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 American 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 White Sox.
Jose Abreu: Age 29. Resume: 2014 Rookie of the Year, 1 All Star selection, 1 top 5 MVP finish. This talented Cuban defector entered MLB at age 27. He put up 30/100 seasons in his first two years with the White Sox. 2016 has not been a particularly strong campaign for Abreu although it is still solid by league wide comparison. There are a number of indicators that are eroding Abreu’s case for the Hall. In no particular order: His offensive WAR has decreased each season (6.6, 3.7, and currently 1.8). His OPS has decreased in each of his seasons (.964, .850, and currently .785). In addition, his strikeout and walk rate have not improved during his MLB career and it is beginning to catch up to him. Finally, Abreu’s defensive metrics at first base are not good (-4.1 career WAR in only his third season). In year 1, I was an Abreu ‘believer’. In year 2, I was an Abreu ‘hoper’. In year 3, I am becoming an Abreu ‘questioner’. Next comes Abreu ‘doubter’. Hall of Fame chance: 15%.
Adam Eaton: Age 27. Resume: League leader in triples once (currently leading the league in 2016 as well). 14.9 career WAR. Eaton is a solid hitter and fielder however he does not do anything at an elite level. Many experts expected annual 20/20 seasons from him but mid-teen production in both steals and homers is more likely. At age 27, we are most likely seeing Eaton at his prime rate of production. He is a solid player but not a Hall of Fame candidate. Hall of Fame chance: 1%.
Todd Frazier: Age 30. Resume: 2 All Star selections, 1 20/20 season, 95 homers since the start of 2014. Frazier is in his 6th season and has accumulated 17.6 WAR. His power is legitimate and he plays a solid third base however his batting eye is inconsistent. This leads to ignificant batting average fluctuations as well as a high number of strikeouts, a mediocre walk rate, and a pedestrian OPS (.778 for his career). Frazier has not put up the numbers needed for Cooperstown and at age 30, it is going to be difficult for him to make up for lost time. Hall of Fame chance: 6%.
Justin Morneau: Age 35. Resume: 4 All Star selections, 1 MVP award, 1 second place MVP finish, 2 Silver Slugger awards. Morneau has three 30 plus homer seasons and 1 batting title. Injuries, specifically concussions, stole peak season time away from Morneau, robbed him of piling up stats and hardware, and put the breaks on a potential run towards the Hall of Fame. Good to see him still in the game but a shame that injuries prevented him from achieving so much more. Hall of Fame chance: 1%.
Jose Quintana: Age 27. Resume: 1 All Star selection. Quintana has been an above league average pitcher since breaking in with the White Sox in 2012 but the casual observer has probably not been aware of his solid performance due to a lack of compiling wins. Quintana took a big step forward in 2016 making his first All Star game and gaining national notoriety. Quintana consistently averages about 8 strikeouts and two walks per 9 innings and limits home runs. At age 27, he is in position to compile some excellent seasons if his trends continue. Racking up victories would be helpful to his Hall case as most voters are going to look at his win – loss record but the proof in the pudding will be his peripheral statistics. My guess is that Quintana remains a solid pitcher that contributes strong #2 starting pitcher/ excellent #3 starting pitcher numbers. That doesn’t get a player to Cooperstown, but will likely get him into a handful of additional All Star games. Hall of Fame chance: 7%.
David Robertson: Age 31. Resume: 1 All Star Selection and 112 career saves. Robertson waited his turn to close for the Yankees, finally got it, and succeeded. He then left to sign a hefty deal with the White Sox to close games for them. Robertson continued his success in 2015 but took a step back due to a loss of command. His strikeout rate remains over 10 per game but his walk rate sky rocketed from 1.8 to 4.6 per 9 innings. He is also giving up more hits per outing as well. He’s already compiled 31 saves this season which gives him three consecutive 30 plus save seasons however if he was not getting paid big bucks to close or if the White Sox remained in the playoff hunt in 2016, there was a time that they might have tried another pitcher as the closer. Taking a step backwards at age 31 worries me. Robertson is late to the party and showing signs of wearing down. I am not hopeful for his chance to make it to Cooperstown. Hall of Fame chance: 2%.
Carlos Rodon: Age 23. Resume: 253 strikeouts in 255 career innings. Highly touted (3rd pick of the 2014 draft) flame thrower bust onto the scene last season as a 22 year old and put up a solid rookie campaign. In 2016, Rodon has been inconsistent. Positives include continuing to average one strikeout per inning and significantly reducing his walk rate. Negatives include doubling the number of homers he allows per game, allowing more hits, and continuing to post a WHIP that is over 1.4 in consecutive seasons. Sticking in the majors at 22 allows Rodon to begin compiling statistics at a young age and gain valuable experience. If he can continue to develop his pitching skills and stay healthy (the White Sox have a good record of keeping their guys healthy), age is on his side. Hall of Fame chance: 18%.
Chris Sale: Age 27. Resume: 5 All Star selections, 3 top 5 Cy Young finishes, over 200 strikeouts in three consecutive seasons (2016 looks like it will be his 4th). In his 5th season as a starter, Sale has accumulated 72 wins and owns a career ERA of 2.95. He has led the league two times in Ks per 9 innings and has limited his walks to approximately 2 per nine innings for 4 years running. His 30.5 career WAR shows how valuable a pitcher he has been. At age 27, Sale has the opportunity to develop a stellar resume. However, his health has always been a question. Sale has one of the most painful looking deliveries in baseball and most baseball people can’t understand how he has avoided a serious injury such as a torn UCL (leading to missed time and a likely Tommy John surgery). Is he playing on borrowed time or should we ignore what our eyes see as a disaster waiting to happen? If health cooperates, Sale is on the short list for likely Hall members. Hall of Fame chance: 49%.
James Shields: Age 34. Resume: 1 All Star selection and 1 top 5 Cy Young finish. Shields has 9 consecutive seasons of 200 or more innings pitched entering the 2016 season and in his career he has three years that he struck 200 or more batters out. Shields is known for consistency and durability (9 years in a row of 30 or more starts and leading the league in starts 3 times) but he has compiled only 132 wins in 11 years pitching and has often been homer-prone. The 2016 season has been Shields’ worst year as a professional. He’s sporting an ERA of approximately 6 and a WAR of -1.6. His walk rate is the highest it has ever been and his strikeout rate is the lowest it has ever been. Shields is a workhorse and is well-respected however he is nowhere near where he needs to be to be seriously considered for a run at the Hall. With only a few years left, Shields would need a miracle. Hall of Fame chance: 1%.
Other AL Central analysis:
NL Central Analysis: