A lot has changed in the world of baseball since 2007. Players using PEDs have (mostly) gone away — or at least have masked them better — and the players who thrived in the steroid era have retired. Home runs and strikeouts have gone way up, and analytics have taken a stranglehold on the game.
The world of baseball cards has changed, too. There’s been a proliferation of parallels, autos, relics, etc., that have taken over the industry. Topps has a monopoly (sorry, exclusive license) to produce cards with team logos But what hasn’t changed is the good old fashioned rookie.
Cards nowadays have the rookie shield to denote their standing. You can debate which set — Chrome, Heritage, Stadium Club, flagship — is your favorite, but I’m still partial to the main set.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at Check Out My Cards to take a look at all the rookie cards from Topps dating back to 2007. I’ve come up a ranking of the best rookie class years based on that information. There’s no definitive way to rank them so feel free to disagree in the comments.
And just a note before we begin, these lists encompass cards from Series 1, Series 2, and Update in them. So if this inspires you to buy some packs/boxes to find the cards, make sure to look them up to make sure you buy the right product.
11. 2009 Topps
Key Rookies: Elvis Andrus, Rick Porcello, Chris Tillman, David Price, Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli, Jordan Zimmermann, Pablo Sandoval, Josh Reddick, David Freese
The group is highlighted by a pair of Cy Young winners (Porcello and Price) but Porcello was a controversial pick and looks to be a career-best year, and Price has run into some troubles in Boston. Elvis Andrus is a solid shortstop but his career has its ups and downs. The rest are solid players, but nothing to get too excited about.
10. 2007 Topps
Key Rookies: Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew Miller, Ryan Braun, Justin Upton, J.A. Happ, Joba Chamberlain, Carlos Gomez, Joakim Soria, Cameron Maybin, Daisuke Matsuzaka
This group would have been a few places higher had injuries not derailed Troy Tulowitzki’s career, but unfortunately, his career has been put on halt the past few years. Andrew Miller is one of the most dominant relievers of the 2010s and is currently the best of the group. The crop also includes a pair of big-time AL East flameouts, Dice-K and Joba.
9. 2014 Topps
Key Rookies: Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Jacob deGrom, Masahiro Tanaka, George Springer, Marcus Stroman, Rougned Odor, Jonathan Schoop, Jose Abreu, Macus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Gregory Polanco, Billy Hamilton, Jose Ramirez, Kevin Kiermaier, Taijuan Walker, Tanner Roark, Travis d’Arnaud
Make no mistake about it, there are a few big names in this class. In fact, it’s a big jump up from 2007. But still, someone has to be No. 9, and it’s 2014. Mookie and deGrom are the best, but there are plenty of others are worthy of your attention. This group could move up in a few years.
8. 2013 Topps
Key Rookies: Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, Corey Kluber, Marcell Ozuna, Gerrit Cole, Christian Yelich, Didi Gregorius, Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, Anthony Rendon, Jackie Bradley Jr., Avisail Garcia, Jeurys Familia, Trevor Rosenthal, Danny Salazar, Wil Myers, Michael Wacha, Alex Wood, Khris Davis, Cody Allen, Marwin Gonzalez, Yan Gomes, Aaron Hicks, Dylan Bundy, Evan Gattis
This class has a pair of third basemen that could go down as two of the best in the game in Arenado and Machado. A third, Anthony Rendon, is a very good starter for the Nationals. Corey Kluber is nearly unhittable. Ozuna and Yelich are overshadowed in the Marlins outfield but are very good players in their own right. Didi Gregorius keeps getting better and better in New York. Wacha was a big playoff star in 2013 but injuries have hampered him recently. Puig has settled in as a good, but not great, outfielder despite his huge rookie year. And of course, tragedy cut down Jose Fernandez’s career.
7. 2010 Topps
Key Rookies: Buster Posey, Mike (Giancarlo) Stanton, Madison Bumgarner, Kenley Jansen, Jake Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Josh Donaldson, Starlin Castro, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Jason Heyward, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Jonathan Lucroy, Wilson Ramos
This class received a big boost this year with Giancarlo Stanton challenging for the single-season HR title. Moving forward, the big question will be if he can stay healthy and keep it going. Buster and Madison have already made their marks with three World Series titles, and look to be on the way to the Hall of Fame. Kenley Jansen is quietly one of the best closers in the game. The rest of the crop has won awards, be it a MVP (Donaldson) or a Cy Young (Arrieta).
