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 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Andrew McCutchen: Age 29. Resume: 5 All Star selections, 2013 MVP (3 other top 5 finishes), 1 Gold Glove, and 4 Silver Slugger awards. 42 offensive WAR. The defensive metrics do not seem to like his work in the outfield which surprised me as I have never heard his fielding spoken poorly of. McCutchen is the face of the Pirates franchise and is highly thought of as a person by fans, media, and fellow players. There has been talk about the trading McCutchen and if that happens the local support he’s gained may somewhat abate and his path to the Hall may be slightly harder. If he can stick with Pittsburgh long-term, his legacy will solidify (ex. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr.). 2016 has been a down year for McCutchen so he will have to turn things around and get himself back on the HOF track or all of the above is a moot point. His 2016 has been so unlike him in fact, that I probably would have rated his Hall of Fame chance about 5% higher if his 2016 resembled anything close to his three prior seasons. There are a variety of tools for measuring Hall of Fame trajectory and depending on the tool used McCutchen is positioned ‘fairly good’ to ‘on the outside looking in’. However, quality individuals who transcend the game like McCutchen are sometimes voted for by the sports writers above and beyond what their stats would suggest. Good will is currently in McCutchen’s favor. Hall of Fame chance: 47%
Gerrit Cole: Age 25. Resume: 1 All Star selection. 2016 is Cole’s 4th year in the bigs. He has already accumulated 47 wins (with a .627 win percentage) and has a career 3.10 ERA. His 2015 season was stellar and while 2016 has been solid, it is a step backwards from the superstar path he was on. Cole has been with the Pirates since he was 22 so if he can stay healthy, he has an opportunity to accumulate some impressive counting stats. Hall of Fame chance: 35%.
Starling Marte: Age 27. Resume: 1 All Star selection and 1 Gold Glove. Additionally, defensive metrics see him as a solid outfielder. Marte had a taste of the pros in 2012 and is currently in his 4th full season with the Pirates. He has amassed over 5 WAR per year for his last three and 2016 seems like he will end up in the mid to high 5s with an outside chance of getting to 6. Marte has shown his wheels consistently but his power has been a bit more variable. His age 27 season (2016) has been his best yet. Marte has an opportunity to make his move into Hall of Fame territory if he can either add some pop to his bat and amass some 20/20 or better seasons or focus on amassing stolen bases while reducing being caught stealing, maintaining high OPS, and winning some hardware (gold gloves, silver sluggers, etc…). Getting additional exposure to a national audience would help too. Hall of Fame chance: 24%.
Gregory Polanco: Age 24. Resume: 3rd professional season. Polanco has shown improvement in each of his seasons and 2016 finds Polanco improving his batting eye (increased walk rate and decreased K rate) and increasing power and speed (17 homers, 11 bags). His OPS is .835. Polanco is only 24 years old and his skills are consolidating. He is going to need to take a few more steps forward as he comes into his prime but if he can continue his growth, he is in position to start compiling the stats that are the focus of Hall of Fame voters. Hall of Fame chance: 16%.
For parts I-III, Click the links below: