The game of baseball has many great players that are currently playing today. We don’t know which ones are bound for greatness and which ones will just have a couple good seasons and disappear. The criteria for Hall of Fame voting seems to differ from voter to voter. The process in which the writers vote for players, leaves us questioning their reasoning. What makes a player Hall of Fame worthy? That is one answer that will never be defined. WAR is a statistic that has gained massive popularity and the main statistic that I will use to determine a players Hall of Fame status via Baseball Reference. In this article, I have chosen 34 active MLB players to highlight that are bound for Cooperstown and the team they will presumptively enter the Hall with.
First Ballot Hall of Famers
These players currently have the criteria to be eligible to be elected to the Hall of Fame if they retired today.
Albert Pujols: 99.4 Career WAR — St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols has put together quite the career with 621 Home Runs and counting, recently eclipsing the 3,000 hit mark, and earning 3 MVP awards and 10 All-Star appearances. His career slashline is .304/.384/.558 and throughout his career, he has walked 82 more times than he has struck out. Pujols is a quintessential shoo-in for the Hall of Fame if there ever was one. He is in his 18th season and he will undoubtedly be elected as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent the first 10 seasons of his career and played his best years there, and lead the Cards to 2 World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.
Ichiro Suzuki: 59.4 Career WAR — Seattle Mariners
Ichiro is technically not an active player, but for the purpose of the article, he still is considered active because he did play in 2018. He is currently sitting at number 10 on the active career WAR list and has compiled 3,089 hits with a career .311 BA. In his first 10 seasons in the MLB, he hit over .300 and had over 200 hits in each of those seasons. He won 1 MVP award in his rookie season (the only player ever to do so), 10 Gold Gloves, and 10 All-Star appearances. Ichiro entered the MLB at age 27 leaving many people wondered what could have been if he would have played his 5 prior years in the MLB instead of Japan. He is an international sensation, arguably the best contact hitter of our generation, and a no doubt first ballot HOFer.
Miguel Cabrera: 69.4 Career WAR — Detroit Tigers
I feel like Miguel Cabrera is the least appreciated among the list of First Ballot HOFers. Cabrera is currently in his 16th season and has a career .317 BA with 465 HRs. He is 3rd on the active career WAR list and the only active player to win a Batting Triple Crown. To go along with it are 2 MVPs, 11 All-Star appearances, and a World Series ring in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. He has found most of his success as a Tiger and would most likely be entered as a member of the club.
Clayton Kershaw: 61.8 Career WAR — Los Angeles Dodgers
This generation’s most dominant pitcher, Clayton Kershaw is currently in his 11th season and is 7th on the list for active career WAR. Kershaw could walk away from the game today and be a first ballot HOFer, which really says something about the career he has had in just a short amount of time. Currently, Kershaw holds a career 2.37 ERA, 2,173 Ks in 300 appearances. He also has 3 Cy Young awards, an MVP, a Pitching Triple Crown, and 7 All-Star appearances. He has had injury problems in the past few years and the fact that he is still arguably the best pitcher in baseball makes his tremendous career success even more remarkable.
Mike Trout: 59.1 Career WAR — Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Some might say that making Trout a First Ballot HOFer, this early in his career is a little premature, but his numbers back it up. Only in his 8th season, Trout is already 11th on the active career WAR list with already 2 MVPs, 6 All-Star appearances to his credit. His career BA sits at .306 with a .412 OBP. If Trout can keep up this pace, he may be considered the greatest player in modern baseball history. There is a requirement for a minimum 10-year career to be eligible for the Hall of Fame, but I would have no problem making him a HOFer on his first attempt if he would decide to retire at the end of the 2021 season. The real question is if the Angels will have two retired number 27 jerseys.
