive in and take a look at these rookies:
Chicago White Sox: 1B/DH Andrew Vaughn
On just about every other team, the 22-year-old power hitting prospect would almost definitely be one of the most talked about players in the organization. However, in a lineup that boasts as much young talent as Chicago’s, Vaughn may be somewhat of an afterthought. The 3rd overall pick from 2019 seems to be the early favorite to break with the club as the Opening Day DH, and the White Sox don’t appear to be going the service time manipulation route (looking at you, Seattle Mariners).
With protection in the lineup from established stars such as Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal, plus fellow under-25 standouts Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, the pressure will be off Vaughn while he gets used to Major League pitching. Give him a couple months and this dude is going to be tearing the cover off the ball. Factor in a likely postseason run in a major market like Chicago, and Vaughn’s name is one you’ll be hearing quite a bit. His Topps rookie won’t be out until Series 2, but grab those 2019 Bowman cards while you can!
Cleveland Indians: 1B Bobby Bradley
There’s no shortage of stories to pay attention to in Cleveland this year, including how Andres Gimenez will fare as the Francisco Lindor replacement and if the Tribe’s stacked rotation is enough to make the AL Central a three-team race. The battle for the starting 1B position is of equal importance for the Indians, and it’s been playing out in front of our eyes in Spring Training. No matter who Terry Francona pencils in as the starter on Opening Day, Bobby Bradley is the guy to watch out for as the season goes on.
The rookie left-handed slugger has been on an absolute tear this spring, outperforming Jake Bauers and staking his claim to be named the everyday 1B. Because he had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2019, his true Topps rookie actually came out in the 2020 set, and he’s been appearing in Bowman sets since he was drafted back in 2014. A guy with a strong hit tool who’s destined to get playing time on a team that has a chance to be competitive is a perfect candidate to buy low on before the season starts.
Detroit Tigers: IF Isaac Paredes
“Jake, why are you telling me to collect someone who’s hitting .129 with twice as many strikeouts as hits in Spring Training?” I’ll tell you why! In a rookie class that’s loaded with pitching prospects, Paredes is the position player with the best chance to make an impact in 2021. Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene rightfully get all the attention, but with neither of them expected to debut until next year, it’s Paredes’ time to shine.
You can’t put too much thought into a sample size of 14 partial games, so expect Paredes to bounce back in a major way when opportunity presents itself. His ability to play just about every infield position will earn him more chances to crack the lineup, and his bat (when it’s right) can keep him there. Paredes is another guy who doesn’t have a Topps rookie card yet, but the current value of his Bowman cards seems low compared to the potential he has.
Kansas City Royals: LHP Daniel Lynch
As this list continues over the next few weeks I’m going to stick mostly with position players, but the Royals are a rare exception to that rule. Kansas City has an interesting mix of players in their lineup who are looking to untap their potential in a new organization, but as far as rookies go they’re looking a little slim. Future superstar Bobby Witt Jr. would be the obvious answer, but he’s likely at least a year away from the MLB.
Enter Daniel Lynch, the hard-throwing lefty with top of the rotation stuff. The Royals have four established starters and quite a few other pitching prospects, but over 162 games there will be plenty of innings that need to be filled. Lynch has the makeup of a pitcher who, once he makes the Major League team, won’t be leaving it any time soon.
Minnesota Twins: OF Alex Kirilloff
This choice looked a lot better a few days ago before the Twins optioned Kiriloff to their alternate site and decided they just didn’t need a starting LF on their roster, but I’m sticking with it for one simple reason: Kirilloff is far and away the most talented young player that will make an impact for the Twins in 2021. It’s hard to believe the Twins were willing to roll him out there in a postseason game last season but don’t see a spot for him on the Opening Day roster, but I’m willing to bet he’ll be in the big leagues before too long.
Kirilloff has struggled this spring (which seems to be a theme for most of the guys on this list), but his tools are more than enough to be an everyday contributor in the MLB. Similar to Vaughn with the White Sox, Kirilloff will have plenty of protection in one of the best lineups in the American League. Getting sent down before Opening Day was a bummer, but spin zone for card collectors? The hype will be at an all-time low, and his value will surely spike as soon as the Twins call him back up.
Sound off in the comments to let me know if I missed anyone, and check back next week for some rookies from the NL Central!