6. 2012 Topps
Key Rookies: Bryce Harper, Andrelton Simmons, Dallas Keuchel, Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Matt Harvey, Starling Marte, Dellin Betances, Kelvin Herrera, AJ Pollock, Sergio Romo, Greg Holland, Hisashi Iwakuma
Bryce Harper has rounded back into his generational form before a serious knee injury. Andrelton’s offense has exploded, and developed into a dark-horse MVP candidate. Dallas Keuchel is pitching like a Cy Young candidate again. The rest of the class is solid, especially in the reliever department with Betances, Herrera, Holland and Romo. The class would have been better had Jesus Montero or Brett Lawrie lived up to their expectations.
5. 2017 Topps
Key Rookies: Aaron Judge, Andrew Benintendi, Yoan Moncada, Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Josh Bell, Jeff Hoffman, Trey Mancini, Tyler Glasnow, Reynaldo Lopez, Yuleski Gurriel, Carson Fulmer, Tyler Austin, Chad Pinder, Koda Glover, Mitch Haniger, Jharel Cotton, Ty Blach, Adam Frazier, Matt Olson
This group will only go up once Update comes out with Cody Bellinger’s rookie. Even without him, still a great class, despite Judge’s second-half struggles. His first half set the industry in the craze, but it’s cooled off some since then. The rest of this class still features a lot of projections — which is why it isn’t higher — with Moncada, Swanson (who’s been much better recently), and others. Benintendi’s been great for the Sox and could steal the Rookie of the Year Award if Judge continues to scuffle. Bell has had a sneaky good rookie season.
4. 2008 Topps
Key Rookies: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Joey Votto, Evan Longoria, Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce, Hiroki Kuroda
The depth in this class isn’t great but its top end is great. Kershaw is looking like one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball history. Votto is looking like he’s on his way to Cooperstown. Scherzer is one of the more dominant pitchers in the game. Kuroda had a brief, but very good, run in the U.S. Longo, Cueto, and Bruce have all been All Stars.
3. 2016 Topps
Key Rookies: Corey Seager, Gary Sanchez, Trea Turner, Miguel Sano, Luis Severino, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, Julio Urias, Michael Fulmer, Trevor Story, Willson Contreras, Jose Berrios, Blake Snell, Michael Conforto, Nomar Mazara, Greg Bird, Jameson Taillon, Raul Mondesi, Jose Peraza, Max Kepler, Lucas Giolito, Tyler Naquin, Tim Anderson, Stephen Piscotty, Chris Devenski, Edwin Diaz, Zach Davies, Carl Edwards Jr., Kenta Maeda
This is a well-rounded class. Two great, promising shortstops in Seager and Turner. Some great power in Sanchez, Sano, and Schwarber. The pitching looks very good with Severino, Nola, Berrios, and Fulmer. Conforto, Contreras, and Mazara look to have sealed their places in their teams’ long-term plans. There’s still some projections to be done with the rest of the class, but they have great potential.
2. 2015 Topps
Key Rookies: Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Noah Syndergaard, Addison Russel, Carlos Rodon, Javier Baez, Byron Buxton, Jake Lamb, Joey Gallo, Travis Shaw, Justin Bour, Christian Vazquez, Ender Inciarte, Odubel Herrera, Raisel Iglesias, DJ LeMahieu, Maikel Franco, Mike Foltyniewicz, Joc Pederson, Steven Souza Jr., Randal Grichuk, David Peralta, James McCann, Daniel Norris
It’s hard to beat those first four names on the list. Bryant is the face of the Cubs. Correa and Lindor look to be the future at SS in the AL. Syndergaard, if he can stay healthy, has some of the best stuff in the Bigs. Buxton is finally capitalizing on his potential. Of course, there’s still some unkowns and untapped potential in that list, but guys like Inciarte, Baez, Lamb, Shaw, and Bour have already become everyday players on their clubs.
Key Rookies: Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Charlie Blackmon, Zach Britton, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Kyle Seager, Dee Gordon, Jason Kipnis, Jose Iglesias, Julio Teheran, Todd Frazier, Kyle Seager, JD Martinez, Brandon Crawford, Yonder Alonso, Brandon Belt, Mark Trumbo, Michael Pineda
How can you beat this class? It has a player who could go down in history as top 10 or 5 in Mike Trout. Jose Altuve and Paul Goldschmidt could win MVPs this year. Chris Sale is a frontrunner for the Cy Young. Freeman and Rizzo are two great first basemen in the NL. This list goes on and on. There’s a (good) reason why prices for Update are crazy.