Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Which MLB players will one day enter the Hall of Fame? Young Bucks Edition

Yesterday, I looked at current players with the best Hall of Fame resumes or likelihood or whatever you want to call it.  If you missed it, here you go.  Today, I am tackling younger players.  I am investigating anyone who either barely qualifies with ten years of experience or who is far from that threshold.  As the players get younger, the cases become crazier!  I've categorized the players so you can make your own spreadsheet with ease. 

Oh goodness, come on, they're children

Mike Trout - He has produced 16.4 rWAR and he's 21.  He's one of the five best players in baseball and he's not going to get any worse.  If he simply plays 10-12 more seasons at 75% of the level he has played the past two seasons, he'll rack up numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame. 

Bryce Harper - He hasn't had the crazy success that Trout has had, but he's just as talented.  Unlike Trout, Harper projects to get even better.  He also has immense power, so racking up giant power counting stats seems reasonable and with his talent, likely.

Older, but you're still crazy

Buster Posey - Already a two-time World Series Champion and the 2012 MVP.  He's an outstanding offensive player and he can handle his biz behind the plate.  He also seems to have the stigma of a "winner" and that goes a long way with voters. 

Andrew McCutchen - A centerfielder with a 135 career OPS+ after his first five seasons?  We're in Griffey, Mays, Mantle, DiMaggio territory.  Add in speed and durability and you have a dynamic player on a very early Hall of Fame path. 

Clayton Kershaw - He's the best pitcher in baseball right now.  He's 25, he doesn't miss starts, he gets strikeouts, he doesn't walk anyone anymore, and he's getting better.  What else?  He's a lefty, so that's a nice bonus.  No one has thrown 1000 innings before age 26 and posted an ERA+ as good as Kershaw's.  No one.  We're in uncharted territory. 

You're getting less crazy

Joey Votto - OBP machine, but he's actually not that young.  He'll be 30 in September.  His career is relatively young, as he's played just over 800 games.  There's a decent chance that he has a short-ish career, posts great rate stats but doesn't accumulate impressive counting stats.  He could morph into one of the more combative HOF debate cases around 2030.  I hope HOF debates don't really exist in 17 years. 

Dustin Pedroia - He'll be 30 in August and his stats are less impressive than Votto's.  However, Pedroia is short and gritty.  Those qualities make for fun stories.  What fun it could be if one day there's a Pedroia vs. Votto Hall of Fame debate.  I can see it now... (note:  vision was too bloody and disturbing and has been removed)  He's deserving of some HOF chatter; he's a really good player.

Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki - Lumpin' them together!  Both are extremely talented, play important defensive positions (and well), but are injury-prone.  Both are incredibly young and provide ridiculous value when they're on the field.  If I can only choose one for some extremely odd reason, I'd lean toward Longoria because he's slightly younger and has banked more value.  He also does not have to combat the Colorado mystique.   

Young enough, but probably not good enough 

Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, and Jered Weaver - All great pitchers, not accomplished enough at their age to project to the Hall of Fame.  However, if any of these guys age well, they could build a compelling case.

Yadier Molina - Awesome defender, leader, teammate, neck tattoo-er, but he may have developed as an offense player too late.  Catchers don't age well, but if Molina does, he could get into the conversation, as the pros say.

The Sweet Spot - The best cases

Robinson Cano - He's in the middle of his peak, so it's hard to compare him to other Hall of Fame second baseman.  However, if you use the last few years as a guide and add in some slight regression as he pushes past thirty, you can favorably compare his peak to Ryne Sandberg, Jackie Robinson and Rod Carew.  If he can maintain longevity, and he doesn't seem to be slowing down yet, he could end his career as one of the ten best second baseman of all time.  Positions seem to matter a lot with the Hall of Fame, so this is a very important distinction. 

Justin Verlander - Are we seeing slight signs of decline, or simply statistical noise and random variance?  Verlander's walk rate has increased this season and that seems to be taking away his overall dominance.  To me, he's too good to let that go uncorrected.  He was a dominant, work-horse pitcher for four seasons.  If he gets back to that level for just a few more seasons, his career will look a lot like Roy Halladay's career.  Plus, he has the Rookie of the Year award, a Cy Young and an MVP.  Those things matter, I tell you!

Felix Hernandez - Fun fact:  Felix Hernandez is still just 17-years-old.  Actually, he's 27, but that number still doesn't seem right.  I swear Hernandez was pitching on the day I was born.  This season, he's pitching as well as he ever has.  He's already had a peak that most pitchers would kill for.  His win-loss total will never look impressive, but look at everything else that makes a pitcher great and tell me that Hernandez isn't one of the best pitchers of this generation.  Possibly the best.  He's the King.  

David Wright - Unlike Votto and Pedroia, Wright debuted very young.  Therefore, even though he is 30, he has banked loads more value.  His career rWAR should hit 50 next season.  He's not really slowing down and he's very well respected and regarded within baseball.  I know this because it's not hard to find a "David Wright's a good guy" article online.  He's very talented, very balanced and he has great notoriety.  That last part is more important than it may seem, not trying to take anything away from the great player he truly is. 

Joe Mauer - I outlined Mauer's Hall of Fame case a few months back, and it looks good.  It's here, if you want to read it.  I got accused of cherry-picking because some jerk taught the internet that term and now we can't stop using it.  Regardless, much of Mauer's Hall of Fame case is based on his position.  There were worries that Mauer would have to move off the position in the very near future.  Watching him catch this season, I don't think that is a concern anymore.  Sure, he'll need to move to first base at some point, but I don't think it will be for a few years.  Therefore, he'll be an established, career catcher as far as history is concerned and by the time he isn't, he'll have established himself as one of the five best catchers of all-time.  All that first base offense will be gravy.  He's getting in, I am very confident of that. 

That's nearly 3000 words on the Hall of Fame, so I've done my part.  If you enjoyed it, that's great.  If not, I won't write about it again until the next round of voting.  For you.

If you enjoyed this post, the least you could do is follow me on Twitter:  @bridman77.  I'll tweet a lot one night, then disappear for weeks.  It's a hoot.  If I get to 1000 Twitter followers, I'll live-tweet Timecop, just like the pros.  If you're really bold, I have a Facebook group too.  There are ten members.  Yep.  If it gets to 50, I'll give away my only 1991 Score Gary Wayne card.  I'm being honest.  


  1. Enjoyed your hall of fame posts. I'd love to hear your thoughts on a couple young guys you didn't mention.

    Prince Fielder
    Carlos Gonzalez
    Hanley Ramirez

    1. Thank you, I appreciate that!

      To address the players you listed, Fielder is tough because the first base HOF standard is so high. If he can put together 3-4 more seasons like his 2009-2012 peak, then I could see his counting stats accumulating and getting him closer to the "discussion." If he gets his career OBP over .400, then I'd really want to look closer.

      Hanley was certainly on his way before injuries kind of derailed his career. If he can remain healthy and get back to his peak performance, he would have an interesting case. Right now, I don't see that happening.

      Gonzalez reminds me slightly of Beltran. He has had really good seasons, but I've never considered him an elite player. However, like Beltran, if he can be consistently great for 10-15 years, then he would have a strong case. He's an underrated player because he doesn't walk much, but he makes great contact for a power hitter and he steals bases. The Colorado thing will probably raise some questions about his true level of performance/ability, but he's a really nice player who still might not have reached his peak.

    2. One other thing, re CarGo: He gets hurt a lot. I'd love to see what he could produce in a full season.