Adrian Beltre: 94.1 Career WAR — Texas Rangers
Beltre has quietly put together an all-time great career, 2nd among active WAR leaders and currently 40th on the all-time list. He is in his 21st season and has 4 All-Star appearances, 4 Silver Sluggers, and 5 Gold Gloves. He currently has 463 HRs, a career .287 BA, and 3,082 hits. Beltre has played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and the Texas Rangers. He will likely be elected as a member of the Texas Rangers due to the fact he found the most success and the longest duration with the team.
Hall Bound Veteran Pitchers
The following active pitchers are definitely Hall of Fame Bound, but may or may not be first ballot HOFers.
Justin Verlander: 60.5 Career WAR — Detroit Tigers
I had a difficult time not putting Justin Verlander as a first ballot HOFer. His career accolades include an MVP, a Cy Young, a Pitching Triple Crown, and 6 All-Star appearances. He is currently in his 14th season and having the best year of his career statistically. Verlander holds a career 3.39 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 2,514 Ks. He also won a World Series with the Houston Astros last season and was very vital to the team winning the title. The reason why I did not put him in the first ballot category is because of his roller coaster seasons. He has not been the most consistently great pitcher of the era, but has certainly had very dominant seasons and is, without a doubt, worthy of the Hall.
Zack Greinke: 62.2 Career WAR — Kansas City Royals
Zack Greinke has had a very successful career, but it is one with ups and downs, much like Verlander. Although Verlander has had a more successful career as a pitcher, what makes Greinke interesting is his years in the NL. His value as a batter has made his WAR slightly higher than Verlander, despite being nearly the same age and having about the same amount of experience. Greinke is 4-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, 4-time Gold Glove winner, and is currently in his 15th season with a career 3.41 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Greinke will likely be elected as a Royal. He had his most successful years as a Dodger, but will likely be entered as a member of the Royals because of his duration with the team.
Max Scherzer: 48.3 Career WAR — Washington Nationals
Max Scherzer is currently the most dominant pitcher in baseball. He is currently in his 11th season and has enjoyed a great career. Since the start of the 2013 season, Scherzer has been getting better and has not shown any signs of stopping. In every year since then, he has been an All-Star and has won 3 Cy Young awards. He also has totaled 1440 Ks since the start of the 2013 season, which is the most in the MLB by nearly 100 strikeouts. I believe he will be elected to the Hall as a member of the Washington Nationals, even though currently he has more years with the Detroit Tigers. He has found more success as a National and is locked in until the end of the 2021 season. He very well could be the first player elected as a Washington National into the Hall.
Cole Hamels: 54.1 Career WAR — Philadelphia Phillies
Cole Hamels will not be a first ballot electee, and even though he may be a question mark for some writers, I believe he is definitely worthy of being in the conversation for the Hall of Fame. He is a 4-time All-Star and won a World Series title with the Phillies in 2008. His career numbers season-to-season do not really blow you away, but the key to his success has been his consistency. He has only had two seasons with an ERA below 3.00. He has a career 3.38 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP (same as Greinke and Verlander). His numbers look very similar to the aforementioned Greinke and Verlander, but he has never won a Cy Young, which is a negative in Hamels’ case as a HOFer, but in my opinion is not enough to deter him.
Felix Hernandez: 51.7 Career WAR — Seattle Mariners
King Felix looked like he was destined for a no doubt Hall of Fame selection on his first ballot, but his last 4 seasons have been less than stellar. Hernandez is a 6-time All-Star, with a Cy Young award and is in his 14th season, after debuting as a 19 year old. He has a career 3.27 ERA, even with the last 4 seasons raising his career numbers. The intriguing part about Hernandez is that he is only 32 years old (younger than Scherzer) and could pitch for a few more years. If he shows signs of the past, he very well could be in Cooperstown fairly easily.
Hall Bound Veteran Batters
The following batters are destined for the Hall of Fame, but are not a lock for a first ballot election.
