Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Future Hall of Famers (AL)

Pujols was a Hall of Fame guarantee before becoming an Angel (SportsOnEarth)
With Hall of Fame ballots due tomorrow, I was thinking about which of today's players will be enshrined in Cooperstown someday. I stayed away from really young and inexperienced players like Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Jose Abreu, and Masahiro Tanaka. Here's the list I came up with, organized by team.

AL East
Baltimore Orioles
Maybe Matt Wieters or Adam Jones, but right now they're both far from sure things. Jones will have a decent shot if he keeps having 30-homer seasons and winning Gold Gloves, but his low OBPs means he might be remembered as something of his generation's Andre Dawson.

Boston Red Sox
David Ortiz
I wrote at length about Ortiz's compelling Hall of Fame case last summer. Even if this is the year his bat finally falls off, I think he's done enough to merit a plaque in Cooperstown.

Dustin Pedroia
The Boston version of Derek Jeter is well on his way with four Gold Gloves, two World Series titles and an MVP under his belt. Even if he's nothing more than a league average hitter over the remainder of his career, he'll still finish with stellar counting numbers and the reputation of a Red Sox legend.

Hanley Ramirez has a good shot if he hits the cover off the ball at Fenway and stays relatively healthy.

New York Yankees
Carlos Beltran
Beltran's best days are behind him at 38, but he'll need to be productive over the remaining two seasons on his contract in order to reach several important milestones. If healthy, he should surpass 2,500 hits, 1,500 runs/RBI, 400 homers, and 500 doubles. He's already one of the top 10 center fielders of all time according to JAWS, but those numbers, combined with his previously elite defense, would strengthen his case dramatically as far as old-school voters are concerned.

Alex Rodriguez
A dead-ringer for Willie Mays statistically.

CC Sabathia
Before his career started heading south two years ago, Sabathia had been one of the best pitchers in baseball for more than a decade. He was second only to Roy Halladay in fWAR from 2001 through 2012, during which time he was first in wins and strikeouts and second in innings pitched. The 2007 AL Cy Young winner is well-decorated with four other finishes in the top-five, six All-Star nods, and a World Series ring. With 208 career victories at 34 years of age, the big southpaw has an outside chance to reach 300.

Ichiro Suzuki
The 41 year-old free agent will be a shoo-in thanks to his 10 consecutive 200 hit seasons from 2001 through 2010. He also batted .300, made the All-Star team, and won a Gold Glove during every one of those years. The active leader in steals is just 156 hits shy of 3,000, but even if he doesn't get there he's still a lock.

Tampa Bay Rays
Evan Longoria
At the end of his age-28 season, Longoria had already compiled 40 bWAR while establishing himself as one of the best two-way third basemen and all-around players in the game.

Toronto Blue Jays
Mark Buehrle
The five-time All-Star might not seem like a Hall-worthy pitcher, but he's about to pass 200 wins and is coming up on 60 bWAR, which he'll reach with one more solid season. Never had a peak per se but has had several very good years scattered throughout his 14 year run of merely good ones. The ability to churn out 200+ quality innings every year like clockwork is exceptionally rare and valuable, and he deserves to be rewarded for it. A couple more typical Buehrle years should do the trick.

AL Central
Chicago White Sox
Abreu and Chris Sale still have a long ways to go.

Cleveland Indians
Terry Francona for sure, but none of their veterans scream Cooperstown.

Detroit Tigers
Miguel Cabrera
Could retire tomorrow and get in easily. His first dozen seasons have been nothing short of outstanding, and he's on the cusp of reaching 400 home runs. With nine All-Star appearances, back-to-back MVPs, the first Triple Crown in nearly half a century, and countless other accolades, he's a sure thing.

Justin Verlander
Looked like a surefire HOF hurler before last year and now appears to be at a career crossroads. If he can't even be an average pitcher from this point forward, then he probably won't make the grade, but if he can bounce back and/or be converted into a super-reliever, then he'll make it in someday.

