The current era of the MLB is loaded with young superstars as well as grizzled veterans that have changed the game in their own individual way. These extraordinary talents have left an indelible mark on baseball and lots of them have a chance to have their names enshrined into a plaque in Cooperstown. I’m going to break down who I think are Hall of Fame locks, probables considering they keep up even a decent amount of production for the remainder of their careers, and the hopefuls who should make it in if they remain on their current trajectory and continue to perform at a high level.
If you have even a shred of doubt that “The Machine” will make the Hall, you haven’t been watching baseball for very long. To start his career, Pujols had one of the best 10 year stretches of all time. In his first 10 years in the league, Pujols never had an OPS(on base percentage plus slugging percentage) below .950. In the first 11 years of his career, Pujols won 3 MVP awards and finished in the top 5 of voting in 10 of those years. That is absolute dominance. Albert is currently at just over 2900 career hits and will reach the 3000 mark before he retires, which makes you essentially a lock for the Hall.
Along with Pujols, Cabrera is another player who is an absolute lock. Unlike Pujols, most of Miggy’s production has come in the middle of his career. Cabrera is an 11 time All Star and a two-time AL MVP. In 2012, Miggy was the first player in the AL to win the Triple Crown and lead the league in batting average, home runs and RBI’s since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Miggy has been an incredible model of consistency in his career as he’s had an OPS plus of over 100(which is league average)every year in his career.
One of the most unique players to ever grace the diamond, Ichiro is another lock for the Hall. If you count his years in Japan, he has been playing at the highest level for a ridiculous 26 years. He reached the 3000 hit mark in the MLB last year, which makes him a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Ichiro is one of two players In Major League History to win the MVP in their first year in the league. In 2004, Ichiro set the Major League record with 262 hits in a season. He has tallied over 4300 hits in his professional career which makes you wonder if he had come to the MLB earlier whether or not he could have made a run at Pete Rose’s all time record.
A player who seems to be underrated on an all time scale, Adrian Beltre is another Hall of Fame lock. Beltre’s career Wins above Replacement of 92.1 ranks 42nd all time and is ahead of loads of other players that are already in the Hall of Fame. He will reach the esteemed 3000 hit club in the coming weeks which will ensure his spot in Cooperstown. Beltre has also been an exceptional defensive player as well and ranks 13th all time on Defensive WAR. A surge in the latter part of his career has basically ensured him a spot in the Hall.
The last lock on my list is also by far the youngest. Kershaw is in the middle of his 10th season which makes him finally eligible for induction into the Hall where he to retire anytime soon. Some might argue that Kershaw is too young to already be considered a lock for the Hall of Fame, but what he has done in his 10 years in the league is truly remarkable. Kershaw is a 3 time Cy Young Award winner and a N.L. MVP, an incredibly rare feat for a pitcher. Kershaw has the 2nd best ERA plus(era adjusted ERA) of all time and the 6th best strikeout to walk ratio of all time. His career 2.34 Earned Run Average is a testament to his incredible consistency and a number worthy of a spot in Cooperstown.
The transcendent talent that is Mike Trout continues to drop the jaws of opposing players and fans alike. In my opinion, Trout, regardless of his youth, is already a lock for the Hall of Fame. However, since he has not had the 10 years of experience required for eligibility, he is the first up on my list of probables. Throughout his first six full years in the league, Trout has been the consensus best player in baseball. His Wins above Replacement of 52.2 is already better than many Hall of Famers despite the fact that he is only in his 6th full year in the league. He is already a two-time AL MVP and has finished top 2 in MVP voting in each of the last 5 years. Barring a major injury that prevents him from reaching the required ten years of service, Mike Trout will have his name enshrined in Cooperstown.
Beltrán is far from a lock or a first ballot HOFer but he has put together a very nice career. He has 70.2 career WAR which is a really good number and gives him a solid chance. His peak wasn’t super strong(only one top 5 MVP finish), but he has an outside shot at 3000 hits which most likely would put him in. Also, Beltran was an excellent hitter in the postseason batting .323/.432/.646 in 55 career games.