Joey Votto: 56.8 Career WAR — Cincinnati Reds
Baseball’s biggest personality has put together a no doubt Hall of Fame career, but may not be a first ballot HOFer. Votto has a career .313 BA, .427 OBP, and a K/BB differential of only 90 in 11 seasons. He won an MVP in 2010 and in 2017, he came within 2 votes of claiming his 2nd MVP. Votto is also is a 5-time All-Star and has a Gold Glove. He is arguably the best pure hitter in baseball and if you are looking for a lock for a batter to get on base, he is your guy. He is a player that we only see once-in-a-generation. The only stain he has on his Hall of Fame status is his postseason inexperience, with only 9 career games to show for. If he can somehow lead the Reds to more postseason appearances, or better yet, a World Series title or two, he can solidify his status as a first ballot HOFer.
Giancarlo Stanton: 36.2 Career WAR — Miami Marlins
Stanton has power that is out of this world. He is the name that many would say if they were asked who the best power hitter in baseball is. At this point in his career, he has totaled 278 HRs. Stanton’s career SLG percentage is sitting at .550, which is 4th on the active list behind only Trout, Pujols, and Cabrera. He also won the 2017 NL MVP and has been an All-Star 4 times. He is in his 9th season and has about 40 more home runs than Ken Griffey Jr. had in roughly the same amount of games to start their careers. The only question is if he can keep up the pace. I do not think 600 HRs is out of the question at all. Stanton has struggled somewhat this season in his first year with the New York Yankees, but I wouldn’t expect that to last forever. As of right now, I have him going in with the Miami Marlins, but if he continues to find the same success and he rides out the rest of his contract with the Yanks, he may be elected as a Yankee. He can also opt out after the 2020 season, which possibly could open the door to another team.
Paul Goldschmidt: 35.5 Career WAR — Arizona Diamondbacks
Goldschmidt is currently in his 8th season the Diamondbacks and has put together some great numbers so far in his career. He is a career .294 hitter with a .395 OBP. Goldschmidt has already compiled 5 All-Star appearances, 3 Gold Gloves, and 3 Silver Sluggers in his time in the Majors. He has 3 seasons where he finished in the top 3 in MVP voting, though never actually winning the award. He has gotten off to a very slow start this year, but if we see more of the latter for the next few years, he will find himself in Cooperstown.
Buster Posey: 39.9 Career WAR — San Francisco Giants
Catchers are difficult to gauge when determining their status as a HOFer. Buster Posey however, has been nothing but consistent throughout his career. In his 10th season with the San Francisco Giants, Posey has been as solid as a catcher can be. In his career so far, he earned an MVP in 2012, 4 Silver Sluggers, 5 All-Star appearances, and has won the World Series 3 times in his career. The Giants have leaned on him and he has not let them down, with a career .308 BA. Not including his first season, where he only played 7 games, Posey has played in over 140 games in all years except 3. He may not be a lock for a First ballot, but should have no problems making the Hall.
Joe Mauer: 54.9 Career WAR — Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer is in his 15th season with the Twins and has played in at least 120 games every season except 4 counting his first season when he only played 35 games. Mauer has been great in his career, but the fact that he was a catcher for the first half of his career has somewhat complicated his status for Cooperstown. Since making the switch to a full-time 1st baseman, he has only reached 70 RBI once. Mauer is a career .308 batter with an OBP of .391. He has an MVP award from 2009, 3 Gold Gloves, 5 Silver Sluggers, and has been a 6-time All-Star. He has done enough to be a HOFer, but I would not expect him to make it on the first ballot.
Jose Altuve: 32.4 Career WAR — Houston Astros
Over the last 5 seasons, with the exception of Mike Trout, there potentially has not been a better overall player than Jose Altuve. He currently sits at a career .317 BA. He is a 5-time All-Star, a 4-time Silver Slugger, a Gold Glove winner, and the 2017 AL MVP. In the last 4 seasons, he has compiled over 200 hits each year. Altuve is another player that the concern is if he can keep it up for a few more years. If he can, he will possibly go down in history as one of the top 2nd Basemen to ever play the game.
