The Top 75 Active MLB Players with the Best Chance of Making the Hall of Fame

Cody Swartz@cbswartz5Senior Writer IMay 26, 2012

The Top 75 Active MLB Players with the Best Chance of Making the Hall of Fame

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    It’s notoriously difficult to judge a player’s Hall of Fame chances, especially with Major League Baseball having gone through the dreaded steroid era. How players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens fare in upcoming elections will have significant impact on current steroid players who will one day appear on a Hall of Fame ballot.

    For now, I evaluated 75 active MLB players with the best chance of one day making the Hall of Fame, separating them into groups for locks, near-locks, probably, maybe, doubtful, on track and too early to tell.

Albert Pujols

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    Status: 100 percent lock

    Albert Pujols has a chance to wind up his career as the greatest right-handed hitter who ever played the game. Among his accolades are three MVP awards, four second-place finishes, 450 home runs and a 1.026 lifetime OPS that trails just Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds and Jimmie Foxx.

    That’s pretty good company and when you factor in that Pujols can field his position like a champ, he’s won two World Series, and he’s never been caught for steroids, you can put up his plaque in Cooperstown now.

Derek Jeter

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    Status: 100 percent lock

    Derek Jeter has a chance to get the highest percent of Hall of Fame support of any ballplayer in history. He is the only member of the New York Yankees to collect 3,000 hits, he’s been named to 12 All-Star teams and won five Gold Gloves and he has a .321 career World Series average with five rings.

    Say what you want about his defense, but there’s no way Jeter doesn’t make it given that he’s the captain of the Yankees, a golden boy and nobody gives it his all more than Jeter.

Mariano Rivera

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    Status: 100 percent lock

    His Hall of Fame chances are a lock, but I just hope he doesn’t have to go out with the awful ACL injury he suffered earlier this season. Mariano Rivera is unquestionably the best closer of all time, as he holds major league records in career saves (608) and adjusted ERA (206).

    His 0.70 career postseason ERA is out of this world. All of Rivera’s lifetime numbers in the playoffs—ERA, strikeout to walk ratio, WHIP,and save percentage—are better than in the regular season.

    That’s a gamer if there ever was one.

Chipper Jones

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    Status: 100 percent lock

    Third base is the least represented position in the Hall of Fame, not that Chipper Jones needs any help getting into the Hall. He’s one of just 10 players in history with a .300 lifetime batting average, a .400 on-base percentage, an adjusted OPS of at least 140 and 450 home runs.

    Jones has gotten MVP votes in 12 different seasons, he won a batting title at age 36 and he’s still playing top-notch baseball at the ripe age of 40 years old.

Alex Rodriguez

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    Status: Near-Lock

    In terms of pure unadulterated numbers, Alex Rodriguez has a greater chance at the Hall of Fame than Albert Pujols. He has 636 career home runs, 310 stolen bases, he’s going to have a legitimate chance at both the career home run record and RBI record by the time he finally hangs it up, and A-Rod has won three MVP awards and finished in the top 10 seven other times.

    Obviously, there’s the steroid issue that could ultimately keep A-Rod out of the Hall, especially if he breaks the career home run record, and voters want to keep both he and Barry Bonds out for cheating.

    I predict he will make it, as he should, but I think it may take him a year or two.

Ichiro Suzuki

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    Status: Near-Lock

    I really don’t see any way Ichiro Suzuki could miss the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s an absolute magician with the bat, as evidenced by his .325 career batting average, 10 seasons of 200 hits, four .350 seasons and two batting titles.

    Ichiro would easily have topped 3,000 hits had he gone straight to Major League Baseball, he probably would have topped 3,500, and there’s even an outside chance he would have broken Pete Rose’s career record.

Jim Thome

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    Status: Probably

    Whether or not Jim Thome played in the home run era, it’s going to be tough to keep a guy out who has gone the yards over 600 times. He’s never been accused of steroids, and he’s about the nicest guy you will ever meet—two things that will work strongly in his favor.

    Thome has hit 30 home runs in a season 12 times and driven in 100 runs nine times, and he’s also eighth on the all-time list in career walks. He’s struck out more times than any hitter ever except Reggie Jackson, but that didn’t keep Jackson out and it shouldn’t keep Thome out.

