Since the Hall of Fame elections earlier this month, I have been thinking a lot about what players are most likely to make it to the Hall of Fame after they retire.
The Hall of Fame elections are based on record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship and character, and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played. This year, three pitchers who combined to win nine Cy Young Awards (Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and John Smoltz) and a member of Major League Baseball’s 3,000 Hit Club (Craig Biggio) were elected.
They’re all deserving of their place in the Hall. But what about today’s players? Who is playing right now that will one day end up in Cooperstown? I’ve picked who I think are the top five most likely current players to get called to the Hall.
Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012, the first player to do that since Carl Yastremski in 1967, and was elected the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) following the season. His MLB career average since 2003 is .320 with 390 home runs and impressive .960 OPS. He has posted at least 30 home runs in nine different seasons and has had at least 100 runs batted (RBI) in each of the last 11 seasons.
I was hesitant to pick Trout because he is still young, with only four years in the Majors, but his record already is amazing. Trout had his breakout season in 2012, unanimously winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award, winning a Silver Slugger Award, and finishing runner-up to Miguel Cabrera in the AL voting. In 2014, he won the All-Star MVP award, the American League MVP, and the Hank Aaron Award. Trout also won the Silver Slugger award in 2012, 2013, and 2014. He had the second-most RBIs in the AL in 2014 (111) and third-most home runs (36). Trout has also been arguably the best outfielder on the Angels since joining the team in 2011.
Although 2014 wasn’t Pedroia’s best year, his previous record speaks for itself. Pedroia became a full-time player in 2007 and won the AL Rookie of the Year while helping the Red Sox win the World Series. A contact hitter, he’s got a .299 batting average and just a 9.2 percent strikeout rate. He made the AL All-Star team in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013, winning the AL MVP in 2008. Pedroia won the Rawlings AL Gold Glove award in 2008, 2011, 2013, and 2014. He also scored the most runs in the AL in 2008 and 2009. There is no question he played a key role in the 2013 Red Sox World Championship team. I’m personally glad his contract keeps him on the Red Sox until 2021.
Verlander has been an ace pitcher for the Detroit Tigers since joining the team in 2005, but 2011 was his best year. Verlander was first in AL in 2011 in (take a deep breath) ERA, wins, strikeouts, WHIP, batting average against, games started, and innings pitched. He has won the CY Young Award by unanimous vote for his performance, and the AL MVP Award. Verlander can throw up to 102 MPH. He’s a six-time All-Star with two no-hitters under his belt. He helped the Tigers make it to the American League Championship in 2013 with a 20.3-scoreless-inning streak in the post season. Like Pedroia, 2014 was not his best year, but I’m looking forward to seeing him in 2015.
Known to his fans as Big Papi, David Ortiz remains one of the most beloved players (and feared hitters) in the MLB at age 39. He has won so many awards throughout his career that I can’t list all of them here. He is a nine-time All Star, six-time AL Silver Slugger Award winner, and was the 2013 World Series MVP. He is the single-season record holder for HR (54) as a DH, and is a career leader in hits (1,758), HR (381), and RBI (1,245) as a DH. And he is the first player in Red Sox history to hit 40+ home runs in three consecutive seasons (2004–2006). When a clutch hit is needed, Sox fans cross their fingers that the batting order will come to Papi.
There are many other players in the MLB with records that could gain them entry into the Hall of Fame in the future, but I believe these five players have shown unique skill and contributed to their teams above all others. What are your Hall of Fame predictions?
Photos: Leon Halip/Getty Images (Cabrera), Jeff Gross/Getty Images (Trout), Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images (Pedroia), Ed Zurga/Getty Images (Verlander), Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images (Ortiz)