Young Players On Pace for the Hall
The following players have quite an impressive repertoire, but have not completely solidified their status as a HOFer.
Chris Sale: 38.7 Career WAR — Chicago White Sox
With the exception of Max Scherzer, there has not been a pitcher with a greater ability to sit down batters via the K in the past few years. Already into his 9th season, his strikeout total is at 1,656. Last season, he struck out 308 batters which is the most by any pitcher since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2002. He has a career 2.97 ERA with a 1.04 WHIP. Sale is already a 6-time All-Star, and it appears that he will make it 7 this year. I chose for him to be elected as a member of the White Sox obviously because of his time with the club, but if he signs a deal with the Red Sox after the 2019 season, he very well could go in with the Boston Red Sox. He looks like he is poised for another great season and if he only has 2 or 3 more great seasons, he will be easily elected into the Hall of Fame.
Madison Bumgarner: 31.7 Career WAR — San Francisco Giants
The lefty has been plagued by the injury bug the past two seasons, but other than that, Bumgarner has been as close to automatic as one can get. He has already reached more than 200 innings in 6 seasons. He will be entering his 9th season likely next week, and will look to remain the consistent pitcher that he has been through the entirety of his career. His highest ERA he has ever posted in a season is 3.37, which is a statement to the career he has had thus far and not to mention, he is arguably the greatest postseason pitcher of all-time. Bumgarner has won 3 World Series titles with a World Series MVP in 2014, 2 Silver Sluggers, and is a 4-time All-Star. Perhaps, the only accolade Bumgarner is missing at this point in his career is a Cy Young award. If he can earn one, he looks to be an easy lock for Cooperstown.
Bryce Harper: 27.5 Career WAR — Washington Nationals
Baseball’s version of “The Chosen One”, has been up and down throughout his career, but the main reason is because of injuries. When Harper is healthy, there are not many better hitters in the game. In his short career, he already as 5 All-Star appearances, and he won the MVP in 2015. A big thing to remember about Harper is that he is only 25 years old. He is currently in his 7th season and at the end of this season, he will become a free agent. I have him going into the Hall as a member of the Nationals, because that is the only team he has played for. I am not going to guess where he will be at the start of the 2019 season, but it certainly will be an interesting offseason.
Mookie Betts: 28.4 Career WAR — Boston Red Sox
It may be a little early to say that Mookie Betts is easily on his way to the Hall, but it is difficult to ignore what he has accomplished over the past 4 years. His career WAR is already higher than Bryce Harper’s in 267 less games. He is on his way to having his best season of his career this year and I have a good feeling that this is just the beginning. He already has 2 Gold Gloves and is a 2-time All-Star. A concern with Betts, like any young player, will be his longevity. If he stays healthy for a big part of his career, there is little doubt that he is Hall of Fame bound.
Nolan Arenado: 29.7 Career WAR — Colorado Rockies
Many people will brush off the success of Nolan Arenado due to the fact that he plays in Colorado with the Coors effect, but there arguably is not a better 3rd baseman in the game. Arenado has won a Gold Glove in every season of his career (5 times) and over the last 5 seasons, he is averaging 30 HRs per year to go along with a career .293 BA. Coors Field does have a profound effect on a batter’s performance, but his ability to do everything well sets him apart from the other players that have found success in Colorado. He is on his way to the Hall, but he needs a few more seasons under his belt to solidify his status.
Manny Machado: 30.2 Career WAR — Baltimore Orioles
Machado and Arenado are virtually the same player, when it comes to career statistics. Machado has won 2 Gold Gloves and has been an All-Star 3 times already in his career. He is in his 7th season and is only 25 years old. He looks to have a great career ahead of him, if he can stay healthy. With the Orioles having a horrible season this year, there are rumors swirling around that he may be traded before the deadline, but wherever he plays in the future, look for him to be a star.
