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 St. Louis Cardinals.
Carlos Martinez: Age 24. Resume: 1 All Star selection. 2016 is Martinez’s 4th season with the Cardinals and his second as a full time starter. 2015 was a great year for him (14 wins, 3.01 ERA, and more strikeouts than innings pitched) but 2016 has been uneven. His overall numbers are solid (WAR=3.4) which disguises some of the rocky outings he has had. Having the opportunity to pitch for the always solid St. Louis organization should help him compile traditional stats like wins. However, he is going to need to continue to progress as a pitcher and stay healthy (something Cardinal pitchers have generally not been able to do in recent years) if he is going to generate the type of WAR needed to prove a worthy inductee. Hall of Fame chance: 17%.
Adam Wainwright: Age 34. Resume: 3 All Star selections, 2 second place and 2 third place CY Young finishes, 2 Gold Gloves, and 2 World Series championships (although injured for one of the championship seasons). Wainwright has pitched for 11 seasons (12 if you count the year he missed due to injury) and although he appeared on track for the Hall of Fame, injuries have derailed his journey to Cooperstown. For four years, he earned over 6 WAR per season. He also won 20 games twice, had 4 seasons as a starter where his ERA was below 3, and accumulated over 200 strikeouts in three seasons. These are the statistics that the voters love and it is a shame that his health did not allow him to maintain his prime for a longer period of time. If Wainwright was able to recapture this greatness and put another 2 or 3 dominant seasons together (especially if he was the ace of another World Series champ), he would be more likely to earn induction. However, at 34, regaining his dominance would be an extraordinary feat. Hall of Fame chance: 28%.
Matt Holliday: Age 36. Resume: 7 All Star Selections, 1 second place MVP finish, 4 Silver Slugger awards, 47.8 career offensive WAR, 294 career homeruns, 1 time batting champ, and 1 World Series Championship. Holiday has been a consistent slugger for a number of years although some would argue that the statistics that he put up while in Colorado are less meaningful than the stats he has amassed with Oakland and St. Louis. He has a great batting eye and for a slugger has a relatively low strikeout rate. At age 36 and in his 13th season, Holiday’s age and health are catching up with him. While he is likely to put up a few more solid seasons, his ability to play every day, dominate the game, and earn All Star selections appear to be over. If he was a few years younger, had another one or two World Series rings, and his health wasn’t a question, I would be more inclined to see him as getting into the Hall. However, with none of those three being the case… Hall of Fame chance: 20%.
Trevor Rosenthal: Age 26. Resume: 1 All Star selection, more strikeouts than innings pitched in each of his 5 years as a Cardinal’s reliever, and 2 seasons of over 40 saves. At age 26 and in his third year of being the full time closer for St. Louis, Rosenthal appeared ready for amass another 40 saves. However, 2016 was the year when his control (and possibly health) ultimately failed him. He wasn’t able to work himself out of multiple self-created jams ultimately leading to his removal from the closer’s job. Soon after, Rosenthal was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder problem and demoted to the minors. Rosenthal is a perfect example of why projecting a career for a closer is like throwing darts wearing a blindfold. If he can regain his form and take back the closer job, Rosenthal would need another decade of saves and a large strikeout total (being the closer on a few World Series champion teams would help his chances too). Anything less and he has no chance of Cooperstown. Hall of Fame chance: 9%.
Yadier Molina: Age 34. Resume: 7 All Star selections, 8 Gold Glove awards, 1 Silver Slugger award, and 2 top five MVP finishes. He has also been on two World Series winning teams. Molina is thought of as the best defensive catcher the game has seen in years. He can control the running game (led the lead in catching baserunners 4 times), can frame well, and calls a fantastic game. In his 13 years with the Cardinals, he has a .283 batting average and has hit over .300 four times. His OPS has topped .800 three times. At 34, Molina’s health has begun to negatively impact his statistics and overall performance. However, his resume as a catcher is extremely solid. Although the Hall of Fame monitoring statistics don’t love his chances, I do. Hall of Fame chance: 60%.
Matt Carpenter: Age 30. Resume: 3 All Star selections, 1 top 5 MVP finish, 1 Silver Slugger award. Carpenter has also led the league in doubles twice, runs once, hits once, and walks once. He carries a career .843 OPS and a career offensive WAR is 20.0. Carpenter is versatile in the field and has played first, second, and third base during the past few years (primarily third base) however the defensive metrics do not like his work in the field (-2.0 defensive WAR). Carpenter came to the party a little late, gaining regular playing time in the big leagues in his age 26 season (and even that season was a partial one). This has hurt his ability to compile the numbers, awards, and the chance to be a part of a world championship team that would all be helpful for him to gain induction into the Hall. Can he maintain his level of production long enough to have a prolonged prime and generate the resume needed for serious consideration? I’m guessing that it’s going to be difficult for him and that he ends up short. Hall of Fame chance: 10%.
Kolten Wong: Age 25. Resume: Career totals of 25 homers and 43 steals. Wong is a former first round pick of the Cardinals and came with lofty expectations. However, his time in the big leagues has been met with mixed results which has led to only one season of at least 150 games played with St. Louis. Although a career second baseman, Wong was sent down to the minors mid-year (2016 – age 25 season) and has returned as an outfielder. His production as a middle infielder was not putting him on a trajectory towards Cooperstown and his production as an outfielder is viewed as even more paltry. At 25, he needs to figure things out soon and start righting the ship. Hall of Fame chance: 2%.
Stephen Piscotty: Age 25. Resume: Piscotty has played both outfield and first base in his first full season with St. Louis. He played well in 63 games for St. Louis in 2015 and then starred in the NLDS playoff series against the Cubs (3 homers and 1.444 OPS in 4 games). Piscotty has the tools to be an above average player but does not appear to have any one thing that he does at an elite level. He appears to be the type of player that can help round out a championship team but I do not see him making the leap to superstar. Hall of Fame chance: 5%.
Jhonny Peralta Age 34. Resume: 3 All Star selections. 200 career homeruns. Five seasons of 20 or more homeruns during his 14 year career is nice from a player who is primarily a shortstop. However, Peralta earned a 50 game suspension from MLB in 2013 when he was caught in the Biogenesis Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) investigation. The voters have consistently shown that they will not vote for confirmed PED users thus, Peralta has no shot at the Hall. Hall of Fame chance: less than 1%.
Randal Grichuk: Age 25. Resume: Grichuk broke out with St. Louis in 2015 flashing tremendous power (17 homers in only 323 at bats). However, in 2016, his star has come back to earth. Grichuk has a questionable eye (5 to 1 K to walks in 2015 and 4 to 1 K to walks in 2016) and his struggles have led him well defensively however Grichuk needs to develop a better approach at the plate if he is going to stick in the pros. He is still young and has time to develop but his 2016 season is not helping his Hall of Fame case. Hall of Fame chance: 2%.
To see the other NL Central team player profiles, click the following links: