On Wednesday, I took on the impossible task of projecting careers in progress to determine who will make it into the Hall of Fame in the future. If you missed it, here you go. Today, I'm taking it a step further and looking at players who aren't even eligible because they don't have ten years of service time. I did this last year too, and you can read that here. This is basically an update, as some players from last year have improved or hurt their standing.
Let's get it.
Last year, I mentioned that each of these three pitchers was having a great career, but might be too old to build a Hall of Fame case. I added the caveat that if they age well, I could end up being wrong. So far, each is aging pretty well. Wainwright is particularly interesting because he'll probably get some grace from the voters because he started his career as a successful closer and he's one of the five best pitchers in baseball right now. If any of these three pitchers can maintain their current levels through age 35 or so, they become really interesting.
Too Old V2
This group hasn't reached the required ten seasons but each player is over 30. As such, they might not have enough time to build a longevity HOF career along the lines of Tom Glavine or Craig Biggio. We'll keep these brief.
Ian Kinsler - Kinsler probably isn't good enough for a true Hall of Fame case anyway, but he's had a really nice, under-the-radar career. He has good power, good speed, he makes good contact, he draws some walks and he's just a really balanced player. His defense is either good or great depending on the metric. If he ages well, he'll have a nice 50+ WAR career and he'll get some HOF votes.
Ryan Braun - The steroid issue is probably more relevant than his age. I can't imagine he'll get much love when he becomes eligible. He's still a good hitter, although it has been two seasons since he's been an outstanding hitter. He has an uphill climb for things like All-Star appearances and year-end award votes and those things matter to the writers and voters.
Joey Votto - I refuse to believe that this season is anything more than a blip on the radar. His batting average is 55 points below his career figure, but so is his BABIP. I imagine he'll bounce back next season (or in the second half of this season). He has a career 153 OPS+, which is just insane. However, the narrative surrounding his plate discipline is going to eat him alive when columns about his Hall of Fame candidacy are written. It will be completely unfair and maybe we'll be past things like that by then, but despite his elite OBP skills, he's going to be a tough sell for a lot of people.
Hanley Ramirez - Ramirez is an odd choice for this category because he became a regular when he was 22. However, he dropped off so much from 2010-2012 that it's almost like he debuted at 25. He's back to being a good hitter, but he isn't the generational hitter that he appeared to be when he was actually 25. Plus, his defense at short is not great. Even so, he's young and performing well, so you never know.
Young, Transcendent Talent
Trout already owns a Rookie of the Year award, an All-Star Game MVP award, two second place MVP finishes, two Silver Sluggers, 25 WAR, a career OPS+ of 169, a great Subway campaign and...wait, why am I even bothering, he's Mike Trout! That's all you need to know. He's the best player in baseball and he's only 22!!
I find it extremely hard to believe that this guy isn't in the Hall of Fame come 2035 or 2040 or whenever he becomes eligible. If he has just two more seasons like the one he's having, he'll be at 50 WAR by age 25. Here's the list of guys who have done that in MLB history:
- Mickey Mantle
- Ty Cobb
I'd say that's solid company. If he does that, he can coast the rest of the way to Cooperstown. There's going to be some Trout backlash at some point and it's going to look like comedy in hindsight. Enjoy this guy because we don't see players like Trout very often.
Kershaw has an ERA under 2 since the start of 2013. Since his rookie season (when he was 20!!!!), Kershaw's ERA is 2.37. That's six seasons. That's 1184.2 innings! He is a monster player. He has two Cy Young Awards and is comfortably working on his third. He has led the NL in ERA and WHIP for the past four seasons. His WHIP is under 1 since 2011. That's 809.1 innings with fewer than one runner on base, on average.
The best way I can describe Kershaw is that he's "Pitcher Mike Trout." Except, Kershaw came first, so maybe Trout is "Batter Clayton Kershaw." Either way, we need to get these two into the same league so they can face off more often.
Looking Like Locks
I made King Felix's Hall of Fame case when I was trying to make his 2014 AL Cy Young case a few weeks back. Why don't you just check that out because if you don't see his candidacy by just looking at his stats, then maybe some bullet lists will help you.
The two best players in the National League. One will win the 2014 MVP, the other will finish second. Both guys play premium defensive positions and both guys are complete hitters. Tulowitzki's a little older and has dealt with injuries. McCutchen's defense doesn't match up to Tulowitzki's. Both guys are on the Hall of Fame path and seem to be somehow getting better as well.
??? - The category that has no category
What's going on, Longo? Can I call you Longo? Everyone can have an "down season" or two, but how many players have one at age 28. Are you doing a Hanley Ramirez impression? If so, I'd stop it. Unlike Votto, there isn't a way to explain his decline with a luck-based stat. His power is just not there in 2014. Unfortunately, without power, the low contact he's often carried really sticks out. His defense has been elite just once in the past three seasons, so he can't fall back on that anymore either.
If this is just a one-year dip, then I still think he has a pretty decent HOF candidacy. However, if this is some harbinger of a decline, then he wasn't Trouty enough before to have already made a case.
I'm not sure where to put Perez just yet, so we'll just stick him here. His defense is sublime. He's smooth, he's agile, his arm a weapon and he handles the intangibles of the position extremely well. Second, he's got some massive power in his bat and it's going to emerge. Remember, catchers almost always develop the bat after the glove.
His OPS has dipped in each of his four seasons and he does play for the Royals, so bad things can happen. However, I think he can overcome everything, even the Royals-ness. If he wins an MVP in the next five years, I won't be surprised at all. I'm infatuated.
I get that these guys are all super young, but we NEED to plan ahead. If we don't, we might get into a situation where we don't know the stats and narratives required to vote for these players. If that happens, the Hall of Fame could cease to exist. That would be a tragedy! Please understand, I am simply doing my part. Have a nice weekend, everyone!