Aidan O’Sullivan, 2022
With the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot released on November 16, a look at who may be on the ballot in 10-25 years:
Arizona Diamondbacks: Madison Bumgarner
Randy Johnson is the lone Diamondback Hall of Famer and the current Diamondback with the best shot at joining him is another tall lefty who seemingly throws out of the first base dugout. Bumgarner has a very legitimate case that he is the best postseason pitcher of all time but his regular seasons merely put him in the hall of very good.
Atlanta Braves: Freedie Freeman
Winning the MVP enhanced Freeman’s Hall of Fame chances and a World Series – which seems possible with the NL East champion Braves – will solidify his Hall of Fame career. Consistency has been the hallmark of Freeman’s career and if he continues to trend upward he will find himself in Cooperstown by 2035.
Baltimore Orioles: Adley Rutschman
No current players have built a legacy in Baltimore so turning to their top prospect is the safest choice. Rutschman, 22, is an advanced game-caller as a catcher and hits for power at the plate. He shows tremendous discipline that led to a 1.35 K/BB in his first pro season in the Orioles system.
Boston Red Sox: Chris Sale
The departure of Mookie Betts leaves Chris Sale as the current Red Sox with the strongest Hall of Fame resume. Sale has always been injury-prone and while he has produced Hall of Fame seasons, Tommy John surgery will sideline him until June of 2021 and likely derail his bid. Best case scenario for Boston is Sale coming back and producing 180-200 inning seasons until his contract ends in 2024. If all goes well, Sale may find himself in the Hall of Fame after his career ends.
Chicago White Sox: Eloy Jiménez
Jiménez shines the brightest among a talented White Sox farm system and proved it in 2020, slashing .296/.332/.559. Jiménez, who stands 6’4” 235, isn’t as bright defensively as fellow White Sox Luis Robert but is a monster at the plate and will likely move to the DH role at some point in his career to increase longevity. The future is bright in the south side of Chicago.
Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo
Rizzo will have to build his resume off consistency but if he strings together a few all-star-caliber seasons he will have a shot at Cooperstown. Being a major contributor on the curse-breaking 2016 Cubs will significantly boost his Hall of Fame chances.
Cincinnati Reds: Trevor Bauer
Bauer likely won’t don a Reds jersey in 2021 but he produced a Cy Young season in 2020 and is trending upwards at age 29. Like it or not, Bauer is changing the game and he has high ambitions for the future and works as hard – and smart – as anyone in the league. Expect to see Trevor Bauer on another Cy Young award in the next 7 years and on a Cooperstown plaque by 2040.
Cleveland Indians: Francisco Lindor
Like Bauer, Lindor is a likely Hall of Famer but he probably won’t do it wearing his current jersey. Mr. Smile has been the best shortstop and his next contract – whether it be for the Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, or elsewhere, will give him a better shot at a World Series than in Cleveland.
Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado
Conversations about Arenado’s Cooperstown candidacy will likely be plagued by the Coors effect but overrated or not, Arenado has produced at an extremely high level since he burst onto the scene in 2013. His defensive prowess is complimented by 4 Gold Gloves and scattered MVP votes. Trade talks that made headlines in February diminished and Nolan’s chances at a ring went right down with it. Arenado’s Hall of Fame chances will be boosted greatly if he is traded and has postseason opportunity and proves he can hit away from Colorado.
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera is a top hitter of the 21st century and will be inducted in his first year on the ballot. His career has gone downward after winning a Silver Slugger in 2016 but he has maintained his plate discipline and a moderate OBP. Miggy will go into the Hall of Fame as a 2x MVP, 11x All-Star, and a Triple Crown winner (2012). He won the World Series in his 2003 rookie season but likely will not get another shot at October.
Houston Astros: Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander is a surefire Hall of Famer after building an extremely impressive resume since his rookie year in 2005. He has 3000 career strikeouts, the elusive MVP as a pitcher, 2 Cy Youngs, and a Triple Crown. Anything he does from now until retirement is extra accolades to his already-HoF worthy resume.
Kansas City Royals: Asa Lacy
Lacy was drafted fourth overall out of Texas A&M in 2020. The lefty played on the United States collegiate national team and had a 2.13 ERA in his 2019 season at Texas A&M. Lacy, the Royals #2 prospect behind Bobby Witt Jr., projects higher as a Hall of Famer simply because he is a pitcher. Nonetheless, Kansas City has bright assets for the future.
Los Angeles Angels: Andrelton Simmons
Albert Pujols is arguably the best player of our generation and Mike Trout became a Hall of Famer the minute he stepped on the field in 2020 for his tenth season. Behind the Angels’ two surefire Hall of Famers lies Andrelton Simmons, who has been among the best fielders in baseball for his whole career. It may be a longshot but if Simmons steps up his production at the plate in a way similar to Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel did at the end of their careers he may be a fringe Hall of Famer.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw has a resume even more impressive than Justin Verlander and will join fifteen Dodgers in Cooperstown – the first since Walter Alston in 1983. A World Series ring in 2020 enhanced his accolades but Kershaw was already a Hall of Famer.
