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.
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%.