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 Kansas City Royals.
Lorenzo Cain: Age 30. Resume: 1 All Star selection, one top 5 MVP award finish, .287 career batting average, 2 World Series appearances and 1 World Series championship. Although he initially made it to the big leagues in 2010, Cain didn’t get regular playing time until 2014 (his age 27 season). WAR finds him equally valuable with the glove and with the bat (11.6 career offensive WAR to 11.2 career defensive WAR) but glove work doesn’t often significantly factor in with the Hall’s voters. He’s a late bloomer who has lost a significant amount of his prime riding the bench/playing in the minors. He’s going to need an extended prime, stay healthy, and rack up incredible numbers to have any real chance. It’s unlikely. Hall of Fame chance: 5%.
Wade Davis: Age 30. Resume: 2 All Star selections, 2 World Series appearances, and 1 World Series championship. Davis has been lights out since the Royals moved him from fringe starter to key member of the bullpen. However, Davis has shown a slow erosion of skills and stats in each of his last three years. He has been limited by injury in the second half of 2016 and it will be interesting to see what skill level he performs at for the remainder of the season. It took Davis until his age 29 season to begin compiling saves thus it is unlikely that he will end his career with enough saves to garner many Hall of Fame votes. He is going to have to put together an otherworldly performance for at least five more years as a closer and work at a 1.0 WHIP or less, 10.0 or higher K per 9 rate, and an ERA under 2.00 to have any real chance. Hall of Fame chance: 4%.
Danny Duffy: Age 27. Resume: 35 career wins, over 500 career strikeouts, 2 World Series appearances and 1 World Series championship. Duffy has been with the Royals since 2011 but lost almost all of 2012 and 2013 due to Tommy John surgery. In 2016, Duffy has put it all together and has shown the baseball world how dominating his stuff can be. His K per 9 rate is almost 10, his walks per 9 rate is below 2 and his WHIP is just over 1.0 all of which have contributed to his gaudy 11-2 win loss record. 2 of his last 3 starts have been subpar and have ‘swelled’ his ERA from the mid-2s to the low 3s. All in all, the Royals and their fans couldn’t have asked for much more than what Duffy has shown them this year. Duffy could quickly get on the path to the Hall if he could make his 2016 pace stick (as well as stay healthy in his prime years). However, I’d need to see more than one season of work like this before I was sold that this is the Danny Duffy to expect from here on out. Hall of Fame chance: 10%.
Alex Gordon: Age 32. Resume: 3 All Star selections, 4 Gold Glove awards, league leader in doubles one time, 2 World Series appearances and 1 World Series championship. Gordon struggled as a Royal in his first four seasons but once he moved from the infield to the outfield, everything seemed to click for him. He’s posted almost 33 career WAR and has established himself as a highly respected outfielder. Gordon did not start compiling significant offensive stats until his age 27 season and at 32 he is going to have a very hard time to make a legitimate case for the Hall. 2016 is shaping up to be a lost season for him which may signal a significant decline in production going forward. Career averages of .265/.431/.777 with 148 homers and 87 steals isn’t going to get it done. He will be remembered fondly by many Royals fans as a core member of their World Series teams but he won’t be in Cooperstown. Hall of Fame chance: 3%.
Kelvin Herrera: Age 26. Resume: 2 All Star selections, 2 World Series appearances and 1 World Series championship. Herrera’s career has been picking up momentum and 2015 and 2016 have seen him begin to build national name recognition. He’s part of KC’s excellent bullpen and as a result, saves for Herrera have been hard to find. Injuries to the pen in 2016 have finally allowed him a shot at the closer role and Herrera appears to be able to handle the job well. However, Herrera appears to no longer be the closer now that Davis has returned to the active roster. Time will tell whether Herrera just raised his stock as a closer on the trade market or whether K.C. plans on reshuffling their stacked pen next year to give him a shot at the job, Herrera needs to begin to lock down some gaudy save totals in the coming years. Adding some dominance to his profile would help his cause as well (2016 is his first season where he has averaged under 2 walks per 9 innings and only the second season he has averaged double digit strikeouts per 9 innings. He is a wild card when trying to predict his ride towards Cooperstown. Hall of Fame chance: 7%.
