Predicting 40 active future Hall of Famers and their best Cooperstown comparisons

MLB

It’s Baseball Hall of Fame election week, and with nobody likely to get voted into Cooperstown when ballots are revealed Tuesday night, it seems like a perfect time to look ahead by predicting 40 active players who will eventually be Hall of Famers.

Why 40? After all, that feels like a lot of Hall of Famers. History suggests, however, that that is about the number of players in any given season who will eventually receive a plaque in Cooperstown. Here are the tallies for each year of a decade ending in 1 (not including 2011, since many players that year are still not eligible):

2001: 27
1991: 33
1981: 34
1971: 39
1961: 34
1951: 29
1941: 54
1931: 66
1921: 45
1911: 31
1901: 28

(Note: I included players elected for their play in the Negro Leagues, using their active years as listed on Seamheads.com. For Negro Leaguers who played in MLB, such as Satchel Paige and Monte Irvin, their MLB years are included as well.)

Yes, there are only 27 Hall of Famers from 2001, for example — so far. There are still players on the ballot who were active in 2001 who might get in (Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, etc.), players who have yet to hit the ballot (Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Carlos Beltran, etc.), plus the steroid guys who otherwise would already be in (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, etc.).

Keep in mind that there are nearly double the teams (30) than existed for the first 60 years of the 20th century (16). That makes 40 Hall of Famers a reasonable estimate. A few quick notes:

  • A player can get elected via the baseball writers (Baseball Writers’ Association of America) or a veterans committee (currently made up of 16 members including Hall of Fame players, former executives and writers). In recent years, the BBWAA has started to recognize more players who had a peak value instead of just a long career with impressive counting stats — think Larry Walker or Edgar Martinez. The veterans committee in the past few years has recognized players with longevity even if their peak value wasn’t extraordinary (Harold Baines, Lee Smith, Jack Morris).

  • I reference Baseball-Reference WAR unless noted. As a general guide, 70 WAR or higher is a strong Hall of Fame candidate, 60 WAR is borderline and 50 WAR gets you in the discussion (relievers are in their own category). WAR is by no means the end of the debate, but the BBWAA is starting to put a heavy weight on it. There are other factors, of course: Dominant seasons (a 5-WAR, or five-win season, is an All-Star-type season, while 8 WAR is an MVP-type season), postseason play and the old “feel” factor all play a role (along with PEDs and off-the-field issues).

  • I did not include Robinson Cano, who won’t play in 2021. His PED suspensions probably put him in the Manny Ramirez category anyway: He would have gone in, but now he won’t.

OK, to the list. I’ve divided it into six tiers, with the players ranked within each tier.

Jump to a tier:

The locks | The Votto group | On the right path
Sky is the limit | Work to do | Next generation

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