What active players are on their way to Cooperstown? (AL Edition)

Who else will get a plaque?

Hall of Fame season is upon us, with the announcement of the 2014 class coming on January 8th. There’s been plenty of debate pertaining to this year’s crowded ballot, so I’ll mix it up. Instead, let’s examine what active players might be enshrined in Cooperstown farther down the road, starting with the American League.

“Locks” are players who undoubtedly deserve election in my opinion, those “on the fringes” are players who are close but still have work to do, and “jury’s out” is reserved for players who either have an outside shot, or very young talent without much time at the big league level. Note that for the latter of the “jury’s out” category, players must have at least one full season at the big league level.

Please note that this post is heavily subjective and there was no scientific method as to where I placed particular players. The exercise is intended to be a fun and open discussion about certain players’ merits and likelihood of election.

Baltimore Orioles

Locks: None | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: Chris Davis, Manny Machado

It seems crazy to think that Davis, 28 in March, has any shot at the Hall. But there is some potential for the first baseman. He hit 53 home runs last season, in a time when home runs are down. He could pile on the home runs quickly, and does have 130 career long balls to his name already. 500 home runs isn’t out of the question; he’ll need to average 37 per year over the next ten years. It’s a stretch, but not impossible.

There’s no way anyone can declare Machado Cooperstown-bound at this stage in his career, but his talent certainly isn’t the concern. It all depends on his performance matching his abilities in the long-run. A 6.2 fWAR as a 20-year-old for most of 2013 is a great start.

Boston Red Sox

Locks: None | On the fringes: Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz | Jury’s out: None

It’s hard for designated hitters to get elected, as we’ve seen for Edgar Martinez. With the postseason accomplishments and 431 career home runs, Ortiz looks pretty qualified. How the voters account for his PED issues, however, puts him on the fence still. It’s also worth noting that Martinez’ 147 career wRC+ trumps Ortiz’ 138.

Pedroia’s been the face of the Red Sox and one of the best second basemen in baseball, but none of his statistics really scream Hall of Famer. According to Baseball-Reference, the average seven year peak rWAR for Hall of Fame second basemen is 44.5, while Pedroia stands at 38.9. He might get a boost from his two championship rings, however.

Chicago White Sox

Locks: None | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: Chris Sale

Paul Konerko had a nice career (434 home runs), but is going to fall short of Cooperstown. Perusing the rest of the roster, Sale is the only player who has any shot. It’s still early in his career, but Sale has been one of the top pitchers in baseball the past two seasons. The biggest concern is his mechanics, which makes one wonder if he can remain healthy long-term.

Cleveland Indians

Locks: None | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: None

Detroit Tigers

Locks: Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: None

There’s no need to explain Cabrera. I was torn about declaring Verlander a lock, but he looks like a pretty safe bet. He’ll be 31 in February and already has 44.1 fWAR, so he shouldn’t have much of a problem eclipsing the 60 mark that is often considered a cutoff for Hall of Famers. Besides that, he has a Cy Young, MVP, and Rookie of the Year award to his name.

Houston Astros

Locks: None | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: None

Kansas City Royals

Locks: None | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: None

Los Angeles Angels

Locks: Albert Pujols | On the fringes: Mike Trout | Jury’s out: None

It’s only a matter of time until Pujols gets his plaque in Cooperstown. Trout is the closest thing to a lock for his age, but just lacks the body of work. Barring anything unforeseen (i.e. career ending injury), Trout is a Hall of Famer.

Minnesota Twins

Locks: Joe Mauer | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: None

Moving to first base is going to hinder Mauer’s value going forward, but his performance as a catcher was remarkable for his nine seasons at the position. Only Mike Piazza and Buster Posey have posted a higher career wRC+ at the position. Mauer’s seven-year peak rWAR is 4.7 higher than the average Hall of Fame catcher, which boosts his candidacy.

New York Yankees

Locks: Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran | On the fringes: Alex Rodriguez | Jury’s out: None

With Mariano Rivera entering retirement, Jeter is the only Cooperstown-bound player remaining on the Yankees from the dynasty era. Ichiro’s candidacy looks strong, given that he’s approaching 3,000 hits. He probably won’t reach that magic number, but it shouldn’t hurt his candidacy. He’s raked for the majority of his 13 season stateside run, with his best seasons coming in Seattle. 55 fWAR over that span is pretty impressive.

The workhorse Sabathia has amassed 61.5 fWAR in his career, which is 19th best in history for pitchers through age 33. It looks like he’s entering his decline now, but he probably only needs to remain respectable on the mound to sustain his candidacy. Further, the BBWA loves wins, which CC has 205 of already. Voters’ appetites will change by the time Sabathia is eligible, but there will probably still be some who take it into account.

Beltran is also a lock, with an excellent regular season run (64.1 fWA) boosted by legendary postseason performances. The only question is whether he’ll be wearing a Mets or Royals cap on his plaque.

A-Rod’s numbers alone would make him a lock, but all of the PED issues have now cast a shadow on his potential enshrinement. It’ll be hard for him to get in, at least in the early years on the ballot.

Oakland Athletics

Locks: None | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: None

Seattle Mariners

Locks: Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano | On the fringes: None | Jury’s out: None

It’s crazy to think that Felix Hernandez is only going to be 28 in April. It seems like he’s been around forever. With 41.2 fWAR already, and no sign of decreased performance, King Felix is well on his way to the Hall.

Cano’s seven-year peak rWAR is right on line with other enshrined second baseman, and with no signs of significant slowdown, Cano is sure to continue to produce into his mid-30s. The strange thing about Robbie is that we may be wondering which hat he’ll wear on his plaque: Yankees or Mariners?

Tampa Bay Rays

Locks: None | On the fringes: Evan Longoria | Jury’s out: None

Longoria’s been one of the game’s top third baseman ever since he set foot in the big leagues in 2008. He’s pretty close to being a lock – he just needs a few more years to add to his body of work.

Texas Rangers

Locks: Adrian Beltre | On the fringes: None | Jury’s Out: Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish

The only thing Beltre doesn’t do is run well. He hits for average and power, and is arguably the best defensive third baseman in baseball. He has 65 fWAR and has continued performing at high level late into his career. 35 in April, with 376 career home runs, he might push 500 before it’s all said and done to further cement his legacy.

Fielder’s calling card is his power, and also his best shot at enshrinement. The soon-to-be 30 year-old has 285 dingers, and could see a performance boost playing in the friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He doesn’t do anything else remarkably well, so he’s really going to have to wow with his power late into his career.

It’s far too soon to tell with Darvish, but he’s gotten off to a great start in his transition from Japan. Starting in the majors at a slightly older age than most pitchers might hurt him in the long-run, but if he puts together an impressive peak, it may not matter.

Toronto Blue Jays

Locks: None | On the fringes: None | Jury’s Out: None


Stay tuned for the National League edition.

Photo by Michael Barera (Own work Scan of the original photograph) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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