Hall of Fame Predictions: Lining Up the Next 20 Years of Inductees
With second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, it's time to turn our attention to next year's Cooperstown class.
But why stop there?
Let's predict which active and retired players are locks for enshrinement over the next two decades.
2013: Mike Piazza
Barry Larkin is the only candidate with a realistic chance of enshrinement in 2012, but after garnering only 62.1% of the vote last January, even he is no sure thing.
The following year will be the most interesting ballot in Hall history as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens enter their first year of eligibility.
Their career statistics are among the best in the history of the game, but with the steroid cloud over each of their heads, there is no guarantee they will ever be inducted. Just look at Rafael Palmeiro's 11% of the vote this year.
But one man who is definitely deserving of first-ballot induction is Mike Piazza, probably the best hitting catcher of all time.
The 1993 Rookie of the Year was a career .308 hitter with 427 homers (42nd all time) and a .545 slugging percentage (30th).
He finished in the top 14 of MVP voting nine times, including consecutive runner-ups in 1996 and '97.
2014: Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine
Frank Thomas is one of the 25 best hitters of all time.
From 1991-97, he was on target to become maybe one of the 10 best ever. Over that span, his worst overall line was .308/.426/.536, while smacking at least 24 homers and driving in no fewer than 101 runs. Six of those seven seasons, he posted an OPS over 1.000
Thomas won back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and '94 for the White Sox and finished in the top eight of the voting the two years prior and three seasons after.
The second half of his career wasn't as historic, but it's not like he disappeared. Thomas finished second in the MVP vote in 2000 and fourth in '06.
Overall, Thomas ranks 18th with 521 homers, 22nd with 1,704 RBIs, 10th with 1,667 walks, 21st with a .419 OBP and 23rd with a .555 slugging percentage.
It makes sense that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine would be inducted in the same class because they were both part of the Braves' stacked rotation from 1993-2002.
Maddux won a ridiculous four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and followed that up with four top fives over the next five years. He ranks eighth with 355 wins and 10th with 3,371 strikeouts.
Glavine is 21st with 305 victories and 24th with 2,607 K's. He won the Cy Young in 1991 and '98, and added four more top-three finishes.
2015: Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson
Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson are two of the top 25 pitchers ever.
Among those with the 17 lowest career WHIPs of all time, Pedro, who won three Cy Youngs, is the only starter to pitch after 1927. In a time of small ballparks and long home runs, the right-hander put up Dead Ball era numbers. Martinez's 1.74 ERA in 2000 was the second lowest since 1968, behind Greg Maddux's microscopic 1.63 in '95.
Martinez ranks in the top 13 all time with a .687 winning percentage, a 1.054 WHIP and 3,154 strikeouts.
Johnson ranks second all time with five Cy Youngs and 4,875 strikeouts, and holds 303 career victories and a very impressive .646 winning percentage.
2016: Ken Griffey Jr.
Like Mickey Mantle, injuries prevented Ken Griffey Jr. from possibly becoming the best player of all time. But being a first-ballot Hall of Famer isn't too shabby.
From 1991-99, Griffey finished in the top 10 of MVP voting seven times, winning the Award in '97, when he led the American League with 56 homers, 147 RBIs, 125 runs and a .646 slugging percentage.
The Kid ranks fifth on the all-time home run list with 630 and easily could've topped 700 had he not missed more than 400 games due to injury over the final decade of his career.
2017: Omar Vizquel
Omar Vizquel's offensive numbers are not exactly Hall of Fame worthy, but his 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop are second all-time only to Ozzie Smith, who was elected to Cooperstown on the first ballot with even worse batting statistics.
If Vizquel can somehow stick around to reach 3,000 hits, there's not doubt he'll make the Hall on the first try.
2018: Jim Thome, Ivan Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki
This figures to be a loaded class. Jim Thome will finish with more than 600 home runs, Ivan Rodriguez's 13 Gold Gloves are the most ever by a catcher, and Ichiro Suzuki would've broken Pete Rose's all-time hits mark had he started his career in the United States.
