With the market softening, collectors greeted the recent drop of Topps 2 with a collective yawn. But in the long term, the release will be measured by one metric alone: the quality of the rookies. So who are the best rookies in Topps Series 2?
The buzz is that this is not a great class of rookies. Unquestionably, the biggest prospects in the game are not present in Series 2 for various reasons. But that doesn’t mean there are no potential stars amongst the 60 rookie cards included in the checklist.
Who Are The Best Rookies to Look for in Topps Series 2?
You clicked on this article for this. So we will get right down to it.
We live on the edge here at Cardlines. I even ran with scissors that one time. Therefore, we have the naturally given stones to rank the rookies coming up in terms of likely return on investment.
Alex Kiriloff: The no. 1 prospect in the Twins organization is the son of a hitting coach, and it shows. He is a complete and mechanically sound hitter, perhaps the second-best contact-hitting prospect. With above-average exit velocity, Kiriloff has the potential for good power as well. It was certainly enough to set the minor leagues alight. The main question mark is injury, as he suffered crippling wrist injuries in 2019. Alex has the tools to be a genuine star and stands out on this list.
Garrett Crochet: Let’s start with the most important stuff. Garrett’s stuff. He has a 100-mile fastball and a killer breaking ball. Did we mention that he is a southpaw? He also has an MLB ERA of 0.34 in his small sample size of 26 innings pitched. The upside is enormous. But with no minor league experience and some injury concerns, people are not yet sold that he can keep it together as a long-term starter. However, he looks like the real thing to me.
Trevor Rogers: Rogers may not have stuff that blows scouts away, but he can pitch. A 23-year-old pitcher with a 7-3 record and 2.02 ERA knows how to get it done. Trevor was Rookie of the Month for May. He strikes them out and doesn’t walk them. I don’t see anyone with a better case for Rookie of the Year right now.
Ke’Bryan Hayes: The luster of the Ke’Bryan flagship has been dimmed somewhat by his inclusion in the Heritage set. But let’s keep in mind that the Pirates’ 3rd baseman is already proven Major League material. Hell, he is even a (quite productive) starter on my fantasy baseball team. While there is no doubt that he has what it takes to be an effective regular, he may not quite have star material. Hayes is already 24, which makes him less likely to develop new tools than other prospects. In addition, there are injury concerns and questions about his fielding abilities and long-term power potential. Therefore, I didn’t place him as high as most people would.
Sam Huff: The catcher is up this high for one reason and one reason only. His potential power. He won’t be winning any batting titles. Huff is a decent defensive guy, but his arm could be better. But the upside on his power is good enough to keep an eye on Sam. His .742 slugging for Texas so far (with only 31 at-bats though), also bodes well.
Jake Cronenworth: Sure, Jake was no one’s fancy blue-chip top prospect, and he is 27. But he is a fine player with highly impressive stats. He was in the conversation for Rookie of the Year in 2020, and with good reason. The man averages 3.9 WAR for his short career in the majors. Unlike most of these guys, Cronenworth has actual receipts.
Jazz Chisholm: Jazz is a colorful character and fun to watch, kind of in the Tatis Jr. mold. That could help with his collecting. The rookie also has a beautiful swing. However, his over-aggressive hitting style has been very problematic. He strikes out a ton and doesn’t walk enough. He doesn’t have the power to make up for that either. Jazz may or may not work that out.
Also Worth Considering
So, here is a list of players we expect to become good starting MLB players. But not ones we believe will become significant stars. But any one of them could surprise us! After all, no one has a functioning crystal ball at Cardlines.
Luis Campusano: The catcher has overcome the defensive challenges he was facing. He will almost certainly be a long-term MLB starter with power well above average and good contact hitting.
William Contreras: There were initial concerns over William’s defensive capabilities, but he has made a complete turnaround. With above-average (but unspectacular) all-around tools, he is very likely to be a starting catcher over a long and productive career.
Alejandro Kirk: Alejandro has a bit of a, shall we say, dad bod. He is also not exactly Yadier Molina defensively. Therefore, scouts have never taken him seriously. However, he is one effective hitter and has cleaned up at every level he played. In addition, he has incredible discipline and does not strikeout.
Shane McClanahan: A pitcher with great all-around stuff. However, he has had Tommy John surgery far too early in his career. There are also concerns about his control.
Pavin Smith: Nothing spectacular in terms of tools, but also zero notable weakness. Above-average fielder and contact hitter, who already has a .285 Major League batting average. His power is adequate and could improve.
Ryan Weathers: The pitcher needs to get into better shape to have a long career and doesn’t have dazzling stuff. But he has looked very effective in the majors so far with a 2.44 ERA.
A Few Potential Busts
As the song tells us, we like to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. We also refuse to mess with Mr. In-Between. Therefore, we don’t want to single out too many players with lower upside. But we would be amiss if we didn’t mention a couple.
Andre Scrub: Whatever leverage Scrub gets from his fantastic breaking ball, he loses with a severe lack of control.
Estevan Florial: If you are a big believer in investing in big market rookies, it doesn’t get bigger than a center-fielder for the Yankees. However, that is probably his best-selling point. His ceiling is a useful regular, and we doubt the Yankees will let him become a starter.
Zachary McKinstry: You may be tempted to invest in a Dodgers rookie. But Zach seems destined to be a useful utility player or average starter.
The Big Omissions
The price for Series 2 Hobby Boxes has been going down. Part of it is the market, but some of it is disappointment with the checklist. These are the players people wanted to see but are absent from the checklist:
Wander Franco – Wander is the top prospect in the game right now. The infielder was the Baseball America top prospect for both 2020 and 2021. However, the Rays have not called him up yet. Some cynics believe they are keeping him down for financial reasons. Either way, the phenom has yet to have an MLB at-bat. Expect him to be THE marquee name for Series 1 next year. So no one was surprised that he was left out. But you can get some of his Bowman 1sts. Lord knows I have.
Jarred Kelenic: What a journey it has been for Jarred. First, called up to great fanfare and homering on his debut. Then getting sent down in shame. But this is all noise. Jarred has incredible hitting and fielding abilities and is an excellent baserunner as well. In addition, the Mariners prospect has the kind of fiery competitive streak that scouts associate with champions to top it off. He seemed set to feature in the Topps Update release. But now that the Mariners have sent him down, we may have to wait for 2022.
Yermin Mercedes – Considering the splash Yermin caused in his first couple of weeks of Major League ball, it is astounding that the geriatric rookie didn’t get a card in this release. However, there is an auto of his in the set (go figure).
Bottom Line on the Topps Series 2 Rookie Class
The Series 2 class does not have a prominent potential future superstar. It is also a somewhat weaker list than the one featured in Series 1. However, there are enough talented and promising rookies to make the investment worthwhile.
In addition, the market has softened, and the print run on Series 2 will be lower. At the same time, the prices are lower. Therefore, it is an excellent market to invest in some of the higher-rated players on this list. After all, between their upside and the low entry fee to invest, there is little to lose.
Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is a former history and political science professor at UCLA. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary. Shai also worked as a diplomat and journalist on three continents.