    If Thome does miss the Hall of Fame, it’s going to be as a result of several factors—the era in which he played, the fact that he only made five All-Star teams and was never in the top three in MVP voting, and his defensive liabilities. He’s also never won a World Series ring, and his .217 career postseason batting average isn’t too intriguing.

Roy Halladay

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    Status: Probably

    Roy Halladay has been the best pitcher in baseball for about three seasons now, and he’s been a top-five pitcher for the last decade. He still hasn’t even reached 200 wins, and 250 might be a nice goal before he retires.

    Halladay has won a Cy Young award in both leagues though, he’s thrown a perfect game and a no-hitter, he’s led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio five times and anyone who has ever watched him pitch know he’s the Peyton Manning of pitching.

Vladimir Guerrero

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    Status: Probably

    Vladimir Guerrero is technically still in professional baseball, although I don't think he has much to offer the Toronto Blue Jays. He's had a tremendous career though, having hit nearly 450 home runs, driven in close to 1,500 runs, and posted a .318/.379/.553 statline.

    Guerrero is one of the greatest bad-ball hitters to ever play, and he's such a feared hitter that he has led the league in intentional walks five times. Guerrero is a former league MVP and a nine-time All-Star. What won't help his case is the fact that he led right fielders in his respective league in errors nine times, but I think he is a pretty good chance for the Hall.

Miguel Cabrera

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    Status: Probably

    It’s a shame people don’t realize just how good Miguel Cabrera has been during his career. He has a legitimate chance to go down as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. Cabrera hit a walk-off home run in his first major league game (at the age of 20, no less) and hasn’t looked back since.

    Cabrera is a lock for .300/30/100 every season, and he walks enough times to give him a .394 career on-base percentage. He's still just 29 years old, and he has a very good chance to one day reach 600 or more home runs.

Todd Helton

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    Status: Probably

    Todd Helton is one of just six players to post a .320 batting average, .420 on-base percentage and .545 career slugging percentage (although Helton could drop out of that group if he continues hitting like he has in 2012).

    Helton has hit over 350 career home runs, he’s an on-base machine and his .996 fielding percentage is the sixth-best mark of any first basemen ever. What Helton has against him is the Coors Field effect: Helton is a .351/.448/.617 hitter at home and a .290/.390/.447 hitter on the road.

    Those road numbers show he is still a very talented hitter, but in no way would he be a Hall of Famer if he played at another ballpark. Whether or not the voters keep him out because of his inflated home-park statistics remains to be determined.

CC Sabathia

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    Status: Probably

    In terms of CC Sabathia the baseball player, I’m a big fan. It amazes me that someone his size can still start 33-35 games per season, but Sabathia is amazingly durable.

    He will be at 200 wins by the end of 2013, and he’s still just 31 years old. Sabathia has won a Cy Young award and finished in the top five on four other occasions, he’s a big-time strikeout pitcher and he has a World Series ring.

    Factor in that he has an outside chance at 300 wins, and I think Sabathia is a pretty good bet.

Manny Ramirez

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    Status: Maybe

    In terms of pure numbers, there shouldn’t be a doubt in anyone’s mind that Manny Ramirez is a Hall of Famer, but he’s an absolute jerk and a steroid user, so that severely hampers his chances.

    What helps him though are his astounding numbers—Manny can flat-out hit a baseball. He is 14th all time with 555 home runs, he’s ninth with a .585 slugging percentage and a .996 OPS and he’s driven in 100 runs 12 times en route to 1,833 total (and still counting, in theory).

    Ramirez finished in the top nine in MVP voting for eight straight seasons—although he never won—and he put up some absolutely insane postseason numbers late in his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    What also doesn’t help his case though will be his atrocious defense in left field and his Randy Moss “I’ll play when I want” attitude.

Lance Berkman

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    Status: Maybe

    Making the Hall of Fame could be a problem for Lance Berkman if he, Todd Helton, David Ortiz and Jim Thome are all eligible on the same year, simply because voters aren’t going to want to put in a whole bunch of players who are all similar players and played the same position (first base/DH).