Craig Kimbrel: 19.2 Career WAR — Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel has been the best closer in baseball ever since he made his MLB debut in 2010. Relief pitchers have a difficult time getting into the Hall of Fame, unless you are the best of the best, Craig Kimbrel is just that. He is lights out when it comes to 9th Inning appearances. He holds a career 1.82 ERA, .906 WHIP, and a 14.6 K/9. He will look to go into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Atlanta Braves, because that is where he has found his most success currently. Maybe if the Red Sox win a World Series title or two within the next few years, he may be elected as a member of the Boston club.
This list of players have had great seasons and look to have many great more in their careers. This list includes players who have had more than 1 full year of MLB experience, so Ohtani, Acuña, Torres, and others do not apply to this list, but possibly after this season they will.
Kris Bryant: 21.6 Career WAR — Chicago Cubs
The only thing keeping Bryant off of the list above is his experience. He is only in his 4th season, but every year prior has been excellent. When entering the MLB, one of his biggest concerns was his strikeout rate, but in the past couple of years, he has cut those numbers down tremendously. He also is among the game’s best getting on base. Look for his numbers to look even better than they already do in the next few years. He won an MVP in 2016 and helped deliver the Cubs out of their historic World Series drought. Unless the Cubs start rebuilding after a few years, do not expect Bryant to leave the Cubs.
Carlos Correa: 18.8 Career WAR — Houston Astros
Correa is among the top young talent in baseball and will remain among the top young talent for a few more years. He is only 23 years old and already has 3 seasons of experience. The shortstop was a key part in Houston’s World Series title in 2017 and looks to become a big part of their club for many years to come. Last season in 109 games, he posted a .315/.391/.550 slash line and earned his first appearance to the All-Star game. It appears it will not be his only All-Star appearance. For right now, expect him to build onto his status as a HOFer.
Francisco Lindor: 19.6 Career WAR — Cleveland Indians
Lindor is another young shortstop with loads of potential. He is only 24 years old and currently in his 4th MLB season. In a very similar situation as Correa, Lindor just needs a more experience to solidify himself as a top player in baseball. He already is a 2-time All-Star and has won a Silver Slugger in his 3 seasons. He currently is having the best season of his career, and if he can keep turning out productive season, he will find a way to Cooperstown.
Aaron Judge: 10.9 Career WAR — New York Yankees
All Rise! The Judge is in the court. Aaron Judge had arguably the best rookie season in the history of baseball last season. Currently in his 2nd full season, Judge has 71 HRs for his career. Very similar to his teammate Giancarlo Stanton, Judge will look to crush his way to the Hall of Fame, one home run at a time. In his 2017 campaign, he sported a .284/.422/.627 slash line and did not win the MVP. This season it is more of the same and I would look for the next few years to be more of the same as well.
On the Bubble
These players may or may not be voted in to the Hall of Fame, but for the sake of this article, they will.
Corey Kluber: 31.3 Career WAR — Cleveland Indians
The absolute only reason that I consider Corey Kluber a borderline pick is because of his age. It has nothing at all to do with his ability. He has been, with the exception of Chris Sale, maybe, the best pitcher in the American League for the last 5 years. With that being said, he is 32 years old and currently in his 6th full season. In that time, he has 2 Cy Young awards and is a 2-time All-Star. When concerning his Hall of Fame status, there are a couple questions. Can he produce similar numbers for another 3 or 4 years? How much longer will he pitch? If he can produce and pitch for a few more years, without a doubt he will be in Cooperstown.
CC Sabathia: 60.4 Career WAR — New York Yankees
Sabathia is the perfect example of a career bell curve. You can pinpoint the moment he entered and left his prime. He has had a long and successful career and is currently in his 18th season. His eye-catching statistics are his 239 career wins and 519 starts. Sabathia had only one season with an ERA below 3.00, but has been consistently good for the most part. He has the most complete games among active pitchers with 38. Sabathia also has a Cy Young award, a World Series ring in 2009 with the Yankees, and is a 6-time All-Star. I personally think he will be in the Hall, but he will be a late ballot electee. It will be a toss up to see which team he will enter the hall with. My best guess is the Yankees due to the fact that he won a World Series there, but the Indians is where he started his career and played 8 seasons.
