Today I offer a slight tweak to Your Daily Value as we examine two prospects at once. The Pittsburgh Pirates made several acquisitions last season as they parted ways with Jason Bay, Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. Additionally, the draft of Pedro Alvarez has effectively provided the Bucs with, potentially, their best 3rd baseman ever. Naturally, Alvarez is likely at least two seasons away which leaves the hot corner available to two somewhat intriguing and overlooked prospects. Today we examine the merits of both Andy LaRoche and Neil Walker’s Bowman Chrome autographed cards.
2005 Bowman Chrome ANDY LAROCHE Auto
Current eBay Price—$6.00-9.00
- This guy’s stock has dropped significantly since being named the L.A. Dodgers’ #2 overall prospect prior to last season. LaRoche has looked like a potential batting champion with 25-30 HR power through the minor leagues, but has, to this point, been unable to replicate those numbers at the big league level. After the trade, LaRoche hit an anemic .152 with just 3 HR and 12 RBI in 164 AB. Plate discipline in not an issue with LaRoche, as he walks almost as much as he strikes out, but injury issues have plagued him all throughout his career. All things considered, I think, while he is likely not the player he was in the minor leagues, he is surely better than he demonstrated with Pittsburgh. He is in line to be the starter and he has the hitting ability to be a 20 HR hitter for the Bucs, which would make this card, his only 1st year auto, a decent short term buy.
2004 Bowman Chrome Draft NEIL WALKER Auto
Current eBay Price—$6.00-8.00
- The former catcher is younger, stronger, and much more athletic than LaRoche, but his ’08 performance disappointed the Pirates brass, who fully expected to have him make his MLB debut. Still, there are a lot of things to like in Walker. He is a switch hitter who projects to hit 20-25 HR annually, has above average speed, and the range and arm strength to be an exceptionally good fielder at 3B. This may also play well into Walker’s hands as top prospect Pedro Alvarez profiles to be an average fielder at 3B and may shift to 1B in the future. The big negative with Walker is his poor plate discipline. Last year’s 29 BB/102 K ratio was the major culprit behind his poor .246 BA and was the primary indicator behind Pirates GM Neal Huntington’s decision to not promote him in September. Walker will be just 23 through the ’09 season and, if he can improve his plate discipline, his several autographed cards from various ’04 sets (Donruss Elite Extra, SP Prospects, Fleer Hot Prospects, Bowman’s Best, Bowman Sterling) could receive a considerable market bump.
Final Word: Walker has way more upside than LaRoche, but LaRoche is the current starter at the hot corner. I think that Walker will start the ’09 season at AAA Indianapolis, but at the first sniff of an injury or continued slump from LaRoche, Walker will get an immediate call up to Pittsburgh.