    Berkman has revitalized his career recently with the St. Louis Cardinals before suffering a serious injury earlier this year that could force him into early retirement. Berkman basically has the same career numbers as Todd Helton but without the Coors Field effect; Berkman is a .296/.409/.545 hitter with 359 home runs.

    Berkman’s impressive walk totals, underrated power and excellent career postseason resume (.317/.417/.532) will give him a fair shot to make it, but a few more good seasons would really help his case.

Carlos Beltran

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    Status: Maybe

    I’m a firm believer that Carlos Beltran has had a very underrated career, although it’s borderline as to whether I would vote him into the Hall of Fame. Beltran is on the verge of joining the elusive 300 home run/300 stolen base club—he needs two more stolen bases—although that club lost some of its luster when Reggie Sanders and Steve Finley joined.

    Beltran has never finished higher than fourth in the MVP voting, he’s never appeared in a World Series, and his career slugging percentage of .499 doesn’t scream Hall of Famer. What Beltran does have going for him is an incredible combination of power and speed (he has posted seven 20/20 seasons), three Gold Gloves in center field and a phenomenal lifetime postseason life of .366/.485/.817.

    Beltran is still playing at the top of his game in 2012 (his 14 home runs lead the National League), and a few more seasons would really solidify his case.

David Ortiz

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    Status: Maybe

    There aren’t too many players like David Ortiz, and he’s been convicted of steroids, but he’s still largely a fan favorite in Boston. Ortiz can’t play the field, so he will have to make it strictly because of his offense, but he’s got a good case going for him.

    Big Papi has nearly 400 home runs, he’s an RBI machine and he draws a ton of walks. Ortiz finished in the top five in the American League in MVP voting for five consecutive seasons from 2003-’07 (and probably should have won in ’06) and helped the Boston Red Sox win two World Series championships.

    He’s been called the greatest clutch hitter in the history of the franchise, and he’s been pretty synonymous with the Red Sox team that has dethroned the New York Yankees multiple times over the last decade.

Andy Pettitte

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    Status: Maybe

    Andy Pettitte will have a strong Hall of Fame case when he finally hangs it up—he has 242 career wins, a higher winning percentage than Cy Young or Tom Seaver and he’s posted double-digit wins in 15 different seasons.

    Pettitte also holds the all-time major league record with 19 career postseason victories, and he won two games against my Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series.

    Pettitte’s 3.87 career ERA would be one of the highest of any Hall of Famer, and he is a convicted HGH user. In no way would I cast my vote for Pettitte, although I’m sure he will receive serious consideration.

Johnny Damon

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    Status: Maybe

    When you look at Johnny Damon’s career numbers, there’s definitely a Hall of Fame case to be made. He’s been a catalyst for two World Series teams—the 2004 Boston Red Sox and the 2009 New York Yankees.

    Damon is a very well-rounded ballplayer in that he can hit for power and steal bases; in fact, he’s one of just two guys in major league history to reach 500 doubles, 100 triples, 230 home runs and 400 stolen bases (Paul Molitor is the other).

    He’s been one of the premier leadoff hitters of this era, having scored well over 1,600 runs, and if he can get to 3,000 hits (he still needs 267), he’s going to get votes.

Bobby Abreu

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    Status: Maybe

    Bobby Abreu isn’t as good as his career numbers, but seriously, take a look at these: .293/.397/.480 with 562 doubles, 284 home runs and 393 stolen bases.

    He’s scored 100 runs eight times, driven in 100 eight times, posted nine 20-20 seasons, drawn 80 walks 12 times, and he’s still reaching base at the age of 38 on his fifth major league team.

    He’s gotten a bad rap because he doesn’t play good defense, and he won’t run into the wall. But there are few players in recent years who can consistently work the pitchers and get on base as well as Abreu, who does have a .397 career on-base percentage that ranks ahead of Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron on the all-time charts.

Scott Rolen

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    Status: Maybe 

    After five or so major league seasons, Scott Rolen seemed like a sure-fire bet for the Hall of Fame—how many third basemen in history have there been that can hit and field as well as he can?

