The chronic shoulder soreness of Travis Hafner added with a red hot month of April at AAA Columbus has ushered in the long-awaited Matt LaPorta era. The Cleveland Indians will call up LaPorta on Saturday and, given Hafner’s health over the past couple of seasons, it is quite conceivable that the Indians’ top prospect will be playing full time either as a DH or outfielder.
Here’s what I wrote about the former Florida Gator for Hot-Prospects.net on 11/13/08….
LaPorta got off to a red hot start last season as the centerpiece of AA Huntsville’s star-studded lineup. LaPorta belted 20 HR in just 84 games while hitting .288. LaPorta then was traded to the Cleveland Indians in the C.C. Sabathia trade where he struggled in a brief stint before playing in Beijing for the bronze medal winning U.S. Olympic Baseball Team. LaPorta has light tower power that could translate into 30-40 HR per season at the major league level. He has a keen eye at the plate and works counts well. Numerous coaches and players have given him credit for having an unparalleled work ethic as well. Defensively and athletically, LaPorta is limited. His arm strength and foot speed will relegate him to LF or 1B and he will never be a threat on the basepaths. It is LaPorta’s bat that commands respect, though, and his power is real.
2009 Projection: LaPorta is playing in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason and has struggled offensively. Expect him to start the ’09 season at AAA Buffalo as the Indians are eager to get him into their lineup at some point in 2009. Watch to see if LaPorta can get his considerable offensive potential back on track early. If so, his 2007 Bowman Sterling and Donruss Elite Extra Autographs could experience a considerable bump in market value.
UPDATE: LaPorta has definitely gotten things back on track at Columbus hitting .333 with 5 HR 14 RBI and 22 runs scored in just 21 games. He has good plate discipline to compliment his 30+ HR power walking 9 times versus 10 K’s this season. With no really solid AL Rookie of the Year performances to date, there is still an ample opportunity for the Indians’ top prospect to distinguish himself as the top rookie hitter in the junior circuit.
Current eBay Values for LaPorta’s Cards:
- 2007 Bowman Chrome Draft—$3.50-5.00
- 2007 Bowman Sterling Auto—$40.00-45.00
- 2007 Donruss Elite Extra Auto (#/593)—$38.00-42.00
- 2008 Bowman Chrome Auto—$40.00-45.00
As you can see, expectations are high for LaPorta to succeed at the major league level but is there room for growth in his autographed cards? I would say yes, but with the caveat that spending nearly $50 on an autograph makes it much more risky to generate a nice return on investment than a lower priced card does. I’ll cover this method of prospecting in a future article (I promise).
To me, the best buys for an elite prospect like Matt LaPorta can be found in the Bowman base and Chrome cards, preferrably from the ’07 set. Once LaPorta starts heating up and sending balls into the seats at Jacobs Field, several of the more casual baseball card fans will start hitting the eBay market hard in hopes of adding the young slugger to their collections. This level of collector tends to seek out the cheaper cards, but tends to pay close to, and in some cases above, full book value for these cards. Snagging a bulk lot of base cards at $1.00-1.50 apiece could turn into exponential profits within a short period of time.
Here are some current Matt LaPorta auctions on eBay