No, I promise I won’t use this as a forum to talk about Barry Bonds and why the SECOND BEST PLAYER EVER SHOULD BE IN THE HALL OF FAME (!!!), but rather to focus on the past weekend that was, and use it to stir up a topic I’ve always found compelling; analyzing, discussing, and predicting which active MLBers will someday be inducted into Cooperstown.
First off, the obvious has to be addressed: Alex Rodriguez qualifies as active, but he will not make an appearance on this list. Should he make the Hall of Fame based on performance, obviously. However, there’s no chance in hell he gets in, especially not anytime soon, and that phrase is even more applicable now because of the recent modification of ballot eligibility from 15 years down to 10 years. There will come a time when guys like A-Rod, Bonds, Roger Clemens and the rest of the steroid-era bunch will have their greatness truly appreciated, but it isn’t happening for a long, long time, certainly not while their HoF-eligible.
I am not going to distribute the guys in this list into different categories, like “Locks” or “On the right track.” They are all in one (ALPHABETICALLY ORDERED) group, the group of guys who I believe will be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame when their illustrious careers come to an end. So, without further adieu, let’s begin.
Perhaps the most underrated Hall candidate in recent years, Adrian Beltre absolutely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and I think by the time he’s retired and been out of the game for five years, the voters will realize that. Beltre has had a very interesting big league tenure, entering the league as a teenager, having success as a youngster, but perhaps having his most success during the later part of his career. Through his age-30 season, he was a terrific defensive third baseman, but really just an above-average offensive player. Through his first dozen seasons, Beltre compiled exactly 1700 hits and 250 home runs, swiped 111 bases, and posted a .325 on-base with a .334 wOBA and a 104 wRC+. At that point, Beltre was just a very solid, durable, and dependable guy at the hot corner. However, things changed when landed in Boston in 2010, as a 31-year-old. Since his best offensive season in six years in 2010, Beltre has eclipsed the 2500-hit mark and should hit his 400th home run by the end of 2014. During this dominant stretch, the now 35-year-old owns a .360 on-base and a slugging percentage in the .540’s, as well as great wOBA’s and wRC+’s of .384 and 138, respectively. His offensive jolt definitely put him in the Hall of Fame conversation, but when pairing that with his unbelievable defense that has never gone in a slump during his 17-year career, Beltre’s career WAR of 68 slots him 10th all-time among third baseman. He’s clearly not slowing down anytime soon, and another two years or so of his current production will make him a lock to enter Cooperstown someday.
First-Ballot status: Probably not.
You may have heard of him. I mean, how much of a breakdown do I really need to do on Miguel Cabrera? He’s one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game, so good to the point where he qualifies as one of the very rare guys who you can completely ignore their defensive flaws due to their insane ability to do whatever they want with a bat in their hands. He’s only 31, but has been playing professional baseball since he was 16, so there are a lot of miles on his body, which means he might not physically be able to reach milestones such as the 600-homer plateau, but that doesn’t take anything away from his utter dominance. Miggy owns a lifetime .406 wOBA with a 152 wRC+ to boot. He could retire tomorrow and make the Hall of Fame, I think.
First-Ballot status: Absolutely.
Barry Bonds is my favorite hitter of all-time, and Felix Hernandez might be my favorite pitcher of all-time. Like Miguel Cabrera, you may have heard of this guy. But, have you seen him? One of the biggest crimes, I feel, for the casual baseball fan is never really getting the chance to watch Felix on a national stage. The Mariners are almost never nationally televised, Seattle is a very small-market team, and while Felix has been with the M’s, they’ve played in zero postseason games. It’s a shame you probably haven’t had the opportunity to regularly watch him, because instead the ESPN’s and MLB Network’s of the world would rather jam the Red Sox down our throat night-after-night. One reason I love Felix is because he is Exhibit A of why the pitcher Win-Loss record means absolutely nothing. Like I said, Felix has been a part of some terrible Mariners teams, and the poor offense and defense behind him has hurt his chances at getting W’s. In ten seasons, Felix has averaged just a 14-10 record every year for a pitcher who is consistently one of the best the league. Since his debut in 2005, no other pitcher in baseball has been better than Felix besides the recently retired Roy Halladay, by RA/9 WAR. Same can be said if you go by ERA- or xFIP-, no other starter with at least 1500 IP has been better than the man they call “The King” besides the man they called “The Doc.” In my mind, this is the most underrated pitcher in the last 25 years of baseball, at least. A Hall of Famer, no doubt.
First-Ballot status: Yes.
I’m not gonna waste your time, or my time, discussing Derek Jeter‘s Hall of Fame credentials. He’s the second greatest offensive shortstop in the history of the game (minimum 10000 PA’s). #RE2PECT
First-Ballot status: Duh, might be the first unanimously voted in player.
