Active MLB Players’ HOF Chances

Steroids, lies, and more steroids have tainted the baseball Hall of Fame conversation for several years now. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens remain on the ballot for 2015, but Rafael Palmeiro is off with only 25 votes — 4.4%. Over 3000 hits and over 500 home runs is a shoo-in without the stain of performance-enhancing drugs, but after only his fourth year on the ballet, Palmeiro will never appear again. The only other players with that stat are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Eddie Murray.

So Alex Rodriguez will probably suffer the same fate as Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa. Hitters who were really good, but cheaters.

But the rest of Major League Baseball's active list of potential Hall of Fame careers appear relatively clean. Let's turn over a new leaf and look at some worthy active candidates.

Locks

Derek Jeter

Currently ninth in career hits, Jeter could move up to fifth or sixth by the end of the season. He's an obvious first ballot choice, a true leader, and one hell of a hitter.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro is currently third among active hitters in the hit category, after Jeter and Rodriguez (if you can count him as active) with nearly 2800 hits in MLB. Considering he began his MLB career at age 27, I think we can assume he would have gathered a few more hits had he come to the U.S. earlier — maybe even 1000 more. Ichiro had over 200 hits in each of his first 10 seasons. The man is a real talent and another first ballot Hall of Fame choice.

Albert Pujols

Pujols is already a nine-time All-Star a three time MVP (a four-time second place finisher, twice to the cheating Barry Bonds). 2013 was an off year for Pujols, but he has been showing signs of life in 2014. He may never have another year of batting .350 with 40 home runs and 130 RBI, but .280 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI is still high quality performance. If he retired tomorrow, I still think he'd be a first ballot choice, but I could be wrong on that. If he plays another four to eight years, he may reach 3000 hits and 700 home runs and join Hank Aaron as the only other person to do that.

Should Be In

Miguel Cabrera

At age 31, Cabrera is already an eight-time All-Star and two-time MVP. He's had 100 or more RBI in the past 10 seasons. In that time, he's hit 30 home runs all but once, and hit .300 all but twice. He's a machine at the plate. He'll likely go over 400 home runs this season and is already over 2000 hits. And he's 31. He may tail off a bit over the next decade, but I still think 3000 hits and 600 home runs is in reach for Cabrera. Barring a career ending injury or a severe drop-off in production that leaves him pinch hitting, Cabrera should be a Hall of Famer without question.

David Ortiz

David Ortiz is a nine time All-Star with very similar numbers to Paul Konerko (later). He's even the same age as Konerko. He'll probably reach 500 home runs. If he hadn't been terrible for the first six seasons of his career in Minnesota, this would be a no brainer. But what makes Ortiz a top candidate in my opinion is his clutch playoff performances. He has three World Series rings and one World Series MVP. Passing the 500 home run mark will help his cause, but I think Big Papi gets in one way or another, but probably not right away.

Adrian Beltre

I'm not sure about Adrian Beltre. He's only a three time all-star. He's never won an MVP (though he has finished second once and third once), he'll go over 2500 hits this season, he'll likely go over 400 home runs this season. He's 35-years-old. He's 75 in career total bases, right after Harmon Killebrew and just ahead of Jim Rice — both Hall of Famers. He's good in the field with four Gold Gloves at third base. I don't know why, but I think he has more work to do. He's just never been a guy who has dominated and he's probably too old to do that now. Sustained greatness measures pretty deeply, but so does a run of domination.

I'd say his chances right now would be about 10%. Another three years of solid play — 40%. Another five years along with breaking the 3000 hit and 500 home run mark, closer to 90%.

Justin Verlander

Of course the recently retired Mariano Rivera will make the Hall of Fame, but most active pitchers are a bit more questionable in their credentials.

Verlander is a six-time all-star. He won the Cy Young and the MVP in the same season. Verlander has thrown two no-hitters and continues to be dominant. It's unclear how long Verlander can keep performing at all-star status. Today's pitcher statistics have a hard time measuring up against former times. It's very unlikely Verlander will reach 300 wins and merely possible he'll reach 3000 strikeouts. But he may be the most dominant pitcher of the past decade. Continuing his success puts him in the Hall in my opinion.