    Rolen trailed off though after that, dealing with numerous injuries. His current numbers don’t project to the Hall of Fame, but he still has an opportunity to turn his career around and pad his statistics some more. Rolen does have over 500 doubles, 310 home runs, 1,259 RBI, seven All-Star appearances and eight Gold Glove awards.

    He is one of the greatest defensive third basemen to ever play the game, and he’s also been a fine player at the plate. I just don’t think he has quite enough good years to put him in.

Johan Santana

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    Status: Maybe

    If Johan Santana makes it, he can thank Sandy Koufax for that. Both are similar pitchers in that they are lefties who struck out a ton of hitters and were flat-out dominant but for a brief period of time.

    Santana has 134 wins to Koufax’s 165 but check out the similarities in the rest of their numbers:

    Winning percentage: Santana .654; Koufax .655

    WHIP: Santana 1.122; Koufax 1.106

    K:BB ratio: Santana 3.55; Koufax 2.93

    Cy Young awards: Santana two; Koufax three

    Koufax has more going for him in that he won an MVP, a few World Series championships and threw four no-hitters. But Santana’s numbers match up pretty nice, and he’s still pitching.

    Look for this guy to get some serious HOF consideration someday.

Paul Konerko

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    Status: Maybe

    If you had asked me five years ago about Paul Konerko, I would have laughed and said this is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.

    Konerko is teetering right on the edge of those two groups, and what’s helping his case is that he's still producing at the age of 36 years old.

    Konerko just reached 400 home runs, which is his primary case for the Hall of Fame. Four hundred won’t get him in, but what if he reaches 500?

    He’s got a .284 batting average and .360 on-base percentage—both pretty good totals for a power hitter—and he played a key role in the Chicago White Sox’s World Series championship the other year.

    Quite simply, I don’t think Konerko is good enough, but if he reaches 500, that may be his ticket in.

Omar Vizquel

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    Status: Maybe

    In my opinion, Omar Vizquel has had a terrific major league career and the fact that he is still playing at age 45 is absolutely remarkable. But in no way should he be a Hall of Famer.

    He will definitely get some votes because of his career hit total (2,843), his steals (401), and the 11 Gold Gloves he has won at the shortstop position. If Ozzie Smith made it with similar numbers both offensively and defensively, Vizquel is a pretty good chance, but I think his .353 slugging percentage is a good indicator that he’s not good enough.

Mark Teixeira

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    Status: Maybe

    Given that he’s still just 32 years old, Mark Teixeira has a very good chance to reach 500 home runs or even more. He’s underachieving in 2012, but he has hit 30 home runs in each of the past eight seasons before that, and he’s a lock for 100 runs batted in.

    Tex walks a ton, he’s a terrific first baseman defensively, and he could make it if similar players like Paul Konerko and Lance Berkman make it.

Joe Mauer

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    Status: Maybe

    It’s a shame that Joe Mauer has struggled to stay healthy recently because he looked like an absolute lock after his first five or six seasons.

    Mauer is a .323 lifetime hitter as a catcher, and he has the fourth-highest fielding percentage ever at his position. He’s won three batting titles, an MVP award and three Gold Gloves. He has the highest career batting average of any catcher to ever play the game, the second-highest on-base percentage and the ninth-highest slugging percentage.

    It really depends on if Mauer can hold up physically to play four or five more seasons, and I think he will.

Andruw Jones

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    Status: Maybe

    There’s a lot to like about Andruw Jones and a lot not to like. He’s one of the greatest defensive center fielders of all time, and he was a major reason why Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz posted such good numbers in Atlanta.

    Jones has 424 career home runs, seven seasons of at least 30 and three seasons of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He’s led the league in putouts in center field six times and total zone runs as an outfielder seven times.

    Jones is also just a .256 career hitter, he struck out a ton and he should have retired about five years ago. I think he’s a terrific player, but I don’t think he has the numbers to warrant a Hall of Fame selection.

Josh Hamilton

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    Status: Maybe

    I really wish Josh Hamilton had debuted in the major leagues about six years earlier than he did, because he could have been one of the all-time greats. As it stands, Hamilton is well on his way to winning a second American League MVP award, and at 31, he could still play for six or seven more years at least.

