Being a baseball collector myself for the last 20+ years, I've put together a listing of players to collect in 2014. Some are looking to have bounce back seasons while others are looking to breakout or expand their resume in the baseball world.
Let's start Part 1 with covering the American League;
Don't hesitate: Manny Machado
- Even with his season ending injury last year, Machado is one of the brightest young stars in the game. He will only continue to get better and become possibly (dare I say it) next Jeter. He's on the perfect team and his cards will continue to rise, if you see a deal snag it up.
Watch for the breakout: Matt Weiters
- He's been on everyone's radar since he was a prospect. He really hasn't had the chance to work with a great lineup from 1-9 before and this year will give him his best opportunity to increase his value. His game calling continues to improve and his 2014 season should show his true hitting potential.
Be Cautious: J.J. Hardy
- Hardy's on the last year of his deal and is looking to be the top SS in FA for the 2015 season. He'll have a great year and his value will rise, but the following season his cards will drop down to what they are currently. Buy low and sell high late in the year and you'll be fine. Don't hold too long.
Boston Red Sox
Don't hesitate: Xander Bogaerts
- I love Shortstop prospects and this guy is a good one. He'll be around for a while in the sport and should be a cornerstone to Boston's next championship. Prices are high right now and will be throughout the year. If you see them starting to rise get on the train fast.
Watch for the breakout: Will Middlebrooks
- He's been in the collectible world for a while but has had sub-par results giving him lower prices in his cards. This year given a full year he will prove himself worthy of high stock. Even if he doesn't stay with the Sox, his a valuable young player for the future.
Be Cautious: Jackie Bradley Jr.
- There's a lot of pressure on him being the next Ellsbury and he isn't the same player. Sure he has the speed and defensive play but he won't hit a lot of homers or be a big RBI guy. Don't be fooled about his prices, remember what happened to Carl Crawford?
New York Yankees
Don't hesitate: Derek Jeter
- He'll be missed on the field and in regular cardboard releases. Of course Topps will have multiple of ways to include him in most products, but his stats will end after 2014. 1st Ballot HOF player and the top icon in collecting for the last decade of collecting. His Rookie Cards will be the ones to hit hard at. High Graded are even better for your future collection.
Watch for the breakout: Brian McCann
- This will become his team to captain after 2014. This year he will just go out and rake in Yankee Stadium. McCann will have an MVP type season and will for the next few years in this park. He's pretty cheap right now so stock up before the middle of this season.
Be Cautious: Yankee Prospects
- Who's the next Jeter, Cano, or Rivera? Exactly, the Yanks don't have the greatest system right now and they will continue to feed their team with FA's for the next while. if any prospect comes up this year be cautious on jumping on his cards right away. Not to say they won't do well, but might be a while for the next Yankee grown within to appear.
Tampa Bay Rays
Don't hesitate: Wil Myers
- Do you have any of his RC's? If not get them, all! He will be one to watch. The barehanded batter will continue to grow and thrive in Tampa until they can't pay him the contract he deserves. When he leaves Tampa he'll become an even bigger star in collecting.
Watch for the breakout: Chris Archer
- Pitchers are hard to judge but when it comes to Tampa pitching prospects you know they will be good ones. Archer is one of those that will follow into the David Price mold. He might not win a CY Young award but he will become a front line starter on any team.
Be Cautious: Tim Backham
- This is one Shortstop prospects I liked until he had problems off the field. This will continue to hurt him in the long run as well in the Majors. The kid has great talent and should be on a "Don't hesitate" list but unfortunately he has a history that can't be avoided.
Toronto Blue Jays
Don't hesitate: Marcus Stroman
- This former Team USA star will become the next Chapman in the MLB. He's a small hard throwing pitcher that will be closing games for the Jays by the end of the 2014 season. He has potential to become a starter but might find a safe spot in the bullpen as the everyday elite closer. His cards are starting to creep up so watch when they spike up soon. Hopefully you'll have a few before then.