CC Sabathia

Sabathia is much like Verlander. But Sabathia came up earlier and has some stat padding against Verlander. Sabathia is currently 208-119. If he can hold on for another seven years, he could be the last 300-game winner we ever see in Major League Baseball. But at 6'7” and nearly 300 pounds, I don't see Sabathia's body holding up that long. He's 33 and his ERA is already slipping big time. In 2013, it was 4.78, the worst of his entire career. In seven starts in 2014, it's hovering up at 5.75. Sabathia may have already done enough for some to warrant Hall of Fame consideration, but I need to see at least three more years of 15 wins and 150 to 200 strikeouts if he wants my vote.

Less Likely

Adam Dunn

Dunn will likely be the next active player to cross the 500 home run mark. The problem with Dunn is that 28.5% of his hits are home runs …meaning he doesn't have that many hits. He will likely end up being the career leader in strikeouts (he's already in fourth) and he's only made two all-star games, which I will label as unjust. It's very likely that he'll slow down real fast real soon. Once Dunn isn't hitting 35 to 40 home runs per season, he won't be playing every day anywhere. But he's only 34. Another six years of 35 home runs is 650 of them. Know anybody with 650 home runs not in the Hall of Fame ... who didn't take steroids. I don't. Personally, though, I don't think he has six good years left. Maybe three, which would put him likely around 550.

I'd say if he can manage 600 home runs he'll get in, but if not, he'll have a hard time getting the votes.

Paul Konerko

Konerko is basically between Pujols and Beltre, but 38-years-old and with a lot less in the tank. Konerko is a six-time All-Star and a very good contact hitter. His season high total for strikeouts is only 110, impressive for today's era of power hitter. I just don' t think Konerko will have enough games to prove he's Hall of Fame material. He was crawling in 2013 and 2014 looks worse. I think he may be in his final year, which means probably not happening for Konerko.

Joe Mauer

Mauer has three batting titles, an MVP, and six all-star appearances. It looks like 2013— his 10th year will be his final year of catching. Those 10 years of catching were about as good as you can expect from anyone in MLB history. Mauer needs another 10 years with that level of production at first base or designated hitter. If he can keep his career average up at .322 where it currently stands for the next eight to 10 years, I don't know how you could say no to this guy. It would put him near 3000 hits most likely, barring missing too much time for injury. But as a first baseman/designated hitter, Mauer might need to hit more for power. Not 40 home runs per year power, but 15 to 20 would be nice.

Joe Nathan

Nathan is a six-time all-star with 348 saves, ninth most all-time. Of the eight men ahead of Nathan on that list, only Dennis Eckersley is a Hall of Famer. Mariano Rivera certainly will be, but Lee Smith — with 130 more saves than Nathan made it to 50% of the votes in 2012. In 2014, he dipped below 30%. I'd love to see more closers in the Hall of Fame, but the trend is Nathan doesn't stand a chance. What does that mean for Francisco Rodriguez, Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon and other closers of our era? I don't know.

So who am I missing from this list? Is there anybody else who would get your Hall of Fame vote?

Comments and Conversation

May 13, 2014

Brad Oremland:

Andrew, you missed a lot of players who should be in this conversation. The biggest omission might be Carlos Beltran. Great regular-season player, great postseason legacy.

I know you place enormous weight on longevity, but Chase Utley is one of the best second basemen of all time. And he’s still, you know, kind of good.

Others who probably merit mention include (but are not limited to) Mark Buehrle, Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Matt Holliday, Torii Hunter, Cliff Lee, David Wright, and depending on where your age cutoff is, a bunch of others (Greinke, Longoria, McCutchen, Yadier, Posey, Trout, Tulo, Votto, etc.). Most of those guys won’t get in, but all of them will have a chance.

I’m astonished you think Adam Dunn is a stronger candidate than those guys. I’d wager my car against Dunn getting in.

Albert Pujols is already a shoo-in. He is the greatest first baseman since Lou Gehrig, and barring a steroid revelation, he will get about 95% of the vote on his first ballot.

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