The Crystal Ball Hall of Fame

While watching baseball, I often think about which of today’s players will end up enshrined in the Hall of Fame.  There are a number of players that seem like no brainers (ex. Mike Trout) while others are borderline candidates (ex. Carlos Beltran).  There are some that were easily first ballot but have harmed their chances (ex. Alex Rodriguez) while some were headed in the right direction until injuries steered them off course (ex. Adam Wainwright).

As a thought experiment, I decided to examine the current 40 man rosters of each team in the National League Central and highlight the players on each team with the best chance of making it all the way to Cooperstown, New York.  I have avoided players who have accumulated one full year or less of service time with their pro club due to the lack of stable data from such a small sample.  Today’s post focuses on the Chicago Cubs.

cubs

Players in contention:

Jake Arrieta: Age 30.  Resume: 1 Cy Young Award and 1 All Star selection.  He has had three years of elite production since coming over to the Cubs from the Orioles but how long can he maintain this production and how many more years can he pitch?   Hall of Fame chance: 20%.

Aroldis Chapman: Age 28.  Resume: 15.1 strikeouts per 9 innings, .98 WHIP, 4 All Star selections, and 170 Saves.  Chapman has dominant stuff and the speed at which he throws is legendary.  However, it is tough for a closer to stay dominant for as long as a player typically needs to in order to be Hall worthy.  His off field behavior does not help his case. Hall of Fame chance: 18%.

Jon Lester: Age 32.  Resume: 139 wins (12th on active list for wins), 4 All Star selections, 2 World Series rings, piles up Ks as a strikeout pitcher.  Recent throwing woes have led to teams stealing at will when he is on the mound.  Due to his age, Lester needs to be the #1 or #2 starting pitcher on a few more world champs or have little to no decline in production for another 5 or 6 years to get himself positioned for entry to the Hall of Fame.  Hall of Fame chance: 25%.

Kris Bryant: Age 24.  Resume: 2 All Star selections and 2015 Rookie of the Year.  Bryant’s first (almost) 2 years has him headed in the Hall’s direction.  He will need to keep up this level of production for at least another 6 to 8 years.  He’s already a fan favorite and he’s playing for a team that looks to be built for many post season runs.  The stars appear to be aligning for him.  Hall of Fame chance: 55%.

Anthony Rizzo: Age 27.  Resume: 3 All Star selections and 3 years in a row of being in the top 5 for OPS.  Although Rizzo was traded 2 times early in his career and struggled out of the gate, he has settled into stardom with the Cubs.  He needs to continue to power and average and separate himself from the pack of other quality first basemen in the game today by collecting MVP votes and All Star selections.  Some World Series rings wouldn’t hurt either.  At 27 he needs to make the most of his prime production years to maintain the Hall of Fame conversation.  Hall of Fame chance: 40%.

Addison Russell: Age 22.  Resume: All Star selection in his first full year of service (2nd year in the pros).  Russell is only 22 so attempting to judge his chances for Hall of Fame enshrinement is like trying to guess which Game of Thrones character is next to die.  However, Russell plays nice defense at a premium position (SS), flashes nice power for a 22 year old middle infielder, shows improved batting eye (increased walks and reduced strikeouts).  He’s on the perfect team for the national fanbase to watch him perform in the post season.  If he puts up Derek Jeter like post seasons throughout his 20s while continuing to develop each year, he has the profile to make some noise.  The way too early Hall of Fame chance: 20%.

Ben Zobrist: Age 35.  Resume:  Multi-position competence, 3 All Star selections, 1 World Series championship, and a couple of huge WAR seasons.  He is too old and has not compiled enough WAR, counting stats, or rings to have a real shot at the Hall of Fame.  He is more valuable for being versatile and a grinder than for consistent HOF-like production.  Zobrist was an under-rated sabermetric darling for years until he became an over-rated sabermetric darling.  Hall of Fame chance: 2%.

Jason Heyward: Age 27.  Resume: 1 All Star selection, 3 Gold Gloves (outfielder).  Heyward has already accumulated over 32 WAR (thanks largely to his amazing defense).    Unfortunately, his bat has been somewhat inconsistent during his seven years and has completely disappeared in 2016.  He has compiled 3 seasons of 20 plus steals but his power never materialized (except for one 27 homer season).  At 6 foot 5 and 240 pounds his fans, coaches, and team executives expected more.  Outfield defense doesn’t typically blaze a path to Cooperstown and I don’t think Heyward is going to buck that trend.  I think he can get himself back on track in future seasons but that track brings him back to respectability and not the Hall of Fame.  Hall of Fame chance: 9%.

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8 thoughts on “The Crystal Ball Hall of Fame

  1. anniedrawsthings says:

    Hey, Dave! Nice thoughts on the Cubbies. I definitely agree that Bryant and Rizzo are our biggest contenders for the Hall of Fame at the moment. They’re both young but already consistent enough to carry on their success for several more years.

    What are your thoughts about Javy Baez? He’s gained so much control in his batting just in this season and routinely pulls spectacular defensive plays. He still has some growing to do, but I think he has potential.

    Like

    • underthoughtsite says:

      I went back and forth on whether to profile Baez and he just missed making the cut. I enjoy watching Baez play and he has some nice potential. Although it is a very small sample size to base my judgement on (52, 28, and 109 games in the three years he has played for the Cubs) I would have to say he has little shot of making Cooperstown. Here is my thinking in a nutshell:
      Pros: He’s a first round selection of the Cubs and only 23 years old. He has a nice power/speed combo (double digits in homers and steals in just 109 games in 2016). His defensive metrics appear much stronger this year and could indicate a player who can contribute on both offense and defense.
      Cons: His batting average for 2016 is .275 however his walk to strikeout rate is terrible (13 walks to 86 strikeouts). Although his approach appears slightly improved from the last two seasons when he received irregular playing time, his k to walk ratio makes a decent batting average unsustainable and every day playing time unlikely (especially with a front office and manager as astute as the group the Cubs have working for them). If this was his first year of bad ratios I would not penalize him as much as I do but this is something that’s plagued Baez each year. Finally, the Cubs appear to be fully stocked with All Stars, every day regulars, and young studs at all levels of the system. This will make finding regular playing time difficult for almost anyone who isn’t putting up high average to above average numbers. I think this will hurt Baez’s overall chance if he stays with the Cubs. However, if he gets traded to a team that has strong hitting coaches and allows Baez some room for growing pains and skills consolidation he may have the time and latitude to develop into an above average player.
      I’d like to see him get regular playing time and at bats for another season and assess his growth. However, based on what I have seen so far, it’s going to be tough for him. Thanks for the feedback and for the great question. I would love to hear your thoughts on Baez and his Hall of Fame potential.

      Liked by 1 person

      • anniedrawsthings says:

        Wow, thanks for the thought-out reply! My thoughts are not nearly as well-supported, because I am an art person who has the game on in the afternoons while I fold my laundry and not a statistician, but here they are for what they’re worth: I definitely agree that it’s hard to get a read on Baez’s consistency while he’s still so young and relatively overshadowed by other players on the roster, especially in his batting (For some reason, I’m constantly comparing him to Addison Russell, who is the same age and often comparable in the infield, but has a much more impressive resume as an All Star and regular shortstop). However, it is a lot of fun watching Baez play so many defensive positions so well. Maddon is really using a lot of men on the roster as utility players this season, and I think Baez is one of the best examples of the versatility that comes from that. I doubt whether that will help him get to the Hall of Fame, but as a Cubs fan, I’m not even getting my hopes up for October yet. 😛
        Thanks again, keep up the awesome work!

        Liked by 1 person

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