Watch for the breakout: Brett Lawrie
- A lot of people don't like him but he has great potential. He'll bounce back from the horrible 2013 campaign and become the solid hard playing third baseman that he is. His cards are affordable on Autographs and relic pieces, for now
Be Cautious: Kevin Pillar
- He has a lot of great tools but he's on the wrong team. Unless Bautista is traded or an injury happens he won't see playing time. If he ad enough at bats he will show you power and decent hitting that can develop further. He could be involved in a trade down the road which at that point could change him into one to watch for.
Chicago White Sox
Don't hesitate: Jose Abreu
- The hottest Cuban player in MLB. Power, Power and more Power. His potential is the same as Cespedes and will continue to grow. He'll have a great year in Chicago and will become the AL ROY. His cards are already high and will continue to rise once his first Topps cards hit the market.
Watch for the breakout: Avisail Garcia
- He'll finally have all the playing time in the world to become hi touted "Next Miggy" title. With this lineup he'll shine and provide the building block for Chicago's future. His Autograph RC's are pretty cheap so pick some up.
Be Cautious: Tyler Flowers
- Flowers will do well this year and might even have a breakout season. However he won't continue to thrive in this role. He's a good catcher and should be a decent hitter for the next few years but he won't be the star on this team. You'll see a spike this year but don't go crazy.
Don't hesitate: Francisco Lindor
- The top prospect in their system will be a good one. His cards are high but they are worth it. He'll be the future of this franchise and will be a contentious All-Star participate.
Watch for the breakout: Micheal Brantley
- He's under the breakout title only because he continues to increase his value. Playing in Cleveland the rest of the league might not have a chance to see him play. He's a top defender and can rake. His cards are pretty cheap all around so now will be the time to check in rather than paying more once he is a well known name.
Be Cautious: Lonnie Chisenhall
- He might be on your fantasy team but don't put much value in cardboard on him. he had high potential when he first arrived but now he would be better off in a trade to another team. Don't think you'll see him hit higher than base card value, he's more of a home team collector player.
Don't hesitate: Nick Castellanos
- Just like Wil Myers this guy can hit. Having a full time spot on the team will increase his value 100%. He doesn't see the same prices as Myers autographs or RC's so now is the time to grab him. Will be the cornerstone for the Tigers with Miggy.
Watch for the breakout: Jose Iglesias
- Jose never had a chance in Boston to show his potential. This guy has great defensive skills and will continue to improve his hitting in this lineup. His cards a very low and his split playing time last year, but this year he'll show the collecting world he will be a star in this league.
Be Cautious: Ian Kinsler
- Always have like Kinsler, a cheaper cardboard infielder that is a really good player. Moving to the Tigers should bring good things to his game but going from the extreme heat to a colder city could impact his play either way which is a toss up for his numbers. His RC's and autographs are pretty cheap to begin with so that should hurt too badly, just don't go nuts with high expectations.
Kansas City Royals
Don't hesitate: Salvador Perez
- Why his cards aren't higher is beyond me. This guy is the real deal and will be the best catcher in the game for years to come. Playing in KC has it's bonuses of not being in the spotlight and working on your game but also has a draw back of not being well known. He is the future of the Royals and you should have his cards in your collection.
Watch for the breakout: Mike Moustakas
- He's never had his moment yet. A great prospect coming up had his troubles playing but has great potential. This could be the year he makes a name for him self in the collecting world. He's part of this great young team, it's just a matter of getting his cardboard to rise.
Be Cautious: James Shields
- The whole contract talk before Spring Training is a sign he might not be back. Shields is a good pitcher and if on the right team could see his card prices influx but as he gets older it might not be the long run some thought. Might be the time to sell and fast.
Don't hesitate: Miguel Sano
- Just a matter of time until he's called up. He'll be one of those young and talented infielders that the American League will have. A core piece of the Twins future. Look for his 2010 cards to sky rocket once he's up full time.
Watch for the breakout: Joe Mauer
- not that he needs to breakout but moving from Catcher to First base will do wonders for Mauer. His hitting is already one of the best in the league but we should see a spike with the move. His cards are pretty decent to pickup a RC or autograph. He should be considered as HOF member once he retires so get on the Mauer buying spree before prices increase.
Be Cautious: Starting Outfielders
- If he didn't have the surgery this year Byron Buxton would be with Sano on this list. He's a couple of years away but has tremendous potential. The Starting outfielders for the Twins are just filling in until he's up. Don't become attached to any of them this year or next. They might do a decent job but Buxton is coming.