Chase Utley: 65.5 Career WAR — Philadelphia Phillies
Utley is the biggest question mark on the list. He has put together a solid career, but nothing really stands out. His career WAR is good enough to be consider a HOFer, but some would argue that he has not had enough great seasons to be in consideration. He currently sits 5th on the active WAR list. Craig Biggio was elected into the Hall of Fame, on his 3rd year on the ballot, with same exact career WAR as Utley, but what Biggio had that Utley does not is 4 Gold Gloves. Other than that, their careers are very similar statistically. Utley also has a World Series ring in 2008 and that will help his case. He may end up being the basis in which baseball writers look for in a player to determine who is a HOFer and who is not. I expect him to be on the ballot for a few years, but ultimately get in.
Dustin Pedroia: 52.1 Career WAR — Boston Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia is another player victim of numbers not really standing out, but has put together an excellent career. He is a career .300 hitter, but nothing else really sets him apart. He has quite the rap sheet with an MVP in 2008, a 4-time All-Star, 4 Gold Gloves, and 2 World Series titles. Pedroia’s consistency is key in determining his Hall of Fame status. He has had only 1 season in which he hit below .290. Right now I have him on the bubble, but if he can put together a couple more solid years. He will definitely be in Cooperstown.
Yadier Molina: 37.5 Career WAR — St. Louis Cardinals
Molina is guy that will look to get in on his defensive ability. He is currently in his 15th season with the Cardinals and has had about as steady of a career as you can get. Catchers usually find it more difficult to get into the Hall of Fame and not to say that Molina is a bad hitter, he is a .284 career hitter, but he does not compare to players like Bench, Piazza, or Pudge at the plate or even the other catchers I have on the active list (Posey and Mauer). He has 8 Gold Gloves, and may get 1 or 2 more by the time he is done. To go along with it, he is an 8-time All-Star and won 2 World Series titles. His hitting alone will not get him in the Hall, but he will go in as another great defensive catcher.
Kenley Jansen: 15.6 Career WAR — Los Angeles Dodgers
Jansen is another reliever that will look to go down as one of the best of all-time. In his 9th season, he has already totaled 242 saves with a career 2.10 ERA and .87 WHIP. Jansen needs more Postseason experience, which is a big reason why he is on the bubble right now. Relievers have the most difficult path to the Hall, but the game is more open to recognizing relief pitchers now and I think by the time Jansen is finished with his career, the baseball writers will be less reluctant to vote in closers. If Jansen can keep the pace for another 5–7 years, I think he makes it to Cooperstown.
Aroldis Chapman: 15.4 Career WAR — Cincinnati Reds
The Cuban Missile is in the same boat as Jansen. They virtually have the same statistics, but closers are not brought up often in the Hall of Fame discussion. Chapman is another lights out closer with a career 2.18 ERA and a staggering 14.9 K/9. He is a 4-time All-Star, and a World Series winner with the Chicago Cubs. He even received MVP votes in 2012. As is the case with Kimbrel and Jansen they will be devalued because of their relief pitcher status. I think he still will be a HOFer, but the hope is that baseball writers will be more open to voting for dominant closer because relief pitchers are a very important part of the game. I said that he will be elected as a Cincinnati Red, based of his 6 years with the team, but could go down as a Yankee if he is signed past his current contract.
Players that missed the cut
The following players were close, but narrowly missed out on the Hall of Fame. Some might find themselves in the Hall discussion in the future, but as of now they are not going to make it.
Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Ryan Braun, Robinson Cano, Andrew McCutchen, Stephen Strasburg, Brian McCann, Jon Lester, and Jose Reyes.