The new millennium brought many changes to the baseball card industry, including a wider variety of memorabilia and autograph cards. However, rookie cards were still in great demand and it is interesting to see how many of the young stars of the decade have established their careers.
In regular issues, 2000 was somewhat slow with only Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt and Adrian Gonzalez as rookies of note. 2001, however, was a great year for collectors as two of the legendary modern players made their debut. While their skills are very different, power-hitting Albert Pujols and speedster Ichiro Suzuki have dominated the decade and their rookie cards continue to create high demand. If you were lucky enough to actually find one autographed, it would be a cornerstone of any collection.
2002 includes some outstanding players who continue to excel today - Joe Mauer, David Wright and Jose Bautista among them. 2003 had the rookie cards of Robinson Cano, Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee while 2004 was the debut year for Felix Hernandez.
The middle of the decade provided collectors with many great rookies who are still adding to their resume in 2012. 2005 included Jay Bruce, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Justin Verlander and Ryan Braun while 2006 issues added Prince Fielder and Ryan Zimmerman.
As the definition of "rookie card" became somewhat cloudy due to different companies issuing numerous products, the key component is still the player. From 2007-09, you'll find great young stars such as Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria, Joey Votto and many others. Fortunately, MLB and the card manufacturers have now agreed on the definition and you'll see an actual "RC" logo on the official rookie card of players moving forward.
These players are now the building blocks of any successful fantasy team and, as promised, here's the first periodic update on the four squads managed by the Rotisserie Duck with a little more than 20% of the season behind us (thru 5/13).
ESPN 15-Team, Mixed 5 x 5 -
The Ugly - A.J. Burnett
The Hurt - Daniel Hudson
XFL 15-Team, Mixed 5 x 5 Keeper League - Donald's Dux
The Ugly - Jordan Walden
12-Team, 4 x4 AL Keeper League - Fusco Brothers
The Bad - Albert Pujols
The Hurt - Evan Longoria and Nolan Reimold
12-Team, 4 x 4 NL Keeper League - Donald's Ducks
Of course, some of the good players are on multiple teams including Castro, Myers, Dempster, Willingham, Hanrahan, McDonald, McCutchen and Capuano. With that being said, you'll also find Thornton and Burnett on more than one squad.
As the old cliché says, you can't win a pennant in the 1st month of the season, but you can lose one. The good news for my boys is that we appear to be "contendahs" (apologies to Marlon Brando). Hope your team is still in the hunt.