    Hamilton’s .313 career batting average and .557 slugging percentage are both better than either Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, although obviously he needs more than 136 home runs to his name.

    Hamilton is probably the best player in the game right now, and if he keeps playing at this level, I think he will make it.

Prince Fielder

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    Status: Maybe 

    Prince Fielder is a similar player to Ryan Howard, except I think he’s a little better. Fielder has 237 career home runs at the age of 28, and he could reasonably get to 500.

    Fielder walks more than Howard, he hits for a higher batting average and he will get the luxury of being able to move to DH if his defense becomes too much of a liability.

    Fielder needs to just continue hitting home runs because, ultimately, if he makes it, that will be the reason why.

    Realistically, I don’t see his body type lasting long enough for him to make it.

Adrian Beltre

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    Status: Doubtful

    I can’t believe Adrian Beltre is really on this list, but he does have over 300 home runs, he’s won three Gold Gloves at the least represented position in the Hall of Fame and he's still excelling in his 15th major league season.

    Beltre won’t get any serious consideration, but he’s one of the top third basemen ever who won’t get in.

Jason Giambi

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    Status: Doubtful

    He’s an admitted steroid user, so he can probably much say goodbye to any chance of making the Hall of Fame. But I have to at least put him on this list because of his pretty impressive career numbers—429 home runs, 1,404 RBI, a .404 on-base percentage, an MVP award and very good lifetime postseason numbers with three different teams.

Jamie Moyer

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    Status: Doubtful

    Jamie Moyer is one of my favorite professional athletes of all time, he helped my beloved Philadelphia Phillies win a World Series champion, and he went to high school five minutes from where I live.

    But you’ve got to be kidding if you think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He has two cases—his career wins and his age. The wins (269) is a lot, but it really doesn’t stand out for a Hall of Famer. And the age is more of a really cool side note.

    What does stand out is a 4.24 career ERA that would be far and above the worst of any pitcher in the Hall, a low strikeout rate (5.4 K/9), just one All-Star team and an all-time record 518 home runs given up.

    Even if he miraculously gets to 300 wins, he just doesn’t deserve the Hall.

Alfonso Soriano

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    Status: Doubtful

    After a few major league seasons, Alfonso Soriano looked like he might have a chance to make the Hall of Fame. Then, his awful walk rate and high strikeout rate overshadowed his power/speed combination, and his defense began so bad that he had to move to left field.

    Soriano has 344 home runs to 265 stolen bases, and he’s made seven All-Star teams, but his atrocious .322 on-base percentage is one of many factors that will keep him out.

Adam Dunn

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    Status: Doubtful

    Hear me out on this one. I am in no way advocating Adam Dunn for the Hall of Fame. I am simply saying that when he finally hangs it up, there will be some people voting for him.

    He has 379 home runs, and he’s probably going to reach 500. He draws an incredible amount of walks—seven seasons of at least 100 and a career .374 on-base percentage.

    He has bounced from team to team, he plays awful defense and he had that absolutely miserable 2011 season (.159, 11 home runs and 177 strikeouts in 496 plate appearances), which are all big indicators that he’s too much like Dave Kingman and not enough like Harmon Killebrew.

Michael Young

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    Status: Doubtful

    Michael Young is a .303 lifetime hitter, he’s put together six 200-hit seasons and he can play nearly any position in the infield. Young has made seven All-Star teams, and he’s got underrated power (four 20-home run seasons).

    That being said, he just isn’t a Hall of Famer unless he reaches 3,000 hits, and that’s highly unlikely given that he's 35 years old already.

Jose Reyes

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    Status: Doubtful

    If Jose Reyes can stay healthy enough to avoid the hamstring injuries that have plagued him in recent years, he’s got a chance at the Hall of Fame. Reyes is a .291 career hitter, and he’s one of the fastest players in the game, having led the NL in triples four times and steals three times.

    Reyes is a four-time All-Star, but he doesn’t get much extra credit for playing shortstop simply because he isn’t a great fielder.

    Reyes has never finished in the top five in the league in fielding percentage, and he doesn’t cover as much ground at his position as he should.

