With the convergence of multiple baseball card manufacturers and the Internet in the 90’s, many collectors turned into speculators and, therefore, investors. Major League Baseball's Amateur Draft has taken place every June since 1965, but the attention on the players has intensified ten-fold during that time. If you were a baseball fan in 1966, you probably didn't know that Steve Chilcott, a High School Catcher from Lancaster, California was the first overall pick in the country (by the Mets). And, even if you did, it wasn't anticipated that he would have a baseball card until he (someday) reached the Majors. Bryce Harper, the #1 pick in 2010, was the hottest card in the industry in 2011 and he'd never played above the Double-A level at that time. Now that he's reached the Majors at age 19, we'll see how the hype pays off. The same phenomenon took place in 2010 with Stephen Strasburg and he ended up on the operating table before the season was over.
Let's look at the top picks for the last 15 years and see how the hype turned out...
1997 - Matt Anderson, Tigers P...a tall pitcher with a triple digit fastball, ne never had any real success at the major league level.
1998 - Pat Burrell, Phillies OF...got to the majors in 2000 and had a fairly productive career that included over 300 HR's, but never a star.
1999 - Josh Hamilton, Devil Rays OF...lost his way to drugs and personal issues and was actually out of baseball before resurrecting his career with the Reds in '07...now an established star with the Rangers, he won the AL MVP in 2010...but if you bought a bunch of his rookie cards in 1999, you probably didn't keep them for eight years.
2000 - Adrian Gonzalez, Marlins 1B...two teams gave up on him before he established himself with the Padres in '06...signed a huge free agent contract with the Red Sox in 2011 and his rookie cards are just now starting to take off.
2001 - Joe Mauer, Twins C...the face of the Twins franchise since his debut in '04, he has won three AL Batting Titles...his rookie cards are popular but an injury-plagued 2011 didn't help.
2002 - Bryan Bullington, Pirates P...an example of why the Pirates haven't been relevant for over 15 years.
2003 - Delmon Young, Devil Rays OF...already on his third team before the age of 26, his recent behavior might explain why...hey, genius, Bud Selig is Jewish.
2004 - Matt Bush, Padres SS...a complete bust, he was trying to re-invent himself as a Pitcher when arrested this Spring for a DUI hit-and-run accident...hey, Delmon, here's your cellmate.
2005 - Justin Upton, D'Backs OF...an emerging star, his rookie cards are valuable.
2006 - Luke Hochever, Royals P...a current member of KC's rotation, his lifetime ERA is 5.19
2007 - David Price, Devil Rays P...the ace of Tampa Bay's great young staff...a good card investment
2008 - Tim Beckham, Rays SS...has been in the minors for four years, finally reaching Triple-A at the end of '11...lifetime BA is .265
2009 - Strasburg
2010 - Harper
2011 - Gerrit Cole, Pirates P...your guess is as good as mine.
As always, my advice is to collect, not speculate. If you're a Nationals fan and want to have Strasburg and Harper in your collection, that's a good idea. If you think by buying their cards, you'll make some sort of profit, just go back and look at this list.