Eric Hosmer: Age 26. Resume: 3rd pick of the 2008 draft, 1 All Star selection, 3 Gold Glove awards, 2 World Series appearances and 1 World Series championship. A first baseman that slugs in the mid 700s is going to have a tough time cracking into the top tier of modern day players. Hosmer has been in the bigs since 2011 and has developed a strange up year down year pattern (OPS+ of 118, 81, 118, 99, 122, 103). 2016 is the first year he has cracked 20 homers in a season but overall, the counting stats and career totals through this season (age 26) is just not there. Interestingly, although he has racked up a few Gold Glove awards, the defensive metrics do not like his work at first base (-6 defensive career WAR). Hosmer is going to have to raise his game and pile on the counting stats during his prime for significant Hall of Fame consideration. He’s good, he’s becoming well known nationally, but he doesn’t have a trajectory that’s currently headed for the Hall. Hall of Fame chance: 10%.
Mike Moustakas: Age 27. Resume: 2nd pick of the 2007 draft, 1 All Star selection, 2 World Series appearances and 1 World Series championship. Moustakas was slow out of the gate and struggled in his first four seasons. After a breakout campaign in 2015, Moustakas was injured early in 2016 and will miss all but 27 games. This is not good for his Hall chances as it removes one year of statistical compiling during a prime year for hitters (age 27) and also slows the developmental curve that he was on. How quickly he can return from injury and whether he is able to maintain or improve on his 2015 form once he returns will determine whether he restarts on a path to Cooperstown or whether he stalls out. Hall of Fame chance: 5%.
Salvador Perez: Age 26. Resume: 4 All Star selections, 2 World Series appearances, 1 World Series championship, World Series MVP award, and 3 Gold Glove awards. Perez has put up a very solid first 6 seasons (4 as a full timer) for the Royals. He is a solid contributor at the bat and behind the plate. His power has developed but his ability to take a walk has not. This combination has yielded a slugging percentage in the 4s but an OPS in the 7s. He is a top all around catcher in the game and has developed into a perennial All-Star. Staying healthy behind the dish can be tough but at age 26, Perez has a few more years to amass stats as a catcher before the wear and tear really takes its toll on his body. Compiling stats as a catcher will go a long way towards his case for Cooperstown. Also, catchers tend to develop their offense a little later than other position players so there is a definite possibility that as Perez moves into his peak age seasons his best is yet to come. Hall of Fame chance: 32%.
Joakim Soria: Age 32. Resume: 2 All Star selections, a career line of 203 saves, 2.70 ERA, and 9.6 Ks per 9 innings. After putting up a few dominant seasons as a closer early in his career, Soria has fallen off the Hall of Fame path. The number one culprit has been the injuries that he’s battled during multiple seasons (even missing all of 2012). Saves have come sporadically depending on the year, the team, his bullpen role, and his health. Too much time lost to injury and no path that leads to regularly save opportunities makes Cooperstown unrealistic. Hall of Fame chance: 1%.
Yordano Ventura: Age 25. Resume: 37 career wins in his 3 seasons as a starter with the Royals, 2 World Series appearances and 1 World Series championship. Ventura is a young starter who has shown flashes of excellence. However, he has also been a lightning rod for controversy (being a part of many bench clearing incidents) and has shown erratic results on the mound. He’s gone from opening day starter to being demoted to the minors in the same season. An concrete statistical example of his erratic play is highlighted by his strikeouts per 9 innings during the past three seasons. Although he has demonstrated high speeds on his fastball his K per 9 has been 7.8, 8.6, and 6.6. Ventura has youth on his side but needs to find a way to harness his intensity. Hall of Fame chance: 10%.
The other profiled teams: