The MLB Hall of Fame is arguably the toughest to crack among the big North American sports. Only 1.2-percent of big leaguers have been enshrined in Cooperstown, and to be eligible, players must spend at least ten years in the league. The NFL has actually inducted a smaller percentage of players (1.1-percent), according to ESPN, but has no such longevity stipulation.
Looking at the greats of today, you might think guys like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw are already locks to be inducted. But injuries could always derail their careers and keep them short of the ten-year minimum. It’s not a likely scenario — and it’s basically the only way those two don’t wind up in Cooperstown — but it’s a possibility nonetheless, one that sits in a stark light after Trout’s recent thumb injury.
Who else among today’s stars will be given baseball’s ultimate individual honor? Here’s a look at a few of the shoo-ins and younger stars. (Don’t see the name you’re looking for? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll put your favorites under the microscope.)
MLB HALL OF FAME ODDS: ACTIVE PLAYERS
Albert Pujols (Angels): 1/999
You can pick out any number of stats to justify Pujols’ inevitable induction. Here’s my favorite: he’s about to surpass 600 home runs while batting over .300 for his career. Unless he murders someone or there’s a PED revelation, Albert is a no-doubt first-ball inductee.
Ichiro Suzuki (Marlins): 1/999
Ichiro is another first-ballot lock, given that he’s met all the pre-reqs. Despite spending nearly a decade playing in his native Japan before coming to the bigs, he still manged to gain entry into the elusive, 30-person, 3,000-hit club. He holds the record for most hits in a single season (262) and batted over .350 four different times.
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 1/499
Kershaw is currently in his tenth season, so check that box. He’s also arguably the best pitcher of all time when you compare his numbers to the other greats of his era. He’s already nearing 2,000 strikeouts, has a career ERA of 2.37 (which is trending down), and a WHIP that’s barely over 1.0. No amount of playoff “struggles” will keep Kersh out of Cooperstown.
Adrian Beltre (Rangers): 1/99
Beltre is the most unassuming HOF guarantee ever. He barely registers on the national radar, despite hitting nearly 450 homers (and counting), batting .286, and posting a career WAR of 90.2 (30th all-time). That’s already ahead of Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr, George Brett, and Joe DiMaggio.
Miguel Cabrera (Tigers): 1/85
Cabrera rounds out the guaranteed Hall of Famers among active players. He’s going to reach 500 home runs, which is basically a ticket to Cooperstown in and of itself. But he has never been just a power hitter. He’s one of the best contact hitters of his generation, batting over .320 heading into this 15th season. The two-time MVP had his streak of 11 straight 100-plus RBI seasons broken during an injury shortened 2015.
Mike Trout (Angels): 1/50
Trout is in just his sixth full season, so he needs to play a few more years to be eligible. But he basically just has to show up at this point. His first five years in the league could be Cooperstown worthy on their own. He’s already won two MVPs and has never finished lower than second in the vote.
Madison Bumgarner (Giants): 1/1
MadBum has very solid regular season stats through nine years in the bigs: 2.99 ERA, 8.9 strikeouts-per-nine, over 1,400 total Ks, 1.097 WHIP. But he’ll probably be best remembered, when it’s all said and done, for his playoff wizardry, almost single-handedly willing the Giants to a title in 2015.
Working against him? He’s never finished better than fourth in Cy Young voting. Plus, given how big an innings-monster he’s been in his first decade (200-plus innings in six straight seasons), there’s a decent chance his arm falls off somewhere around 2020.
Bryce Harper (Nationals): 1/1
Harper has only had one sensational, HOF-worthy season. That came in 2015 when he batted .330 with 42 homers and a 1.109 OPS. That had many predicting the former first-overall pick would proceed to tear up the NL the way Trout has been tearing up the AL, but he had a mediocre 2016, hitting .243 with 24 homers and .814 OPS. He’s back on track in 2017 (.328 BA, 15 homers, 1.093 OPS) but needs to consistently get the most from his freakish abilities for a number of seasons before he’ll be a HOF favorite. It’s basically a toss-up at this point, which says a lot about Harper’s potential.
Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox): 5/3
Pedroia has some work to do. He was truly elite for a couple seasons and won an AL MVP award, but the average Hall of Fame second baseman has a WAR of 69.3, and Pedroia’s is just over 50 right now. He’s not going to reach any sexy milestones, like 3,000 hits, and injuries are starting to become a concern for the 33-year-old.
Aaron Judge (Yankees): 9/1
Nothing against Aaron Judge. He’s a hugely talented player (emphasis on “huge”) who could be the cornerstone of the next great Yankee dynasty. But he’s also a rookie, and we’ve seen countless first-year players follow-up sensational years with non-HOF careers. Yes, Mark McGwire and Cal Ripken Jr. are former AL Rookies of the Year. But so are Alvin Davis and Joe Charboneau.
Judge will have to keep up what he’s doing (.327 BA, 17 HR in 48 games) for at least the next ten years. It’s way too early to give the 6’7, 280-pound masher more than a ten-percent chance at induction.