With the 2017 Hall of Fame class set to be announced on Wednesday, January 18th, I began to think about the active players around Major League Baseball who are inevitably going to find their way to the Hall of Fame. There are quite a few, with a wide range of teams having strong candidates. However, as I was pondering, I began to wonder: Could I name a player from every single team with a chance at the Hall of Fame? It took me a good amount of time, but I was finally able to do it.
Now, keep in mind, some of these players you will definitely agree with, but some you will question my sanity. Admittedly, some of my picks are extremely unlikely to make their way to Cooperstown, but there are some teams that are so young or sparsely-talented that I had to go with a long-shot pick or extreme projection. But the wild predictions for certain young stars is part of what makes this conversation so much fun.
With all of that said, here is my take of the top Hall of Fame player from each of the thirty MLB teams (active players only; free agents not included):
The Marlins have quite a few standout players who very well could be headed towards Cooperstown if they can keep up their stardom over the next decade or so, but the one player on their roster that’s already a guaranteed inductee is Ichiro Suzuki. Coming over from Japan in 2001, Suzuki has long been one of the best players in baseball, notching over 3,000 hits in his MLB career to this point and subsequently receiving countless awards. As such, he is a no-doubt Hall of Famer.
This isn’t as easy of a pick as the one of Ichiro Suzuki, but the one player on the Rays roster with enough of a track record to suggest as being on a Hall of Fame track is assuredly Evan Longoria. Hitting a career high 36 homers in 2016, and recording his most RBI’s since 2011, the next few years will tell the tale. But at only 31 years old, Longoria is the surest H.O.F. bet of all of the players currently on the Rays.
He has an extremely long way to go, but with the stats he has produced over the course of his career, Freddie Freeman is well on his way to making it into Cooperstown. At just 27 years old, Freeman is theoretically in his prime, as was evident in his posting of 31 home runs last season. If he can post even a few more of those, the Braves’ All-Star first baseman could be on a very promising path towards the Hall of Fame.
He may not be well into his 20’s quite yet, but Manny Machado is well into his Hall of Fame career. Sure, it’s a bit early to be typing up Machado’s induction speech, as anything can happen in baseball, but the Orioles’ third baseman has recorded back-to-back 30 homer seasons each of the last two years, and is posting numbers rivaling those of a previous Baltimore third base superstar: Brooks Robinson.
It may seem a bit of old hat to be naming Bryce Harper as the Nationals current best shot at the Hall of Fame, but it’s absolutely true. Despite having a poor season by his standards last year, Harper — who will be 24 years old all of the 2017 season — already possesses 121 homers. If Harper can have a bounce-back season this coming year, the Hall of Fame may be in the cards for him when all is said and done.
The Mets’ player I feel is the most likely to put together a Hall of Fame career when he decides to hang up his spikes is Noah Syndergaard. (Yes, you read that right.) I’m well aware that Syndergaard only has 55 career starts under his belt, but with David Wright succumbing to injuries that derailed his overall chances, and guys such as Yoenis Cespedes not having enough games remaining to put together a case, Syndergaard is my long-shot pick.
Gary Sanchez — no, I’m just kidding. But the player I do have slotted to be a Hall of Famer down the road isn’t all that much older than Sanchez. With Aroldis Chapman dominating the opposition for so long, it can be easy to forget that Chapman is just heading into his age-29 season. With a career 2.08 ERA thanks to his blazing fastball, as well as his ability to lock things down in the ninth, Chapman is on the fast-track to the Hall if he can continue to blow batters away.
With the departure of Ryan Howard, and the Phillies being in a drastic youth movement, it was very hard for me to land on a single player who stands the best chance at the Hall of Fame. But even so, I decided to go with Maikel Franco. He is still extremely young, and is still adjusting to the bigs. But the potential for 30+ homer power is definitely there, and that could lead to a bright future for Franco and the Phillies.