Hanley Ramirez

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    Status: Doubtful 

    There were people willing to call Hanley Ramirez the best all-around player in the game following his spectacular 2009 and 2010 seasons, but he looks like he may be on the decline of his career already at just 28 years old.

    Ramirez is a former Rookie of the Year, an MVP runner-up and a three-time All-Star. He’s a .303 career hitter with a .503 slugging percentage, and perhaps, a change of scenery to third base will help spark Ramirez’s career.

Miguel Tejada

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    Status: Doubtful

    Miguel Tejada is a six-time All-Star, a former league MVP and a 300-home run guy at a position in which only three other players have hit as many home runs. Tejada has hit 20 home runs in a season eight times, driven in 100 runs six times and he’s also a .285 career hitter.

    Tejada gets extra points for having played in over 1,100 games in a row at the shortstop position, but in the long run, he’s not good enough for the Hall of Fame, with or without steroids.

Curtis Granderson

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    Status: Doubtful

    Curtis Granderson has an underrated blend of power and speed, and he’s racked up nearly 200 home runs and over 100 stolen bases in nine seasons. Granderson has a couple of aspects that will help his case—he has a 20-20-20-20 season to his name, he has collected three 20 HR-20 SB seasons and he’s still got about six or seven seasons left to add to his totals.

    Granderson’s not going to make it though simply because he’s not good enough—he strikes out way too many times for a speedy center fielder, he’s only a .267 career hitter and he’s made just two All-Star teams.

Ryan Howard

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    Status: Doubtful 

    Ryan Howard has an impressive resume through just seven major league seasons, but the problem is that he’s already showing steady signs of being on the decline of his career. Howard has averaged 44 home runs and 133 RBI per season since 2006, and he’s led the league in homers twice and runs batted in three times.

    Howard has won a Rookie of the Year, an MVP and he’s finished in the top 10 in the league in MVP voting for each of the last six seasons. He’s going to miss most of 2012, though, and he’s seen a sharp decline in his OPS from ’09 to ’10 to ’11.

    Howard doesn’t walk as much as he should, he plays subpar defense, he's a terrible baserunner and he strikes out a ridiculous amount. Unless he can stick around long enough to hit 500 or more home runs, he won’t make it.

Chase Utley

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    Status: Doubtful

    Several seasons ago, I would have put Chase Utley on the “on track” section because he really was on track. Since then though, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Utley has been arguably the National League’s best all-around second baseman over the last half-decade, and he pretty much does everything you could want from a ballplayer.

    He's a .290 career hitter who hits for power (five 20-home run seasons) and runs well (an unbelievable 89.4 stolen base rate). He’s a top-notch defender who should have a slew of Gold Gloves to his name.

    He’s a perennial leader in hit by pitches, he hits lefties (.870 OPS) and righties (.887 OPS) well and he’s got an incredible postseason resume—a World Series ring, five home runs in a single Fall Classic and he’s got a higher lifetime OPS in the postseason than the regular season (.902 to .882).

    And check out this fact: Since 2005, the only player in major league baseball to have a greater total WAR than Utley is Albert Pujols.

    If Utley can somehow resurrect his career and give the Philadelphia Phillies a few more seasons, he’s got a legitimate case.

Jimmy Rollins

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    Status: Doubtful

    Why don’t we just take care of all the Philadelphia Phillies players while we’re at it? Jimmy Rollins is a good all-around shortstop, but he's really hurting his Hall of Fame case with the way he has been playing over the last several seasons, coupled with the fact that his prime just wasn’t good enough.

    Rollins has an MVP award, he’s been the face of the franchise for a decade and he’s got power, speed and a flashy glove at the toughest defensive position. J-Roll is the only shortstop in major league history to total 100 triples, 150 home runs and 350 stolen bases.

    He’s hurt by some of his other numbers though—a .271 batting average and .328 on-base percentage, an adjusted OPS of just 96 that is below that of an average major league ballplayer and too many subpar seasons of .240 or .250.

Tim Hudson

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    Status: Doubtful

    For awhile, it looked as if the Big Three—Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson—would all have a legitimate chance, but then, Zito dropped off, and Mulder retired early.

    Hudson is still going, and he’s approaching 200 wins. He’s won at least 15 games in seven different seasons, and he’s been one of the most consistent pitchers in the game over the last decade or more.