Don't hesitate: Mark Appel
- Will be the number one starter for this team once he's up. He has the right agent also when the Astros won't be able to sign him later in his career. They are taking their time bringing him up but he will come with a couple other pitchers that will make him better than what people are thinking.
Watch for the breakout: George Springer
- Full time in 2014? We'll see, but if he is he'll make this a pretty fun team to watch. Already full of youth this guy looks like he's been in the majors for years. Lots of upside with him and he could be a standout in the league.
Be Cautious: Young Prospects making a splash
- Houston is a young team that could surprise a few people this year. Along with Appel and Springer, Carlos Correa should be on this list. However there is a ton of talent coming up from the farm and just need to watch on those other young players. More so the hitters on the team will be figured out by veteran pitchers in the league and could make for a long summer. They are three to four years out from competing yearly in the AL West so have patience with them, don't jump on any collecting wagons just yet.
Don't hesitate: Mike Trout
- There just isn't anyone on the team like him or could come close. Most of us missed the boat on him when he arrived, but that's not to say you can't get in on some deals at card shows or expos. If you do see a decent autograph or relic card pick it up.
Watch for the breakout: Albert Pujols
- The former top player in the majors can't continue down this path can he? I don't think so, he might not get back to the MVP seasons but he has a chance to have a few great seasons with Trout in the lineup. His RC's have dropped a little and would be a good investment for your collection.
Be Cautious: Josh Hamilton
- Same as Pujols he should be back to form this year but we can't count on it. Since the trade he's been injury prone and not done very well. If he stays healthy he could become the former MVP he was but again be cautious, one bad cold or injury and he'll be out for a period of time or for the year.
Don't hesitate: Yoenis Cespedes
- If not for Trout this would be the guy everyone would be collecting. His cards are decent prices and you can find a nice relic or autograph for your collection. He will continue to do well and already has proven he can hit in the big Oakland stadium. If ever traded watch out!
Watch for the breakout: Jarrod Parker
- This is his best chance at a break out. He has a lot of potential and can provide that number one starter for the A's. His cards are super cheap and if he does live up to the billing they will rise.
Be Cautious: Jim Johnson
- He should do well in that huge park however a move like this can work both ways. He's not on anyone's collecting radar really as a closer but those that do jump on his cardboard don't go overboard.
Don't hesitate: Brad Miller
- Not well known and has very affordable cards, this guy is going to be a good one. Miller has been under the radar for being with the Mariners but can really breakout with Cano coming on board. Grab his cards now, he might be a few years out from being an All-Star but will be worth your money.
Watch for the breakout: Kyle Seager
- like Miller this is another of the young talent that the Mariners have. Seager is a really good player and should be about to reach his breakout soon. His cards are similar to Miller so try and stock up.
Be Cautious: Buying all the young prospects
- Like Houston the Mariners are full of young talent. The talent they have is very MLB ready and will be the core group for years to come. The reason to be cautious is that you could spend an awful lot of money buying up all these players cardboard. They have very high potential at every position and should be a treat for collectors buying into the Mariners. Just watch the wallet and pick one or two players to collect, you won't be able to afford them all.
Don't hesitate: Jurickson Profar
- Again I'm high on middle infielders and Profar will be an exciting player to watch. He will get his shot at the full-time gig with Kinsler leaving and will live up to his billing. His cards are high already but you might be able to find a steal somewhere, if you do hand over your money.
Watch for the breakout: Elvis Andrus
- Andrus has been on my radar since he was with Atlanta, He's been up there in the past but this could be his all out year. He's cards are affordable and some of his relics are nice pieces to own. He will be one to hold onto for years to come.
Be Cautious: Prince Fielder
- Prince should do very well in Texas with the stadium. He's on the cautious listing as his cards tend to fluctuate the most in the hobby. When he's killing the ball his cards are the highest, then maybe an 0-4 and they come down to life. try and buy a nice on-card autograph of his and you'll be happy, but don't buy into a lot of cards to flip or trade. Catch him on his lows and then wait for the highs if you go that route.
Part 2 featuring the National League Teams will be out later this week.
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