This is the first installment of Underdog’s Buy, Sell, and Hold. Please note that Underdog is not a person, dog, or financial advisor. At our most technical level, we are a hobby-friendly, economically-minded sports collectible retailer and card show host. This weekly column is being offered to help our friends, we like to think of you as Underdogs, better participate in the hobby. We are not charging you for this invaluable advice, and you shouldn’t charge us when our recommendations fall short. However, we do believe you will find this advice to be helpful, provocative, and occasionally profitable. Given today’s prices and dynamic marketplace, we believe it is hard to enjoy the hobby without somewhat considering the ups and downs that come with the industry. You will find our insights to be informed by analytics, diligent sports watching, our twenty plus years in the hobby, and occasionally, our gut. We would love to hear from you when you agree, disagree, or feel like you just wasted 5 minutes.
BUY – Jose Berrios
Prevailing history would always tell you, “don’t invest in pitchers.” They are too up and down, and when they endure injuries, it is often of the season-long Tommy John variety. However, prices tend be so compressed for pitchers vs. batting prospects, that you could actually argue that some young uber-talented arms can be purchased at a tremendous value. At 25 years of age, Jose Berrios might be one of those pitchers. He has made 2 All-Star Game appearances, won 37 games and boasts almost 500 career strikeouts. If you teased out his disastrous first cup of coffee in 2016, he would have under a career 4.00 ERA (currently 4.14). He entered the All-Star Game weekend with an 8-5 record, and 1.11 WHIP. The progress he has made in improving his WHIP bodes very well for his potential to be a top tier starter. He has now reduced his WHIP 3 consecutive years without reducing his K/9 while maintaining a ground ball rate of 40%. The former first rounder is a fitness fanatic that you can follow on Instagram, but not in the vein of Jake Arrieta. He is focused on pitching strength versus brute strength, which explains Berrios’ ability to avoid injury issues other than a recent blister problem, which only impacted one start. While young starters like Severino and Buehler are enticing, the former first round draft pick is projecting to be an ace for years to come and has zero injury history. Additionally, he is young and talented enough to likely be a 100 career game winner by age 30.
SELL – Todd Gurley
How do I recommend selling a running back that already has 4,500 career rushing yards entering his age 25 season? How could I even think that it is a wise play when he not only is critical in the running game, but also has proven to be a clutch situational receiving back? One word – arthritis. Modern medicine can fix many things, but arthritis has ruined many running backs’ careers, and at minimum, slows down their usage, which then slows down the compilation of valuable statistics. Gurley will continue to be a dynamic force, but based on the selection of Darrell Henderson in the third round, and the resigning of Malcolm Brown, the Rams’ running back situation will be structured to nurture Gurley’s knee, not exploit his raw talent. Expect a good season, barring additional injuries, but don’t expect him to put up the season you could see from Ezekiel Elliot or Saquon Barkley.
HOLD – /5s, /10s, /25s, /50s, 100s, etc.
As a hobby, we have become obsessed with 1/1s. For serious player collectors, they are going to hold a special place in collector’s hearts, because at its essence, player collecting pushes you to “collect everything.” And for well resourced collectors, they will glow with the idea of having “the only one.” However, Supply and Demand are fickle mistresses. Absent a few iconic cards, the most sought after cards that have yielded the most longitudinal value creation are never super limited. The data confirmed by the growth of Jordan, Trout, and Lebron rookies would suggest that supply and demand need each other, because in cards, you need multiple people wanting something to create broader market demand. Otherwise, when one well resourced collector acquires a 1/1, he didn’t just set the market, he eliminated it. You are more likely to enjoy appreciation and make money when multiple issues exist in the market enabling transactions, which yield variance, which then creates the opportunity to buy and resell for a profit. What am I saying here? I am no Adam Smith or Milton Friedman, but I would assert this – Buy the 1 of 1s if you can reasonably, but you are more likely to “fund your hobby” speculating and collecting serial numbered cards that have enough of a quantity to create a vibrant market. Hence the popularity of Bowman, Prizm, and Contender rookie trading.
Thanks for joining us for this first release. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.