At the age of 33, Joey Votto has already established himself as one of the best hitters ever. Through 11 years, Votto has a 51.3 career WAR which is a great mark considering he hasn’t slowed down In terms of production. Votto is a National League MVP which boosts his resume considering his team has never had any postseason success. Additionally, Votto’s incredible career on base percentage of .424 ranks 13th all time and his OPS plus(park adjusted) of 157 ranks 18th all time. Barring any major regression, Votto is a deserving candidate for a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Some people might be surprised to see Scherzer on this list, but they shouldn’t. Scherzer has 43.3 career WAR, which is a very good mark through 10 years. More importantly though, is the fact that Scherzer has two Cy Young awards and is the clear favorite to win the award this year with Kershaw going down in the home stretch of the season. The BBWAA voters would have an incredibly hard time leaving out a 3 time Cy Young Award winner with two more top 5 finishes. Throw in the fact that Scherzer seems to be peaking at just the right time and he looks like a very promising candidate for the Hall.
As we discuss Cano, we move farther away from the sure fire picks and more towards the borderline choices. Still, I do think that Cano eventually will get into the Hall of Fame. Cano’s star has dimmed slightly in the last few years, but he still is a 64.6 career WAR player which is an excellent mark. He has 4 top 5 MVP finishes which is not bad but he was only top 3 once which hurts him a bit. However, with 2300 hits through 13 years, he has a very good shot at reaching the 3000 hit plateau and I still don’t think they would leave out a member of that club.
Although his career counting stats aren’t that great, I feel like Molina will find his way into the Hall. His career 34.1 WAR would be very weak for a Hall of Famer, but Molina is a 8 time Gold Glove winner and is without question one of the best defensive catchers to ever play the game. If Molina can finish his career as a ten time All Star(he has 8 as of now) as well as a two-time World Series champion, his defensive prowess will most likely earn him a spot in the Hall considering he will have at least 2000 hits.
Harper is easily the most hopeful out of all under this category. His upside is enormous and his prowess with the bat mirrors that of Barry Bonds. The only thing that keeps him out of the probables was his poor 2016 season and his relatively low career WAR. Harper’s 2015 season was better than a lot of current Hall of Famer’s best seasons. He is obviously a Hall of Fame talent, he just needs to stay healthy and continue to produce at a high level.
Although Mad Bum isn’t as good at striking out batters like Kershaw or Scherzer, he has had a very consistent career. His regular season numbers aren’t eye-popping, but the postseason is where Bumgarner really shines. He is a 3 time World Series champion with a career 2.11 postseason ERA. At the age of 27, Mad Bum has already established himself as one of the best postseason pitchers of all time. If he continues up his current production and solidifies himself as the best postseason pitcher ever, his case would be very strong.
Not many players in the history of the game have had a more impressive résumé through the age of 30 than Buster Posey. He is a 5 time All Star, 3 time World Series Champ, Rookie of the Year, and NL MVP. With a 36.6 career WAR which will improve a lot with his current trajectory and him being as consistent a defensive catcher there is, the BBWAA will be convinced to vote him in.
If Altuve continues to play the way he has been the past few years, Cooperstown is well within reach. Altuve is a good defensive second baseman and an absolute force at the plate. He is a career .317 hitter and is currently batting a ridiculous .365 with an OPS over 1.00. Altuve has been the main cog in the Astros’ major turn around and is currently the favorite for the AL MVP with Aaron Judge slumping since the break. Altuve has a unique skill set for such a small player and definitely has the talent to one day be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Kimbrel is already one of the best closers of all time. He has a career 1.81 ERA and an ERA plus of 218 which would be the best mark of all time without an innings limit. If he keeps up his current pace, he can be one of the 5 best relievers ever and easily make the Hall.
The Marlins’ slugger is another player who could make the Hall with great production later in his career and if he stays healthy. He has 240 career HR’s through 8 years and if he could reach the upper 500’s, his case would be strong.
Those are my players that I believe are locks, probables, and hopefuls for the Hall of Fame. Players that have had great careers but not Hall of Fame worthy like Justin Verlander, Chase Utley, Dustin Pedroia, and CC Sabathia barely missed the cut. Other players like Chris Sale, Nolan Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt could potentially make the Hall of Fame but haven’t played at a high level long enough to be on the list.