Juan Soto is one among an incredible crop of current MLB stars in their early 20s. But each is wildly different and has its own advantages and disadvantages.
But Juan Soto rookie cards are a very popular investment, and for a good reason. So, where does Juan Soto sit in this group? What is the best Juan Soto rookie card for investment?
We break down Soto’s career so far and explore how he projects in the future. Then we list the 10 best rookie cards to buy.
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Who is Juan Soto?
The Dominican Republic brought us some of the most outstanding baseball players in recent memory. The island country has produced countless legends, from Juan Marichal to Albert Pujols and Pedro Martinez.
Juan Soto is set to become one of the all-time greats on that list. His family, not surprisingly, is a significant baseball clan. Juan’s brother Elian has already signed with the Nationals. The younger third baseman and outfielder will join the struggling organization in 2023. Meanwhile, his father was a catcher for a local team.
The Nationals signed the young Juan as a highly rated 16-year-old international free agent in July 2015. However, in retrospect, the outfielder was deeply underrated. MLB.com placed him as the 25th best international prospect.
Though rated as a good hitter, the 55 overall hitting value (out of 80) they gave the outfielder looks ridiculous in retrospect.
A rocket to superstardom
If anyone doubted Soto’s skills, they were soon disabused of their mistakes. He began to rake in the Gulf Coast League. By 2017, he was universally considered one of the top five prospects in the sport. In 2018, he hit .373, and it was clear that a callup was in the cards.
He was called up at age 19 and was the youngest player in “the show.” Soto was sensational, hitting 22 home runs and reaching an unbelievable .406 on-base percentage. A star was born. Juan was among the top ten contenders for MVP every year from 2019.
He came tantalizingly close in 2021, losing out to Bryce Harper by a hair. A future MVP award (or more) seems more likely than not. So no one was surprised when the outfielder was selected as an All-Star in 2021 and 2022.
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How good Is Juan Soto?
Soto is only 23 years old, but he is absolutely elite. According to MLB.com, he is currently the #4 player in baseball. Meanwhile, Bleacher Report has him down at #10. He may not be the best player in the sport right now, but there is no one I would rather build my team around. He is durable and young. Therefore, Soto has a frighteningly high ceiling.
What makes Soto so special? He certainly hits for contact. Soto was the 2020 National League batting champion with a .351 batting average. He also hits for power. Juan’s connected for 34 dingers in 2019 and has 118 overall. A nice tally for a 23-year-old.
But the most remarkable element of Soto’s game is the ungodly on-base percentages. He has a career OBP of .421 and has twice led the league in that category. Not surprisingly, he also led the NL in walks last year and leads this year as well.
As a complete hitter, Soto is highly valued by advanced stats. My favorite stat is OPS+, which compares hitting value, calculated through on-base plus slugging percentage, to the league average. The league average is 100. That means anything over 120 is remarkably strong.
Soto has a career average of 162, leading the league with 217 in 2020. That number places Juan somewhere between Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Among active players, only Mike Trout has better numbers. Yes, he is that good.
Here are his stats so far:
Season BA. OBP. SLGHROPS+2018.292.406.517221422019.282.401.518341422020.351.490.695132172021.313.465.53429177
What is the career trajectory of Juan Soto?
If so, we are talking about a player with historically good potential. Only five players have started their careers with comparable numbers; Mike Trout, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, and Ty Cobb.
So, there isn’t a single example of a young player being THIS good and not becoming a legendary Hall-of-Fame caliber player. Remember that players typically do not reach their peak until age 27. So, his numbers will likely improve. Significantly.
It is not an exaggeration to say that only a nasty injury can derail his career enough to stop the train to Cooperstown. Soto has had a couple of injuries, especially during his minor league stints. But if anything, he seems more robust and durable than most players.
According to the excellent folks at Fangraphs, his career stats (assuming normal development and retirement at age 36) will look like this:
BA. OBP. SLGHROPS+.298.428.593562163
The closest comparison to his career appears to be Jimmie Foxx. As a reminder, “Double XX” is a Hall-of-Famer who received almost 80% of the vote. So, we aren’t talking about a borderline case. Juan Soto projects to be an inner circle Hall-of-Famer.
What are the best Juan Soto Rookie Cards?
If so, Soto is a likely (not potential) baseball legend. Unfortunately, baseball fans are well aware of this, and his cards are priced accordingly. But if we want to invest, better late than never, right?
So, these are the cards to look for when searching for THE Juan Soto rookie card. Which Juan Soto rookie card to buy? That is for you to decide, but here are 10 of our favorites.
2018 Topps Triple Threads Juan Soto RC auto #RA-JS
Triple Threads is the unsuccessful Topps attempt to keep up with Panini’s National Treasures. The cards do not have anything like the value of their basketball and football counterparts. Indeed, a Soto card of this rarity and beauty should fetch a far greater price than this one can command.
Be that as it may, this is a gorgeous card. It will undoubtedly appreciate over time since none of the other Soto rookies have its high-end feel. The card also comes in numbered variations such as gold and green.
For example, the highly desirable Gold variety is numbered to /25. They are valued at far higher prices and are worth looking into if you have the budget.