Every time this guy takes the mound you have this upsetting feeling in your stomach that he’s about tear your favorite team apart. Now, imagine how the guys who have to step into the batter’s box to face him feel. Good lord. Just for fun, and for those not sure of just how truly amazing the only (!!!) 26-year-old Clayton Kershaw is, I thought I’d compare him to a Hall of Famer, who also happened to be a lefty, and a Dodger:
Clayton Kershaw FIRST seven seasons: 1.07 WHIP, 66 ERA-, 73 FIP-
Sandy Koufax BEST seven seasons: 1.03 WHIP, 69 ERA-, 70 FIP-
I think it’s safe to say, barring injury or anything out of the ordinary, that this kid will be in the Hall when he hangs it up. I mean, this is just based on what he’s done so far, he’s only twenty-freaking-six. Unreal.
First-ballot status: Yes.
Aside from Trout, Andrew McCutchen is probably the best power/speed/plate discipline combo for any centerfielder since Ken Griffey, Jr. Much like King Felix, McCutchen, even with an MVP under his belt, still often gets overlooked in the discussion of baseball’s great players due to an average team in a small market. But, his numbers speak for themselves. Through his first six seasons, Cutch has been around a .300/.400/.500 slash line guy, with a wOBA of .381, a wRC+ of 142, and a WAR of 31.5. Since his debut in 2009, by fWAR, McCutchen has been the best player in the National League. His plate selection and consistently high walk rates make him a lethal threat on the basepaths thanks to his ability to get on base, as he’s averaged 27 stolen bases per year so far. At only 27, the face of the Pirates has so much more brilliance ahead of him en route to a likely Hall of Fame career.
First-ballot status: Possibly.
Stan Musial, Jimmie Foxx, Mark McGwire, Johnny Mize, Frank Thomas, Hank Greenberg. What do all of these Hall of Fame (minus McGwire) first baseman have in common? Albert Pujols has been a better offensive player than all of them throughout his career. By wRC+, Pujols’ 159 mark trails only Lou Gehrig all-time among 1B. I know he’s struggled since bolting to Anaheim, but he could have retired after the 2011 season and been a first-ballot Hall of Famer, seriously. He’s 34, and in the 3rd year of his 10-year deal. 600 homers is likely if he can stay on the field, and he’ll probably notch 3000 hits before it’s all over as well. Anaheim Albert hasn’t necessarily been pretty, but St. Louis Albert was one of the greatest hitters the game of baseball has ever seen and likely will ever see.
First-ballot status: Yes.
This is probably one of my favorite guys to debate on this list. His struggles over the past few seasons have really blinded people from the great C.C. Sabathia, and made them forget how great he was. I compared Kershaw to a Hall of Famer earlier, allow me to compare C.C. to a new HoFer now, one Tom Glavine.
Through first 14 seasons:
Sabathia- 1.24 WHIP, 83 ERA-, 83 FIP-
Glavine- 1.31 WHIP, 87 ERA-, 91 FIP-
Sure, you need to look at much more than just what I’m giving you there, but it gives you a really good idea of just how excellent Sabathia was, and all of these numbers include his poor last three seasons. I think he definitely deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown.
First-ballot status: Possibly, but I’ll go the safe route and say he’s inducted in year 2 or 3.
Alright, time to ruffle some feathers. Personally, I don’t put Ichiro into the Hall. Sorry, it’s called the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and as a player in our country, he hasn’t done enough to be a Hall of Famer. He’s one of the best international players of all-time, and just an unbelievable baseball player. But, while in America, his numbers in the MLB don’t suffice for the Hall of Fame. I know he has a ton of hits, but so does Michael Young. His run of greatness was quite short in the majors, and not HoF-worthy. But, nobody is going to just view him as a Mariner (or Yankee). They’re going to see the .330 hitter who has nearly 4000 hits combined between Japan and America. He’s going to be in the Hall, absolutely. But, I don’t think he should be, but I don’t have any say in the matter. Oh well.
First-ballot status: Yes.
I don’t care that he’s not even 23 yet. I don’t care that he’s played three years. None of that matters. His wRC+ slots him as the 7th best offensive player of all-time. Mike Trout is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. I’m willing to bet everything I own on this guy making the Hall. He’s that freaking awesome.
First-ballot status: Sure, why not?
Joey Votto is one of the greatest hitters in the last decade, at least. But, you don’t see that. Why? You look at batting average, and RBI’s, and the nonsensical stats of that nature. Embrace the analytics, folks! Do it! Because then you’ll be able to see just how incredible Votto is. Probably the first superstar to publicly embrace sabermetrics, Votto has backed up his talk about the advanced stats with phenomenal advanced stats. Votto understands the value of plate discipline and walking, as shown by his unbelievable 15% career walk rate, along with lifetime numbers such as a wOBA over .400 and a wRC+ in the 150’s, along with great defense. The only issue regarding his candidacy for the Hall of Fame relies on whether or not the writers with votes will fully embrace the analytics themselves by the time Votto’s name appears on the ballot. He’s only about to turn 31, so he’s got a long way to go before retirement and his name being on the ballot, so maybe sabermetrics will be understood and embraced in time to put him in the Hall, because he certainly deserves it.
First-ballot status: No, simply because of the unlikelihood of sabermetrics being embraced by then.
If you want to talk more about this, be sure to find, follow, and interact with me on Twitter: @TheBTrain10, or shoot me an email — [email protected]