    Hudson doesn’t have a Cy Young award though, he’s never struck out 200 batters in a season, and he’s made just three All-Star teams. He’s a good, even very good pitcher, but he’s not a Hall of Famer.

Carlos Lee

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    Status: Doubtful 

    Carlos Lee has had an underrated career, hitting 353 home runs and driving in over 1,300 runs. He’s even stolen 122 bases—a testament to his underrated power and speed combination. Lee has collected over 80 RBI in 13 straight seasons, and he’s even a .287 lifetime hitter.

    What hurts Lee are the players he’s most comparable to: Moises Alou, Shawn Green, Paul O’Neill, Ellis Burks and Magglio Ordonez are great players with very solid careers, but none of them are close to Hall of Famers—neither is Lee.

Torii Hunter

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    Status: Doubtful

    Torii Hunter is a great player with terrific career numbers—286 home runs, 178 stolen bases, nine Gold Gloves and four All-Star teams—but he’s just not a Hall of Famer.

    He’s a .273 hitter, he’s never finished in the top five in MVP voting and he has a terrible walk rate.

Vernon Wells

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    Status: Doubtful

    If Torii Hunter won’t make it—which he won’t—there’s really no reason to put Vernon Wells in.

    Wells has fewer home runs (254), fewer stolen bases (101), fewer Gold Gloves (three) and fewer All-Star teams (three).

Aramis Ramirez

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    Status: Doubtful

    Aramis Ramirez doesn’t seem like a Hall of Famer, but he just keeps playing and keeps padding his career statistics.

    He’s up to 318 home runs and 1,147 RBI—numbers that are good but too comparable to other third basemen like Troy Glaus, Gary Gaetti and Adrian Beltre.

    Ramirez is also a career .194 postseason hitter, and he’s not a good fielder at the hot corner.

Cliff Lee

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    Status: Doubtful

    I probably shouldn’t even put Cliff Lee on this list, but given how well he has been pitching in recent years, I felt obligated to do so.

    Lee is 33 years old, and he has just 119 career wins. He does have a Cy Young award, and he’s still in his prime, so if he can somehow pitch for another six to eight seasons, he may have a case.

    But don’t count on it.

Eric Chavez

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    Status: Doubtful

    The numbers for Eric Chavez are good, even very good, but not Hall of Fame worthy. He has 235 home runs, seven seasons of 20 or more and six Gold Gloves.

    He’s also just a .267 career hitter, he has barely 800 runs batted in and he is most comparable to players like Howard Johnson, Dean Palmer and Doug DeCinces.

Adrian Gonzalez

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    Status: Doubtful

    Adrian Gonzalez is a .292/.373/.509 career hitter with nearly 200 home runs and three Gold Gloves to go with his four All-Star appearances. He’s versatile on defense and can play first base and right field, and Gonzalez has earned MVP votes in five straight seasons.

    He will need to continue hitting a ton of home runs to approach the Hall of Fame, but in five or six years, he should be in the discussion.

Matt Holliday

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    Status: Doubtful

    There likely isn’t enough about Matt Holliday to make him a Hall of Famer, but he does have pretty good offensive numbers—a .313 batting average, .539 slugging percentage, 212 home runs and a 136 adjusted OPS.

    Holliday has four All-Star appearances, and he has earned MVP votes in five different seasons, but then again, he also has the Coors Field effect.

Dan Uggla

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    Status: Doubtful

    Second basemen with 30-home run power don’t come along every day, and Dan Uggla has managed to hit 30 home runs for each of the last five seasons.

    He has nearly 200 lifetime homers, but other than that, he doesn’t have a lot going for him.

    Uggla has a low batting average, he doesn’t field well and he doesn’t run well.

Dan Haren

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    Status: Doubtful

    I didn’t realize Dan Haren was 31 years old already, and 109 wins isn’t going to help his Hall of Fame case.

    Haren has struck out 190 batters five times, he’s made three All-Star teams,and he’s a workhorse who has led the league in games started four separate times.

    Like many pitchers similar to him though, Haren will have to win at least 200 games and probably closer to 250 to have a shot.