The Red Sox just lost a future Hall of Famer in David Ortiz, but picking the next player to follow in his footsteps wasn’t all that difficult. Keeping with the theme of young players with big futures, I tabbed Mookie Betts as the player on Boston’s active roster with a chance at Cooperstown. I hate to make a selection with such a small track record, but after what Betts showed the baseball world last season, a superstar has been born.
I’m not sure Josh Donaldson has enough big seasons left in him to put together Hall of Fame caliber numbers, but he stands the best shot of all of the players north of the border. While some youngsters such as Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman are off to amazing starts to their career, Donaldson has become an absolute star. With back-to-back 35+ home runs season, Donalson will at the very least become a Toronto all-time great.
If Andrew McCutchen can turn things around from a year ago to have another superstar season in 2017, he will also be back on track to a Hall of Fame career. The best player on the Pirates’ roster when he’s at the top of his game, McCutchen is a five-tool athlete in every sense of the word. Although the stats of McCutchen aren’t overwhelming upon first glance, when you look closely, a compelling case is certainly being made.
The newest member of the Indians is also their top Hall of Fame candidate at the moment. Edwin Encarnacion may not have the numbers yet, but he very well could get there before his career is over. Averaging 39 homers a year over the past five seasons, Encarnacion could theoretically join the 500 home run club if he can play until age 40 and blast a tick over 27 home runs per season.
The Tigers have quite a few great players, despite it not showing up in the standings last season. But the one player that is an absolute Hall of Fame player is Miguel Cabrera. The former Triple Crown winner is simply one of the best players to ever play the game of baseball, and is well underway to making it to Cooperstown. At just 34 years old on April 18th, Cabrera is one of the few must-see players before they retire currently in baseball.
It’s going to be close, but the current Cincinnati Red who has shown any chance at a shot at the Hall of Fame is Joey Votto. The on-base-machine falls right into the coveted 3-4-5 slash line with a career .313/.425/.536 line, despite his hit numbers and homer stats sitting a bit low when compared to those players already in the Hall of Fame. But the overall play of Votto is definitely worth Hall of Fame consideration.
How weak is the Cardinals current active roster? So weak that I went with rookie Alex Reyes as their best shot at the Hall of Fame. In fact, I actually had to skip the Cardinals and come back to them when writing this, frankly because I don’t view any of their active roster with any confidence as to them having even a chance at the Hall of Fame. But having to pick a player, I ended up going with the 22-year-old Reyes, who showed a ton of potential in 2016 and is expected to breakout in 2017.
I originally placed Jon Lester (of all people) as the Cubs’ active future Hall of Fame player, as he is somewhat underrated as a starter, especially when you look at his career numbers. But it’s hard to overlook Kris Bryant, who broke out last season to hit 39 home runs. With his 40+ homer potential, if Bryant can put together multiple big seasons in a row, his case for the Hall of Fame will begin to build.
The White Sox have made it evident that they are currently in a huge rebuild mode, trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton so far this offseason, with other moves expected before Opening Day. With that in mind, I ended up picking Todd Frazier as their Hall of Fame path player. Although Frazier has a somewhat weak case at the moment, if he can continue to produce numbers much like those he has posted in recent history, Frazier will be very close by the time he retires.
I’m not the biggest Ryan Braun fan after what went down a few years ago, but there’s no denying his talent. Following a few down seasons, Braun bounced back again in 2016. If he can continue to keep his track record going, Braun could be a very compelling candidate for the Hall after his playing days are over. As the best player on the Brewers, he also claims the slot as their best chance at the Hall of Fame.
There are several different ways I could’ve gone with this. If Byron Buxton produces to his full ability the way he has been hyped, he would be the top pick; the same with Miguel Sano. If Brian Dozier hit over 40 homers for a few more seasons, he would line up on that path as well. But I ended up going with the safe choice of Joe Mauer, who is a bit low in some of his career stats, but has enough great seasons to deserve some consideration.