2019: Chipper Jones, Todd Helton
Chipper Jones ranks in the top 50 all-time with 444 homers, 1,441 walks, a .403 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage. The 1999 MVP is one of the greatest Atlanta Braves in history.
Todd Helton's lifetime numbers have certainly been helped by the fact that he's played all of his home games at Coors Field, but his career .423 on-base percentage (tops among active players) cannot be overlooked. From 1998-2007, his line was .332/.432/.585.
2020: Derek Jeter, Roy Halladay
Derek Jeter won the Rookie of the Year in 1996, finished in the top 10 of MVP voting seven times and has been the most important piece of a Yankees dynasty that has won five World Series and seven pennants.
The Captain has been named to 12 All-Star Games, won the All-Star Game and World Series MVP in 2000, and has captured five Gold Gloves and four Silver Slugger Awards.
The .312 lifetime hitter will finish his career ranked in the top 10 all-time in hits and runs scored.
Roy Halladay has been among the best, if not the best, pitcher in baseball since 2003, when he won his first of two Cy Youngs. He's finished in the top five of voting four other times.
Doc's .668 winning percentage is 13th all-time, and at just 34 years old, he will likely complete his career with at least 250 victories.
2021: Vladimir Guerrero
Vladimir Guerrero hit at least .300 for 12 consecutive seasons from 1997-2008. He won the MVP in '04 and finished in the top four three other times.
The career .318 hitter ranks 36th with 443 homers and 22nd with a .556 career slugging percentage.
2022: Cliff Lee
After two sub-par seasons, he had one of the all-time great campaigns in 2008, going an astounding 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA en route to capturing the Cy Young.
Since then, Lee has been one of the best pitchers in baseball and is quickly putting together a Hall of Fame career. His 185 strikeouts against just 18 walks in 2010 was unheard of, and the lefty's 7-2 record and 2.13 ERA in 10 postseason starts is equally impressive.
If he can keep this going for at least five more years, he should find his way to Cooperstown.
2023: Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez's first year of Hall eligibility will most likely come in 2023 and expecting an admitted user of performance-enhancing drugs to get in on the first ballot seems far-fetched, but eventual enshrinement isn't out of the question.
The voters will probably look more kindly on A-Rod than his steroid predecessors because he fessed up to using and will have plenty of years to prove he's still worthy of enshrinement.
There will be many who will say anyone who used PEDs even once shouldn't be elected, and that's a fair argument, but chances are by the end of Rodriguez's eligibility in 2037, more than 75% of voters will pencil him in.
A-Rod is a three-time MVP and there's a good chance he will finish with the most home runs in baseball history, and he already also ranks in the top 17 in runs, RBIs and slugging.
2024: CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia is probably the only pitcher active today that can reach 300 wins.
He has been one of the top five hurlers in baseball since 2007, when he won a Cy Young with the Indians. The big lefty has led the Major Leagues in victories each of the past two seasons and is doing it again this year with a 2.62 ERA.
Sabathia's .648 winning percentage ranks 30th on the all-time list, and he won the 2009 ALCS MVP.
2026: Albert Pujols
This is about as surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer as you can get for a 31-year-old.
The 2001 Rookie of the Year has won three MVP Awards and finished runner-up in four other votes.
In each of the first 10 years of his career, he had at least a .312 batting average, 32 homers, 103 RBIs and 99 runs scored.
Pujols has ranked first in WAR each of the past six seasons and is almost certain to complete his illustrious career with more than 700 home runs.
2029: Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera
Too soon to start making Felix Hernandez's plaque? Probably not.
The 25-year-old finished second in the 2009 American League Cy Young voting and won the Award last year with a 2.27 ERA.
He will never have a good record as long as he stays in Seattle, but his career 3.23 mark is the second lowest among active starters, he's 11th in WHIP and 33rd in strikeouts.
Miguel Cabrera is only 28, but he's finished in the top five of MVP voting four times in the past six seasons and according to baseballreference.com, through age 27, he's most similar to Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Albert Pujols and Al Kaline.