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Cooperstown Calling: Which Active MLB Players Will Make the Hall of Fame?

Miguel Cabrera

With more than 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, two MVP awards, and a Triple Crown among the highlights on his impressive resume, Miguel Cabrera is a lock for Cooperstown.

Hall of Fame discussions are a highlight of the baseball offseason (and resurface during the All-Star break) — especially when a labor dispute halts all transactions. But debates over Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, et al. have become tiresome at this point, so the more enjoyable question is this: Which active players have the best chance of enshrinement in Cooperstown?

While WAR isn't the end-all, be-all for Hall of Fame cases, it's a good way to quickly look at how strong each candidate's argument is. Most people use a career WAR of 50 and a best-seven-seasons total of 35 WAR as a minimum to get in, while the average Hall of Famer is closer to 70 career WAR and low-40s peak WAR.

Many of these players won't appear on a ballot for more than 10 years, so this exercise takes quite a bit of projection. But let's take a look ahead.

Note: WAR totals are an average of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference versions from before the start of the 2022 season, with career WAR listed before their seven-year peak WAR.

Locks:

Miguel Cabrera (69.5, 45.0)
Zack Greinke (68.5, 43.3)
Clayton Kershaw (70.7, 48.9)
Albert Pujols (93.3, 60.3)
Max Scherzer (66.5, 46.1)
Mike Trout (77.0, 65.4)
Justin Verlander (71.9, 48.4)
Joey Votto (62.4, 45.1)

If any of these players retired today, he'd be an instant Hall of Famer. These are the four best pitchers and batters of the era. Votto has the weakest case and may get dinged by less analytically inclined voters, but he has led the league in OBP seven times. Anyone with seven batting titles would be a shoo-in for Cooperstown.

Related: 25 Best Hitters in Baseball (MLB) History

Very Likely:

Mookie Betts (47.0, 45.0)
Jacob deGrom (41.2, 38.7)
Bryce Harper (41.7, 36.5)
Yadier Molina (48.9, 34.1)

It's hard to imagine any of these four not getting inducted. Betts and Harper have a combined three MVPs and two World Series titles and are not yet 30. Molina's bat is light, but he will likely make it on his glove, longevity and leadership. Injuries and a late start to his career will keep deGrom from major milestones, but his dominance is unquestionable.

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50/50:

José Altuve (40.9, 38.0)
Freddie Freeman (42.7, 33.4)
Paul Goldschmidt (48.5, 40.0)
Evan Longoria (55.5, 41.2)
Manny Machado (42.8, 36.7)
Andrew McCutchen (48.4, 39.9)
Chris Sale (45.9, 39.4)

Machado is going to crush statistical milestones due to his early debut but may need some postseason success to convince some voters. The rest are in their 30s and will need relatively strong ends of their careers to make it. If Sale bounces back from Tommy John surgery, he should be relatively safe. McCutchen has an MVP and could become one of 26 players with 300 home runs and 200 steals, while Longoria has a Scott Rolen-esque résumé. How much will voters care about Altuve's involvement in the Astros' cheating scandal in a decade-plus?

Veterans with a Case:

José Abreu (25.5, 23.9)
Madison Bumgarner (35.4, 28.2)
Robinson Canó (64.2, 45.4)
Josh Donaldson (44.4, 41.6)
David Price (41.4, 33.1)
Giancarlo Stanton (43.2, 34.1)
Adam Wainwright (44.7, 34.5)

All three pitchers have light regular-season résumés — Price is the only one with a Cy Young — that are heavily boosted by postseason production. One or two are likely to be inducted by a Veterans Committee if they fall short, perhaps like Andy Pettitte (minus the PED admission). Abreu won't have the traditional MLB stats but may get additional consideration for his legendary production in Cuba. Canó clearly has the stats, although voters will likely leave him off for his two PED suspensions. Stanton will hit 500 home runs if he produces into his mid-to-late 30s like he has the last two seasons.

On the Right Path:

Nolan Arenado (40.4, 37.0)
Gerrit Cole (33.6, 30.4)
Carlos Correa (29.6, 29.6)
Aaron Judge (25.4, 25.4)
Francisco Lindor (31.6, 31.6)
José Ramírez (34.4, 33.4)

Each of these players appears on pace, but don't forget that the same could be said for David Wright and Félix Hernández a few years ago. Judge's late debut and injury history will make it an uphill climb for him, and it's easy to forget that Cole wasn't all that great in Pittsburgh. Does it surprise you that Ramírez has better career numbers so far than his former teammate Lindor?

Closers:

Aroldis Chapman (19.8, 16.2)
Kenley Jansen (19.9, 16.1)
Craig Kimbrel (20.6, 18.4)

It's extremely hard to know how voters will react to the top closers of this era. Mariano Rivera was unanimous, Trevor Hoffman made it in on his third ballot and Billy Wagner has a solid chance of making it. But there was almost no support for Joe Nathan and his 377 career saves, which rank him eighth all-time. Kimbrel has the best chance of enshrinement — and voters will have to reckon with Chapman's domestic violence suspension — but these players deserve to be monitored.

Way Too Soon:

Ronald Acuña Jr. (15.4, 15.4)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (8.4, 8.4)
Shohei Ohtani (12.3, 12.3)
Juan Soto (17.7, 17.7)
Fernando Tatís Jr. (15.7, 15.7)

These are some of the best players in baseball, but there's only so far you can project a player who's played four or fewer seasons. Let's just enjoy their talent for now and re-visit in five years.