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#pounditWednesday, November 29, 2023

10 current players who are on their way to the Hall of Fame

Clayton Kershaw no-hitter

As six players are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, it’s easy to look around the current crop of active players and ask which of them will someday receive the same honor. There are many players who are on the right path, but the road to Cooperstown is filled with players who looked like future Hall of Famers before their careers took turns for the worse.

Here is a list of ten active MLB players who look to be on the right track to someday be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Adrian Beltre, Rangers

Beltre’s late-career revival, particularly during his Texas Rangers years, should send him to Cooperstown. A .287 career hitter, he has already surpassed 3,000 hits. He may fall just short of 500 home runs, but he had roughly a decade at the very top of the game. He is a five-time Gold Glover and recognized as one of the better defenders in the game. From 2010 through 2017, he hit .310 and averaged over 30 home runs per season. That’s a lengthy and excellent peak, and it came years after his 48-homer, near MVP season in 2004 with the Dodgers.

Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Age is finally catching up to Cabrera, but in all likelihood, his ticket to Cooperstown has already been punched. In his prime, he qualified as one of the best right-handed hitters in the history of the sport. Despite a pair of comparatively lost years, he’s still a .316 career hitter who has won four batting titles. In his prime, he hit .340 twice, had a pair of 40-homer seasons, won two MVPs, and remains the most recent player to win the Triple Crown in either league. He also has a career .885 OPS in the playoffs and won a World Series at age 20 with the Marlins.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Kershaw is still young, but he’s on a clear trajectory toward a Hall of Fame career. A former MVP and three-time Cy Young winner, a 2.37 career ERA is remarkable no matter how you look at it, particularly in a modern era with an emphasis on offense. He’s struck out more than a batter an inning over his career and has allowed barely one baserunner per inning. Some will likely criticize his lack of postseason success, but he still has time to turn that around. Even if he doesn’t, his regular season numbers are so good it shouldn’t matter.

Buster Posey, Giants

Posey will likely be remembered as the defining catcher of his generation, and with good reason — he’s a career .300 hitter with power and a former MVP. That will be his legacy even if he transitions to first base late in his career. As a three-time World Series champion, he also has the playoff resume to bolster his eventual candidacy. Barring a truly surprising late-career shift, he’s got a good shot no matter what.

Albert Pujols, Angels

It can be easy to forget now that he’s a shell of his former self, but Pujols used to be in the conversation as one of the best pure hitters of all time. In his prime, he still was. As a St. Louis Cardinal, he hit .328 with 445 home runs over a remarkable 11-year span, and ultimately surpassed both the 500 and 600 home run marks with the Los Angeles Angels. It speaks to how good he was that, even after his quick decline, he’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer.

Chris Sale, Red Sox

Still just 29, there’s still room for things to go south for Sale, but he only seems to be getting better. A two-time strikeout king, he’s on pace for a third. While he’s never won a Cy Young Award, he has a good shot of turning that around this season. A seven-time All-Star with Chicago and Boston, Sale will be a Hall of Famer if he keeps up anything close to his current pace.

Max Scherzer, Nationals

As late as his age 27 season, Scherzer didn’t look like he’d be anything close to a Hall of Famer. Then he won his first Cy Young in Detroit, and a funny thing happened: he jumped to the Washington Nationals and just kept getting better. He’s now won three total Cy Young Awards in both leagues. The only non-active player to win three Cy Youngs and not make the Hall of Fame is Roger Clemens, and that has nothing to do with his on-field resume. The 33-year-old is having his best season yet in 2018, and it’s anyone’s guess how much better he can continue to get, but the reality is he’s put himself firmly in the conversation.

Mike Trout, Angels

Easily the youngest player on this list, but it takes someone truly special to get the mantle of future Hall-of-Famer by the age of 26. Sure, something unexpected could happen, but Trout doesn’t look like he’s going to get off track anytime soon. He’s only just now entering his physical prime, and he’s already at 230 home runs and 628 RBIs with a .306 average and a .415 lifetime OBP. He’s even a quality defender. It looks like it’s only a matter of time before he gets to Cooperstown.

Justin Verlander, Astros

Verlander finally claimed the elusive World Series title in 2017, which should be the last stumbling block to a Hall of Fame bid, if it even existed in the first place. 300 wins may be beyond him, but 3,000 strikeouts should only be a matter of time, and the fact that he’s still pitching so well in his mid-30s bodes well for him. He may have only won one Cy Young Award, but he’ll go down as one of his generation’s best pitchers.

Joey Votto, Reds

Votto has a rather unique case. He’s never been hugely prominent and he hasn’t appeared much in the postseason, but he’s an incredible pure hitter and a quality defender in his prime. When healthy, he has 30-home run power. His on-base skills are second-to-none. He has a .428 career OBP; only 11 players have a higher career mark. Nine of them are in the Hall of Fame, and one of those who isn’t is Barry Bonds. The rise of analytics, which values getting on base, should help Votto’s case. He would certainly deserve the honors.


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