SCU Go-Live Report: 2016 Bowman Baseball Product Review

Today is a big day for Baseball cards, as the yearly Bowman set hits shelves with a splash. With some rookies in the set already making waves, this is shaping up to be a very interesting year of the product, especially with the debut of Kenta Maeda's chrome RCs.

Here are some of the bigger hits already up:

2016 Bowman Chrome Kenta Maeda Blue Refractor Auto RC

2016 Bowman Chrome Kenta Maeda Base Auto RC

2016 Bowman Alex Bregman Orange Refractor Auto RC /25

2016 Bowman Ivan Rodgriguez Chrome Retro Auto Red Refractor /5

2016 Bowman Victor Robles Purple Refractor Auto RC

The last time we had a big rookie from Asia hit the league, he refused to sign any autographs for the card companies. Masahiro Tanaka hasnt really panned out 100% the way people thought, but he is still a nice piece for a Yankees team that is very popular among collectors. Maeda has had a tremendous start with only 1 earned run on his stat sheet through two starts. This makes his cards that much more desirable, especially with his international appeal. Bowman is the card everyone wants, and that is why this set is already garnering a lot of buzz.

Other prospects are going to be a focus as well, with Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada making his Bowman debut, alongside guys like Alex Bregman and a second card of Dansby Swanson in his new Braves uniform. Others like Robles will also be a card that people clamor for, but with Bowman its all about the color.

It takes a village to make a product’s legacy solid, and Bowman has one of the most widespread followings in the hobby. BGS loves it too, because grading is almost intertwined with the set’s release. Prospectors spend hours combing through scouting reports and MILB stats to find their targets, and it creates an economy unlike anything we see in any other product or sport.

For me, I love seeing Bowman every year, just because the design is always one of the better ones that Topps does on an annual basis. This year's design is really cool looking, and not the usual approach that we see. The borders are a bit more hidden, and the design elements a bit more flashy than normal. Considering that Topps already took a modern approach to flagship, this should not be expected.

Bottom line, if you are a prospector, today is a national holiday. With the way prospects are continually chased among collectors, Bowman remains a beacon of future potential that continues to be a staple in the fabric of the hobby. This year’s set is another fine example of why the cards remain among the most coveted.

On the Radar: 2016 Topps Five Star Baseball

Topps Five Star Baseball

When Five Star debuted in football in 2010, it immediately became my favorite set of the year. It made the transition to baseball shortly after, and though it has never really caught on the same way, I still look forward to it. Now that Football is no longer an option for Topps, the only way to get my yearly Five Star fix is through MLB.

Here are some of the nicer cards from previous editions of the product:

2013 Topps Five Star Clayton Kershaw Silver Signature Auto

2015 Topps Five Star Mike Trout Auto SP /5

2014 Topps Five Star Bryce Harper Auto /25

2015 Topps Five Star Ken Griffey Jr Jumbo Patch Auto /35

This year’s version looks to be a nice improvement in design as compared to 2015, including some really cool looking autograph cards. Although I dont see inscriptions or other unique autograph content previewed, its safe to say that something special will be used to get people to buy in. Since the update to a cheaper format and a two card pack, it looks like more people are willing to dive in on a few boxes, just to see what they come out with. I busted my fair share last year, and was happy with the results, but its all going to depend on the checklist this year, and whether or not the big rookies will be available.

I love that they have single logo autographs again, as stuff like that always draws a crowd. I wish it had more patch autographs like we saw in 2012 and 2013, but if that means diluting what Dynasty brings to the table, maybe its not the best idea. The jumbo patch autos from 2015 did end up being quite coveted, which only led people to start chasing down sets. We will see if that happens again. I kind of hope they go back to the rectangular swatch though.

Five Star will always be a set I want to check out, and this year isnt any different. Although some of the bigger chase items are gone, there is still potential for this to turn out great. So far, it looks like it is off on the right foot.

On the Radar: 2016 Topps Dynasty Baseball

With Topps’ football products out of the picture, Topps Dynasty has become the set I look forward to each year. Last year's set was easily the best of 2015's product calendar across all sports, and 2014 was among the top as well. We are getting our first look at 2016, and right now, im not sure what to think. My initial reactions are not all that favorable.

Regardless, these are some of the most beautiful cards that exist:

2015 Topps Dynasty Hank Aaron Auto Relic /5

2015 Topps Dynasty Bryce Harper Jumbo Patch Auto /5

2015 Topps Dynasty Cal Ripken Jr Jumbo Patch Auto /10

2014 Topps Dynasty Mariano Rivera Jumbo Patch Auto /10

This year’s set is taking a much different design approach, focusing on closer up photos of the players and a different parallel design as compared to the sets of previous years. From description on the sell sheet, the stock used in Definitive Collection is likely going to be used for this product as well, which means that embossing and other elements will be there too.

It looks like the general format of the product is the same, with the addition of game swatches that are authenticated from specific moments. Those moments should be commemorated on the cards, which adds a cool element of connection to the swatch embedded in the card itself.

To be honest, this set is the best Topps makes at the moment, at least until we see what The Mint turns out to be. You are paying for it in the box price, but if you hit it big with any of the insane patches Topps uses, its going to be a good return. Although I dont think this is going to be as good looking as 2015, it should still be ridiculously popular with group breakers and collectors. I just wish they had stayed with the photo format from the first two years.

Topps Huddle Signs Long Term Deal With NFL and NFLPA

Topps Huddle logo

Today, we got some great news for all the digital card and Huddle fans out there. As of 3/31, Topps physical is no longer going to be producing trading cards, however Topps Digital will be in the NFL game for years to come. Announced today, Topps has signed a long term deal with both the NFL and NFLPA to remain a part of the licensed game, and I could not be more happy to report this news.

