There is a baseball star in New York that has captivated baseball fans young and old over the past few months.  He fits the mold of “Bronx Bomber” to perfection.  Aaron Judge is larger than life, both literally and figuratively.  He is a 6’7” masher who is crushing home runs at a rate that is unmatched in Yankees history.  In fact, Judge recently broke the longstanding rookie record for the Yanks, held by Joe DiMaggio, of 29 home runs in a full season.  Judge hit 30 before the All-Star break.  He currently has a .313 average to go along with the 30 HR’s and 66 RBI.

If you are a baseball card collector, you can’t go a day without hearing about Aaron Judge on social media, podcasts or message boards.  He is moving the market unlike any player we have seen.  There have been baseball cards that have sold for a lot of money but we are talking about a player 3 months into his career.  There have been 5 confirmed sales on eBay since June 18 that have closed at over $10,000 each.  Stated another way, these 5 Aaron Judge auto cards sold in the last month for a total of $62,253!  The numbers are truly staggering.

While the stats are unbelievable and the value of his cards is astronomical, the Judge craze has me reminiscing of big rookies I collected when I was a kid.  Some of those players sizzled and fizzled while some of them never even made it to the majors.  I suppose that’s the risk vs reward of prospecting.  What we are seeing right now is a first for me in terms of dollar value but as a kid, I chased Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones and Frank Thomas and they turned out quite alright.  It’s a little premature to include Judge with those names from a career standpoint but it’s safe to say that he has currently surpassed them from a card chase perspective.  We are in full blown Judge-Mania!

Even though Judge is hammering his way through the Yankees record book, we still have to remember that he’s only halfway through one season.  Again, the pitfalls of prospecting must allow for some reasonable skepticism.  He is on pace to hit .320 with 60 home runs and almost 135 RBI.  While that may not be a reasonable expectation, in reality, it doesn’t have to be.  He could slump and finish with a .285 average, 45 home runs and 120 RBI and it would still be as good as or better than the tremendous rookie seasons Albert Pujols and Mike Trout put up.  He is also well within reach of Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record of 49.  He had 5 more than McGwire did at the midpoint.

Judge may be the highest value ever commanded for a modern rookie but there were others who were extremely hot that I chased during my younger days in the late 80’ and early 90’s.  These were names that I had to have in my collection and while I would not have been able to pay $10,000 for them, $30-$50 for a 13 year old in 1990 felt a lot like $10,000.  Remember when packs were .50?

1989 – Gregg Jefferies – This was the first card that I had in my collection that was a “Retirement Card”.  Jefferies was named Minor League Player of the Year twice and had a productive 14 year career.  But thanks to overproduction and not being able to live up to unreasonable expectations, I won’t be retiring anytime soon.

1990 – Kevin Maas – Maas is the name that comes up most often with Judge skeptics.  He hit 10 HR’s in his first 72 AB’s and was also the fastest rookie to 15 HR’s with 133 AB’s.  He finished 1990 with 22 HR’s in 79 games.  While he followed his rookie season up with a 23 home run season, his career never took off.  He only played 406 career games and finished his MLB career with a .230 avg and 65 HR’s.  He is still a name that brings back great memories of collecting for me.  I added this Archives Autograph at a recent card show!  

1991 – Brien Taylor – Taylor was the #1 Draft Pick for the Yankees in the 1991 Draft.  He spent 7 seasons in the minors and never pitched a game above AA.  Off the field trouble was partly to blame but he finished his minor league career with a 22-30 record and a 5.12 ERA.

1991 – Phil Plantier – This Boston Red Sox prospect skipped AA thanks to his ability to mash home runs.  He joined the Sox in August of 1991 and he hit for a .331 average with 11 HR’s and 35 RBI in the final 53 games of the season.  He crashed in 1992 with a .246 average, 7 HR and 30 RBI in 108 games.  While he did have his best season in 1993 with 34 HR’s and 100 RBI, he only hit .240 and struck out 124 times.  He burst on to the scene but he quietly ended his career with a .243 average, 91 HR’s and 476 K’s.

I believe that Aaron Judge is a legitimate superstar in the making and his HR Derby win along with AL Rookie of the Month in April, May and June are proof that he can have a monster MLB career if he stays healthy.  From a baseball card standpoint, I am limiting my exposure to luck of the draw pack pulls.  There are a number of sets where Judge is available.  Personally, if I had a 2013 Bowman Chrome RC Auto, I would no doubt be cashing in on its value as the market is primed.  I will “never say never”, but I have to believe that we are getting close to the peak, right?  Or maybe there is someone out there who will pay $20,000!