Recently Posted PSA 9 Price: $1650
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2016 Bowman Chrome RC auto #JS
Everyone and their mother wants that Juan Soto Bowman Chrome 1st. And plenty of people have it. That will depress the long-term value of the cards. And who can blame them? The card has a picture of a teenaged Soto looking untested but ready to conquer the world.
But there are nowhere near as many autos. Therefore, they will likely retain their value in the long run. The main drawback is that the buy-in is steep. However, you may prefer to get some parallels instead. They cost significantly less and should still maintain substantial value.
Recent Comps For PSA 10: $3,875
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2018 Topps Heritage Real One auto RC #JSO
While not as valuable as the Bowman Chrome auto, in my humble opinion, this auto has more eye appeal. The card features a reflective-looking Soto, sitting on the bench at the All-Star Game. It is a testimonial to those better days when players wore their actual jerseys to the game.
As you can see below, the price is meager for a rookie auto of a star of this caliber. Honestly, it’s a steal and a strange market quirk that these cards sell for so little. You can also find the card in a red ink version, which is limited to /69.
If you want a more valuable version, consider getting the hatless version. They often sell for triple the regular version. However, the rarer card is less attractive, at least to my eyes.
Recent Comps For PSA 10: $900
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2018 Bowman Draft Chrome RC #BDC162
If you are more of a refractor person than an auto, Bowman Draft may offer something up your alley. It features a picture of the budding prospect on the basepaths, with a gorgeous explosion of chrome colors in the background. It seems a bit like a Bowman version of a Color Blast card.
That is definitely a good thing. If you like the auto-refractor combo, these cards also come in that variety. In general, the prices for these cards are excellent.
If you see either version of this card for under $500, and people have managed that, snatch it up immediately. It’s a good buy at higher price points as well.
Recent Comps For PSA 10: $255
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2018 Juan Soto Topps Rookie Card Update #US300
This card is the “true” Juan Soto rookie card in a flagship product. It is also a mainly classic design, arguably the most appealing design. The perfectly placed RC designation improves the Juan Soto Topps Rookie card. This is not the most valuable card amongst the Soto rookies.
Indeed, it is vastly overprinted, and the value has been dropping steadily for the last two years. However, no personal collection of the outfielder is complete without it.
Consider springing for the Gatorade Bath short print if you want a more valuable version. The photography is iconic, showing the young star surrounded by a seeming halo of refreshing sports drinks. PSA 10s of this card sell for well over $5,000. There is also a gold variation of this card. It sells for about half the value of the Gatorade SP.
Recent Comps For PSA 10: $85
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2016 Bowman International Ink #II-JS #5
A remarkable card with historical importance. The International Ink card is a reminder of how far Soto has come from that 16-year-old who was taken as a free agent. The card shows his big smile and reveals the justified confidence the precocious teenager had in his ability.
Absolutely iconic and well worth the high price tag. This one will age the best if you are willing to fork over $400 for a Soto card.
Recent Comps For PSA 10: $400
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2017 Bowman Chrome Bowman Scouts’ Top 100 auto #BTP60
No Recent Comps Or Listings Available
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2018 Topps Gold Label Framed auto RC #FA-JSO
To my mind, this is the best-designed Juan Soto rookie card of all. The double representation of Soto within the beautiful, framed edges creates a timeless feel. That “legend of the game” look will only be enhanced when Soto is (most likely) selected to Cooperstown.
The 2018 Gold Label set offered collectors three tiers of cards. It is sort of reminiscent of the way Panini Select has levels of rarity. This card is, of course, at the top level of rarity. Maybe because the brand is not that well known, these cards sell for surprisingly low prices.
Recent comps raw: $1200
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2018 Panini Flawless Rookie Dual Patch Autographs Ruby RC #RDP-JS
As we all know, unlicensed Panini baseball cards are usually not particularly desirable. But this card has transcended that barrier by its sheer beauty and class. The design is evocative of the best basketball Flawless releases and is a reminder that, license or not, Panini does patch cards a lot better than Topps.
Recent Posting For A Raw Card: $3,232
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2018 Topps Dynasty Juan Soto RC Auto Patch #AP-JSO1
You may prefer your RPA’s licensed. Who wouldn’t? The best Topps offering is this one. While we listed a specific one here, there are three varieties marked as #AP-JSO1-03. They are each worth checking out. Each type has a print run of 10, so exclusivity is assured. But the price people are asking for is entirely insane.
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Are Juan Soto rookie cards good investments at current prices?
This may not be the best time to buy Soto cards. However, he is still a young and promising player and is getting a lot of buzz right now as he looks for a trade away from the Nationals.
Soto will likely remain a big star throughout his career. However, he may be somewhat forgotten once the next generation of stars comes online. At least for a while. His numbers will likely go down temporarily at that point. Then as he becomes an immortal enshrined in Cooperstown, they will probably lift again.
Having said that, there are a few cards here with surprisingly low prices. So avoid the cards everyone is going for and look for the low-pop items under the radar.
The final word on the best Juan Soto rookie cards
There are several outstanding players in Soto’s generation. He is often mentioned alongside Fernando Tatis Jr., Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuña Jr., and others. But they each have serious question marks regarding their durability. Soto does not.
His stardom does not depend on his unique athletic ability. Instead, it is predicated on his baseball intelligence and natural hitting ability. Therefore, Soto is probably the most solid investment of his generation. So, watch his cards for any dips and buy low. Then, rest assured the value will go up again.