Catchers get little recognition for just how difficult their jobs behind the plate is, and Salvador Perez has proven to be one of the best. One of the biggest low-risk high-reward examples in recent history, the Royals have a star in Perez, and he could very well be on the patch to Cooperstown as a slugging backstop. With 20 homers a year and a cannon for an arm, Perez has the whole package you’re looking for from a catcher.
Jose Altuve is undoubtedly the biggest superstar on the Astros, with Carlos Correa and George Springer quickly joining him. But while newly acquired slugger Carlos Beltran would be all too easy to overlook, it’s important to view Beltran for the player he is. With 2,617 hits and 421 homers, one more solid season from Beltran very well could sway those who are on the fence about his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.
While others don’t seem to agree, I feel that Adrian Beltre is a no-doubt Hall of Famer no matter how you slice it. Assuming he can stay healthy, Beltre will become the 31st player to reach the 3,000 hit mark in 2017, and that is all but a guarantee for enshrinement in my mind. One of the all-time best third baseman in the history of baseball, Beltre is an easy Hall of Fame pick.
Nolan Arenado is as close to a complete player as you’ll find in the game today. Winning a Gold Glove each of his first four seasons, his future Hall of Fame case will extend far beyond his defense, as he belted over 40 homers and recorded over 130 RBI’s each of the past two seasons. Despite playing in Colorado — seen as a negative by many — Arenado would be a superstar in any ballpark. For that reason, he should still be seen as the future Hall of Fame player he likely is.
Over the course of Paul Goldschmidt‘s career to this point, he has shown a pattern of having one great season followed by a merely average season. However, if he can find a way to produce some of the superstar level seasons he has previously, Goldschmidt will have a legitimate Hall case. Given, Goldy may not be able to produce on the level needed for the Hall of Fame, but he currently stands the best shot in Arizona.
Will the real Wil Myers please stand up . . . That’s the sentiment of many around the baseball world. Following a Rookie of the Year season in 2013, Myers hadn’t produced on the same level through last season. But in 2016, Myers absolutely broke out, earning his first All-Star selection and hitting 28 blasts. With the power he possesses, he has the ability to carry the Padres on his back, and if he indeed does that, could be walking towards Cooperstown.
Adrian Gonzalez has been great for a long time, and Corey Seager is on a rapid ascent into stardom. But let’s face it — Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw. Year in and year out, Kershaw is among the finalists for Cy Young and has consistently been the Dodgers’ best pitcher since his poor rookie season in 2008. As such, Kershaw is undoubtedly a future Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers.
Mike Trout receives an extremely high honorable mention, as baring any unforeseen issues Trout is on a clear path to Cooperstown. But credit has to be given where it’s due, and therefore Albert Pujols falls as my pick for the Angles’ Hall of Fame active player. With him sitting just nine homers back of 600, Pujols is already an all-time great player, and should be fully appreciated as such while he’s still playing the game.
Buster Posey is a fantastic player and will likely continue to be for the Giants for years to come. But the player I chose as the most on a Hall of Fame path is Madison Bumgarner, who has proven time and time again the caliber of pitcher that he is. With a career ERA of 2.99, Bumgarner has been a big part in the Giants three World Series titles over the last seven seasons. As such, he is on a very special career path.
The Athletics aren’t the best team in baseball, and therefore don’t have the best selection of above-average players. But even so, Sonny Gray stands out as their best chance at fielding a Hall of Famer player down the road from their current roster. His 2016 stats of a 5.69 ERA over the course of 22 starts hurt what was beginning as a special career, but if he can rebound in 2017, Gray can get back on that track.
With a perfect game, it is already evident that Felix Hernandez is a great pitcher. But when you take the time to dive into his career numbers, you get an idea of just how special he is. Already nearing Hall of Fame stats, Hernandez will be just 31 for all of the 2017 season. He still has numerous more seasons to add to his 2,264 career strikeouts and improve upon his 3.16 ERA. But no matter what, Cooperstown likely awaits him.