Miami Marlins: Sixto Sánchez
Like the Orioles and Royals, no established player on the Marlins has anything close to resembling a Hall of Fame career. The bulky right-hander projects as a front-of-the-line starter and was impressive in the Wild Card series against the Cubs. The Marlins have a bright farm system but if Gary Sheffield is not inducted it may be a few decades before the first Marlins player is inducted into Cooperstown.
Milwaukee Brewers: Christian Yelich
The 28-year-old Yelich went on a tear for a year and a half in Milwaukee before a down-year in 2020. His next couple seasons will determine his future in Cooperstown.
Minnesota Twins: Josh Donaldson
The Twins don’t have any enticing Hall of Fame candidates but Donaldson comes close. Injuries derailed parts of his career but he has only been elected to three All-Star Games and was unable to match his 2015 MVP campaign. Donaldson will end up in the hall of very good but has a weak shot at the Hall of Fame.
New York Yankees: Gerrit Cole
The most storied franchise in sports has 39 Hall of Famers and a couple active players with some semblance of a Hall of Fame career. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge have an ability to hit baseballs that is almost as impressive as their ability to constantly be injured. Cole is 30 but his 2020 season showed that he still has Cy Young potential. Winning a Cy Young or two is his easiest path to Cooperstown – the Yankees have a decent shot at winning a World Series in the last eight years of his contract.
New York Mets: Jacob DeGrom
DeGrom has DeGrominated the league for the last seven years, winning a Cy Young in 2018 and 2019 and never posting an ERA above 3.53. Like Cole, the shortened 2020 season hurt DeGrom but he is still on a Hall of Fame trajectory. The biggest obstruction to DeGrom’s path is his rather late start to his career; he made his debut at age 26 and is entering his eighth season at age 32.
Oakland Athletics: Jesús Luzardo
The A’s have one of the most bleak rosters in terms of future Hall of Famers so turning to their best prospect seems like the most reasonable bet. Luzardo is only 23 but has playoff experience and success.
Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper
Harper’s career as a whole has been relatively disappointing although living up to the expectations placed on him was an imposing goal. His 2015 MVP season may be the only time we see Bryce’s true potential, but he has shown glimpses of 2015 in years since. Harper’s future in Cooperstown is better than bleak but each year he produces at an average level he is getting further and further away from a Hall of Fame career.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Nick Gonzales
Gonzales was drafted seventh overall out of New Mexico State in 2020 and became the Pirates #1 prospect. Considered one of the best bats in his draft class, the Pirates have high ambitions for Gonzales and he has a chance to be a solid middle infielder.
San Diego Padres: Manny Machado
Machado has an interesting Hall of Fame case as he enters his age-28 season. He received MVP votes in 2020 and has finished in the top five in MVP voting three times. WInning an MVP is not out of the realm of possibility for Machado but his most likely path to the Hall of Fame would be to be elected to the All-Star game over the next few years – it’s hard to be considered a Hall of Famer without even being regarded as one of the best in the league.
San Francisco Giants: Buster Posey
Buster is a generational talent behind the plate and is the best catcher of the decade alongside Yadier Molina. Posey is a 6x All-Star, 4x Silver Slugger, MVP, and won three World Series during the Giants’ even year dominance from 2010-2014.
Seattle Mariners: Jarred Kelenic
The #9 ranked prospect in baseball, Kelenic is set to make his debut sometime in 2021. Pull-side power and plus-speed make Kelenic a prospect the Mariners are excited for.
St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina
Molina is the second-best catcher of the decade and has an impressive amount of hardware: nine All-Star Games, nine Gold Gloves (and 4 Platinum Gloves), a Silver Slugger, and a World Series title. There is a strong argument that he has had a better career than Buster Posey, but he is a first-ballot caliber player regardless.
Tampa Bay Rays: Wander Franco
Blake Snell has had a solid career at the big league level but Franco, the 19-year-old shortstop, has the brightest future in the organization. The switch-hitter is a plus defender, has bat speed, discipline, and power that matches any prospect in the game.
Texas Rangers: Josh Jung
The Rangers have a desolate amount of All-Star – let alone Hall of Fame – talent at the big league level. Jung was drafted out of Texas Tech in 2019 after an impressive College World Series. The big third baseman has a strong arm and a good bat and he projects as a solid third baseman for the Rangers.
Toronto Blue Jays: Bo Bichette
Bichette is one of many young talents north of the border that the Blue Jays are excited about. The flashy shortstop has a violent swing and still hits for a very good average. The son of former major leaguer Dante Bichette, Bo has baseball in his genes and will be exciting to watch in years to come.
Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer
During his seven year run from 2013-2019, Scherzer compiled three Cy Youngs, seven All-Star appearances, and a championship. Scherzer should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will be the first National in Cooperstown.