Which active MLB players will make the Hall of Fame? Trout, Cabrera, Pujols among the locks; Cano on the bubble

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Mike Trout will one day finish at the Hall of Fame. He’s the best baseball player, and he’s basically been around from the moment he entered the field, and although he was only 28 years old last August, he’s already almost in the TOP 50 of WAR batting career – in front of Hall 2020 inductees Larry Walker and Derek Jeter.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see Trout in Cooperstown, and he’s not alone – Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera will get there first, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander should all join them eventually. I interviewed CBS Sports baseball staff and the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast this week to see which active players would one day end up in the Hall of Fame, and these six stood above the pack as a unanimous consensus choice, and there is nice symmetry; three hitters, three pitchers, the best of their generation.

After these six, this is where the debate begins. I asked each voter – 11 in total – to prepare a ballot for up to 15 active players who they believe will make the Hall of Fame among all active players. Twenty-nine players in total received votes, including 11 crossing the 75% threshold that the Baseball Hall of Fame uses for consecration and 13 receiving votes from at least half of the ballots.

Of those who receive votes on 75% of the votes, Trout is one of only two under the age of 30 to do so, and that makes sense. There are many things that can go wrong even for the best players on the way to the Hall, so the more pages left to write about a player’s career history, the more difficult it is to guarantee that there are to arrive at. Ultimately, more than 11 players currently active will end up doing it, but some will be the ones we don’t necessarily see coming, while some of the seemingly obvious choices today will ultimately fail.

From the MLB team, Matt Snyder, Dayn Perry, R.J. Anderson, Katherine Acquavella and Stephen Pianovich sent ballots, as did CBSSports.com editor Adi Joseph; Ceath Fantasy’s Heath Cummings, Adam Aizer, Scott White, Frank Stampfl and I also participated. We broke some choices during Tuesday’s episode of Fantasy baseball Today podcast, which you can listen to here:

And here are the full results of who made the cut:

The six unanimous selections represent the three best hitters in active bWAR, plus the numbers 1, 3 and 5 to the starting pitcher. Greinke, the No. 2 pitcher in the WAR career also came in, and with an ERA of 2.93 last season and 2.95 ERA in ALCS and the World Series at 35, he doesn’t like that ‘it is about to slow down. Greinke might feel tighter if he won this ultra-thin 2015 NL Cy Young race, but as one of six pitchers in MLB history with two seasons with an ERA + above 200, he seems to be a safe bet to arrive before long.

Betts is probably the best consensus player in baseball, and in a coarse universe, he would have had two MVPs in his name to become what will likely be the most lucrative free agency of all time, so it is no wonder our crew has confidence in him doing it. Betts already has the 15th biggest WAR for any straight defender in a seven-season streak in MLB history, and he has only played five full seasons. We’re watching something special with Betts, and the Dodgers certainly hope it will keep it going in 2020 and beyond.

I was surprised to see Votto get so much support, but we are a more analytical group than Hall voters as a whole, so I think he will have a little more trouble in the long run. There is no doubt that Votto’s top is worthy of Hall – even after two declining seasons, he is 27th in the OPS career and is one of 23 club members for life .300 / .400 / .500. However, his counting statistics hold him back, as he has only 1,866 hits and 284 career homeruns. Votto probably needs to bounce back and play at an All-Star level to lock out his candidacy.

Posey and Molina may seem somewhat surprising, but they defined the catcher position for this generation, winning five World Series between them. Posey is the clearly superior hitter, with an MVP to his credit, but Molina is an all-time excellent with the glove that has had remarkable longevity – the top isn’t as impressive, but has caught at least 110 games in 15 remarkable consecutive seasons.

There was a gap between these 11 and the following group of players, Robinson Cano and Juan Soto both getting six votes, the other two above 50%:

Player

Votes

Percent

Juan Soto

6

54.5%

Robinson Cano

6

54.5%

In the case of Cano, it would likely be pretty close to unanimity if it weren’t for this PED suspension in 2018, but it will last a long time in his case. The question is whether enough time will have passed before he was eligible for the heat to go out. On the merits, Cano seems to deserve it, with 2,570 hits and the second highest number of homers for a second base player, and he will add to these totals with three years left on his contract, giving him a stroke of 3,000 sure. He probably won’t be on the ballot until 2028, which means a full decade has passed since his suspension. Will this be enough for the voting body to approve Cano?

At the other end of the career spectrum, Soto is a bold call as a 21-year-old, but he is certainly on the right track. In fact, playing about as much as at his age gives Soto a pretty good chance; since joining the league in 1947, only 10 players have at least 1,000 plaque appearances before their 21 year season, and four of them are in the room. Two (Soto and Bryce Harper) are active, while Tony Conifliaro could have had a Hall of Fame career if the injuries had not derailed him. That’s pretty much the only way things could go wrong for Soto, who only follows Mel Ott on home runs before he turns 21.

The rest of the results look like this:

Acuna is not as precocious as Soto, and he is not as good hitter, but the full game gives him a fair claim to the throne of “next Mike Trout”. He has already finished in the top five in the MVP vote, and it will not be the last.

Lindor and Arenado have written more of their career stories than Soto or Acuna, but they still have a lot to do. The two are elite defenders in key positions who have been among the best in the game in the past half-decade, and another half-decade of something similar should take them there.

Kimbrel’s chances will boil down to how the opinions on the closers change as the voting block moves. Kimbrel has been the best baseball reliever in the past decade, and has consistently scored well for strikeouts and run prevention, but Billy Wagner also dominated for 900 innings and didn’t really win in popularity with voters. Kimbrel needs at least a few seasons with big save totals to climb the all-time roster, and these votes are a bet that last season’s troubles were more due to his delayed signing and injury to the knee than anything else.

Among those receiving multiple votes, Yelich and Altuve appear to be the best bets as positional players under the age of 30, although Altuve will have to overcome the stigma of the Astros sign theft scandal. Otherwise, I think he would be there with Betts and Trout. Yelich’s late escape means his career numbers are a bit behind what you would like them to be, although if he remains an MVP caliber player for the next five years he will get there. There is work to be done.

And Bumgarner could benefit from the story that propelled Jack Morris into the Hall, thanks to his playoff exploits, but it’s also worth saying that Bumgarner was a significantly better pitcher overall. We’ll see how he fares outside of Oracle Park, as he showed significant signs of decline before leaving the Giants, but it’s another player who could see his chances of getting to Cooperstown increase considerably with a few good years more



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