We knew that there was a deal in place, as the previous deal’s expiration would have prevented new digital Huddle cards from being released over the last month. What we didnt know was the length of the deal, which from the report, looks to be the foreseeable future. I cant even say how big of a deal this is, because it is probably the biggest news for Topps Digital in a very long time. Not only does it keep them in the game, but it is a large obscene gesture in Panini’s face considering their recent acquisition of the exclusive license in physical.

Bottom line, Topps has been in football for 60 years, and Huddle is a new extension of a way to continue that tradition. Although it is far from where Topps likely wants to be in the overall scope of trading cards, I can assure you this deal gives new life to the brand in a sport where they needed fresh air.

With the draft coming this week, Huddle is on its way to a very big month, already shaping up to be the best offseason ever. Not only have they found new inspiration in designing compelling content through the down time, but they have now secured a future that will allow more investment in the app than shorter deals would allow.

This is also the first all digital license for any trading card brand, which should give an added incentive for the digital team to perform. Not only that, but we will see how designs and other digital friendly resources are used without a physical counterpart to hold it back. Going to be very interesting indeed.

There have been many questions on this subject in the app articles and on twitter, and with the formalized statement, Huddle collectors can breathe a sigh of relief.

As someone who is both a physical and a digital card collector, this news is bittersweet to say the least. I am still quite bitter that a company who releases inferior trading cards in my favorite sport got the exclusive, but this does soften the blow a little. Considering how bad Panini’s digital games are as a whole, Topps looks to be ready to show them who is boss for a long time.

Here is the full statement:

Topps Continues Rich Football Tradition with NFL and NFLPA licensed Digital Cards

Are We In Store For a ROUGH 2016 Draft Class?

2016NFLDraftlogo

With the draft just over a week away, we have already started to see some fireworks at the top of the order that signal another year of QBs being drafted first and second overall. Even though that might be the case, the top guys in the class are defense, not offense, and necessity is driving the top picks. After coming off a year where we had two SUPERSTAR QBs at the top, and a soft performance on the secondary market, could we be in store for a year that looks more like 2013 and not 2014-15?

Lets face it people, we have been spoiled. The 2014 class delivered some big names and great rookie years. Similar performances from the 2015 class was another feather in the cap of the hobby, but unlike what we saw in 2014, the market didnt always respond the way we expected it to. As a whole, values were awfully soft, with product shelf life on eBay falling short of a week in many cases. By the time day 7 hit on many sets, prices had already started to settle, and that is uncharacteristic of a class where the rookies had success on the field.

Coming into 2016, we have Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, two QBs with significantly less intriguing resumes than national champions and Heisman winners of years passed. There are periphery value guys in Ezekiel Elliot, Connor Cook and Paxton Lynch, who could end up as top picks as well. From what the experts have said, they are being considered high not because of talent, but because of need.

Some how, some way, the guys are selling okay for now, likely fueled by the two trades at the top of the draft:

2016 Contenders Draft Carson Wentz Auto Ticket

2016 Leaf Metal Jared Goff Auto Pink Refractor /20

2016 Contenders Draft Paxton Lynch Auto Ticket /15

2016 Leaf Ultimate Draft Ezekiel Elliott Auto Gold /50

Other players in the draft that occupy the top tier of elite prospects are mostly defense, and we all know that defense just doesnt sell in football. Dont get me wrong, someone will break out and someone will have a good year. The question is whether or not that player will be a guy worth collecting, and whether or not the main guys from the class will be among the 25% of top picks that dont flame out in amazing fashion.

The issue is that with the rookie wage scale in place, teams no longer have the incentive to continue building top picks that dont pan out almost immediately. Being a first round pick no longer guarantees you a free pass to play until your second contract, and that is a departure from the huge guarantees that previous classes got. What happens is situations like Brandon Weeden, EJ Manuel, Johnny Manziel, and other players who were high profile picks that didnt get the same leash they would have had in 2010.

Add in that players are choosing to retire earlier, and prospecting gets harder and harder by the year. When you also consider that the hobby has lost a main and incredibly popular source of football cards in Topps, the pool of collectors isnt heading in the right direction. Buying wax is only a portion of the health of the hobby, as the rippers and flippers need someone to sell to. If that population shrinks, there isnt as much demand as there is supply. This leads to lower prices on eBay and a softer buyer friendly market.

If a class is mediocre in potential from the start, they have a larger hill to climb to reach prosperity, regardless of their performance on the field. People look at good years from these players as more of a fluke than long term investment potential, and that hurts. If a guy like Jameis Winston goes off, his hype will carry him much further than if a guy like Christian Hackenberg plays the shit out of his rookie season.

There are exceptions, like we saw with Russell Wilson, but that type of thing happens so infrequently that it was almost unheard of. Wilson needed to have a second year of great performance before people REALLY bought in, and I dont think that would have been the case if he was a guy with the hype of Marcus Mariota. They would have been in from day 1.

From what I see in this class a guy like Carson Wentz just isnt the star power that will lend to huge value. Jared Goff and others in the same boat. Although they might turn out to be serviceable starters, they need to be more than that to help support a company product like that features 1500 dollar boxes of cards. High end doesnt work well when the rookies cant fill the boots.

Right now, 2013 is shaping up to be one of the worst drafts in hobby history. Although I think this year’s class should end up above that, it might be a really bad and sour note when we approach the higher end portion of the calendar. With Panini also shoving college cards down people’s throats, it only gets more complicated with 31 products on the market all looking like what we have seen previously from Panini.