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Saturday, September 21, 2019

10 MLB players on track to reach the Hall of Fame

Clayton Kershaw

Though their careers aren’t yet over, there are a number of MLB players who have likely already done enough to punch their ticket to the Hall of Fame after they quit playing. There are other young players who have started promisingly, but a handful of veterans have really stood out and put together resumes that will be hard to deny when their names come up on the Hall of Fame ballot after their retirement. Some are still producing at a high level, while some are not, but all of them should be treasured as long as they are still entertaining us with their talents.

Here are ten active MLB players who warrant strong Hall of Fame consideration — if they haven’t all but clinched it already.

10. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees

Sabathia has a clear Hall of Fame case, but it’s a somewhat murky one. His peak was certainly good enough, but his 3.69 career ERA is somewhat high for a Hall of Famer. And, despite some memorable postseason exploits, he doesn’t have the playoff resume to stand out, either, and only won the Cy Young once. Still, it’s easy to see how Sabathia gets in. His longevity and consistency ensure he should get to 250 wins, and he’s already surpassed 3,000 strikeouts. Plus, his history of clutch pitching — including his stretch run with Milwaukee — could play on voters’ minds.

9. Zack Greinke, SP, Diamondbacks

Greinke quietly has a lot of resume items that you look for in a Hall of Famer — a Cy Young, two ERA titles, five Gold Gloves, and five All-Star appearances. He had two of the finest pitching seasons of his era in 2009 and 2015, and the fact that they came so far apart shows just how good he’s been consistently. He should reach 200 wins, and while 3,000 strikeouts will be more of a challenge, he has a good chance if he can pitch at a high level for three or four more years. He’s not a slam dunk, but his consistent excellence bodes well for him.

8. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

Votto will be more controversial than he deserves to be when his name comes up for Hall of Fame consideration because so much of his greatness lies in his on-base skills, which are less flashy than power or average. Maintaining a .424 career OBP is nothing to sneeze at, and he is a lifetime .300 hitter as well. A regular fixture in the top ten of MVP voting and a six-time All-Star, Votto’s odds are good if he keeps it up for a couple more years. He is simply a great pure hitter who deserves the nod.

7. Robinson Cano, 2B, Mets

Cano may well have needlessly jeopardized his Hall of Fame chances with a drug suspension in 2018. However, this isn’t the 1990s, and Cano has played most of his career under regular drug testing and was never caught during his impressive prime years, which may be enough to sweep that error aside. Cano never won an MVP award but was an All-Star regular and a .300 hitter at second base, a position with only a handful of great hitters. His outstanding prime years with New York should help him get in as long as he doesn’t completely collapse in the final few seasons of his career.

6. Max Scherzer, SP, Nationals

Scherzer was not on a Hall of Fame track in 2014 when he departed the Detroit Tigers. Then he landed in Washington and took it to another level. Scherzer has won two Cy Young awards with the Nationals, plus the one he won in Detroit. In his age 33 season, he struck out 300 batters. He has become one of the best workhorses around and looks to be on his way to throwing 200 innings for a seventh straight season. If anything, he’s getting better with age, and that’s probably going to see him land in Cooperstown.

5. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers

There was a time in 2014 when it looked like a 31-year-old Verlander had already peaked, and what looked like a Hall of Fame trajectory might be derailed after an unfortunately brief peak. Then he found it again. Verlander has a Cy Young and MVP to his name and could have easily won a few more of the former. He had already reinvigorated his career with Detroit before moving to Houston, but that has only helped him further, and he added the elusive World Series to his resume in 2017. He’s now regularly posting sub-3 ERAs for the Astros well into his late 30s. Cooperstown looks inevitable for him.

4. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers

Kershaw only recently turned 31 and still has a long way to go in his career. That said, the dominance he showed for the first part of the decade is essentially unparalleled in the sport today, and even now his career ERA is below 2.50. He has three Cy Youngs and an MVP and two full seasons with a sub-2 ERA, plus a third injury-shortened one. His lack of playoff success and inability to win a World Series would hurt him in the minds of some, but he has time to correct that. Even if he doesn’t, the regular season resume is so good that he could get in on the first ballot.

3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers

Cabrera is a shadow of his former self, but his first 14 years were so dominant, and his peak numbers among the best ever, that he’s probably already going to Cooperstown. From 2010 through 2015, he hit .333 with 199 homers. The 500 home run plateau doesn’t look as guaranteed as it once did, but he has two MVP awards and is the only player in the modern era to accomplish the Triple Crown. All those things will work heavily in his favor when his name comes up. Despite what is looking like a less-than-glorious ending to his career, he should be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

2. Mike Trout, OF, Angels

Trout is only 27 and he’d be in the Hall of Fame if he retired tomorrow. He has already hit 250 home runs. He’s only three or four seasons away from getting his 1,000th RBI. He is continuing to improve his on-base skills. He is a career .300 hitter. To top it all off, he’s only just now entering what is, for most players, the physical prime. It is entirely possible that his season-by-season numbers manage to tick up. There is no sign of Trout slowing down, and as long as that’s the case, the two-time MVP is just going to keep building an undeniable Hall of Fame case down the road.

1. Albert Pujols, DH, Angels

Try, if you can, to forget the unremarkable limp through Anaheim that Pujols has been involved in for the past several years. Think back instead to his prime with the St. Louis Cardinals, in which he was simply the best hitter that most had ever seen. He’s already well past 600 home runs and just recently surpassed 2,000 career RBIs. And in spite of the fact that he hasn’t hit .300 in a season since 2010, he’s still a career .300 hitter. Even if that mark doesn’t survive another season or two of floundering, it’s incredible that it has lasted this long. Essentially, it says everything you need to know about Pujols’ peak that he has been little more than a league-average hitter over the last seven seasons, and yet no one denies he’ll be a Hall-of-Famer when all is said and done.



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