Kansas City Royals
The Royals have a ton of young talent, but it's too early to make a call on any of them. Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer would be my best bets, but they're only going to be 25 next year and haven't done enough to say anything about them with a good deal of certainty.

Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer
The best-hitting catcher since Mike Piazza should have no problem reaching Cooperstown someday. The 2009 AL MVP has already made six All-Star teams, received three Gold Gloves, and won a trio of batting titles. Last season's move to first base should prolong his career and help him remain a productive hitter throughout his 30s. The Twins better hope so, as he's owed $92 million over his next four seasons.

Torii Hunter has had a fine career, but he's destined for the Hall of Very Good rather than the Hall of Fame.

AL West
Houston Astros
Jose Altuve's not even 25. We'll revisit his chances in five years.

Los Angeles Angels
Albert Pujols
If Pujols retired today he'd be a first-ballot Hall of Famer with his 520 home runs, three MVP awards, and 97 career bWAR. JAWS rates him as the second-best first baseman of all-time, behind only Lou Gehrig. The Machine is still under contract for seven more years, during which time he'll only add to his already outstanding counting numbers, which should end up north of 3,000 hits, 2,000 runs and RBI, and 650 homers.

Mike Trout
Though he's only 23, his first few seasons have been so spectacular that I'm pretty sure he'll be a no-doubter by his 30th birthday. When you're off to the best start of any player in history, you get the benefit of the doubt.

Oakland A's
Is there even anyone left on that team right now? Sonny Gray maybe, but he has a long way to go.

Seattle Mariners
Robinson Cano
Cano is like Pedroia, only with two more quality seasons under his belt. The 32 year-old has already surpassed 50 bWAR, 400 doubles, and 200 home runs. He could reach 2,000 hits and 100 RBI next year as well. One of the best players in baseball for a decade now, he's been the second-best second baseman over his career behind only Chase Utley. Coming off five straight top-six MVP finishes and six consecutive .300 seasons, he's showed no signs of slowing down. And with nine more years to bolster his counting numbers, he'll sail in no problem.

Felix Hernandez
10 years into his career, King Felix has put himself in a great position to one day achieve enshrinement. Not yet 29, he's already amassed more than 2,000 spectacular innings and 45 bWAR. He's also won a Cy Young award and finished runner-up twice. Has had a marvelous six-year peak, now he needs only to stay healthy and have a few more good years.

Texas Rangers
Adrian Beltre
Beltre has quietly put together a tremendous career that has him just outside the top-five for JAWS at third base. He's indisputably one of the 10-best third basemen ever and could be top-five by the time he's done. Will pass 400 homers next year and has a sneaky good shot to eclipse 3,000 hits (he'll be 36 and needs 396 more). Throw in his four Gold Gloves, 77.8 career bWAR, and his reputation as one of the game's best defensive third basemen, and he's a cinch.

Brian McCann
Had been the National League's version of Mauer before signing with the Yankees, where he struggled last year. Is still only 31, so a bounce back is certainly possible, and he'll be an interesting case if he winds up with 350 or so home runs (he's currently at 199). Already a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger recipient, he might turn out to be the Ted Simmons of the 21st Century.

Mark Teixeira
A modern day Gil Hodges of sorts, Tex's chances looked much better a couple years ago. He's going to be 35 next year and appears to be breaking down, and I'm not sure a few more 20-homer seasons are going to cut it. He needs to stay healthy and productive for a few more years at least.

Prince Fielder
Will be 31 next year and is still young enough to have a few more monster seasons in him (especially now that he's playing for Texas), but players like him typically don't age well. Got off to a fantastic start with 288 big flies before his 30th birthday, but now he needs to produce on the back nine of his career.

Victor Martinez
Needs to remain an elite hitter throughout his 30s a la Ortiz, then we'll talk.

Jose Bautista
Late bloomer needs to keep hitting like Edgar Martinez to make up for lost time at the front end of his career. Joe Bats must stay healthy and can't afford any more injury-plagued years like 2012 and 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe Justin Verlander could be another John Smoltz, perhaps?