Mark Buehrle

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    Status: Doubtful

    Mark Buehrle has won double-digit games for 11 straight seasons, he has 165 wins in his career and he has started at least 30 games and pitched at least 200 innings every year since 2001.

    Buehrle has won three Gold Gloves and made three All-Star teams—in addition to throwing a perfect game and another no-hitter.

    What will keep him out though is a 3.82 lifetime ERA, an incredibly low strikeout rate (5.1 K/9) and just one season getting Cy Young votes.

Jose Bautista

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    Status: Doubtful

    I can't possibly leave Jose Bautista off this list after he led the American League in home runs each of the last two seasons. He draws an incredible amount of walks, and he finished third and fourth in the MVP voting each of the last two years, respectively.

    I can't think of anyone in the Hall of Fame that went through the revelation that Bautista went through from 2009 to 2010, so he would have to continue defying logic to make it.

Felix Hernandez

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    Status: On Track

    King Felix is still just 26 years old, and he’s already got 89 career wins and a Cy Young award. That puts him well on the way to the Hall of Fame. Hernandez is a strikeout machine, having topped 200 three times, and he’s 4-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 2012, another fantastic season for one of the game’s top young pitchers.

    Hernandez is set to get a big contract sometime soon, and if he goes to the New York Yankees, he will pitch in October ball frequently, and that will only give him the chance to enhance his resume.

Tim Lincecum

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    Status: On Track

    Tim Lincecum is extremely similar to Felix Hernandez, although he’s a little better—Lincecum has two Cy Young awards to one for Hernandez, he has a significantly higher strikeout rate (9.9 K/9) and he’s made four consecutive NL All-Star teams.

    Lincecum is one of the game’s top five pitchers, and assuming his torrid start to the 2012 season is just a fluke, he has the chance to go down as one of the 25 greatest pitchers who ever lived.

Justin Verlander

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    Status: On Track

    Justin Verlander leads all major league pitchers under the age of 30 in career wins (112), and he’s got quite a resume. He’s led the league in wins, strikeouts, innings and starts twice each, and he’s made four All-Star teams already.

    Last year, Verlander became the first American League pitcher since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 to win the Cy Young award and the MVP award.

    Verlander has finished in the top seven in Cy Young award voting four times, and he should add a couple more trophies to his name by the time he hangs it up.

Dustin Pedroia

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    Status: On Track

    Dustin Pedroia began his career with a bang, winning the Rookie of the Year, an MVP award, and a World Series ring all in his first two major league seasons. He’s a superb offensive and defensive player, and he’s a .304 career hitter with power and speed.

    Pedroia is the catalyst of a Boston Red Sox team that won a title in 2007, and he’s got to play at a top level for another five to seven seasons to make the Hall of Fame.

David Wright

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    Status: On Track

    I really hope the New York Mets don’t re-sign David Wright after the season, because I really want him out of the division (unless the Philadelphia Phillies sign him). Wright is a superb player, with 183 home runs, 155 stolen bases, and two Gold Gloves already. He’s a .303 career hitter and he’s tearing it up in 2012 with a near-.400 batting average.

    Again, Wright plays the least represented position in the Hall of Fame, so 300 or 350 home runs could help him get in.

Ryan Braun

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    Status: On Track

    As a ballplayer, Ryan Braun is really on track for the Hall of Fame. He’s a .312/.372/.566 career hitter who is averaging 32 home runs, 106 RBI and 19 stolen bases per season. Braun has won a league MVP award, earning MVP votes in every season of his career, and he’s made the All-Star team each of the last four seasons.

    What will really hurt Braun is his alleged involvement with PEDs—he was suspended for 50 games to start 2012, although that suspension was then revoked.

Jered Weaver

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    Status: On Track

    Jered Weaver is 88-48 in his major league career with a 3.27 ERA, he strikes out a high percentage of batters and he’s finished in the top five in Cy Young award voting each of the past two seasons.

    Weaver is playing just as well in 2012 as he has in the seasons prior, and if he can get over 200 wins or close to 250, he’s got a good shot at the Hall.

Cole Hamels

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    Status: On Track

    Cole Hamels has extremely similar career numbers to Jered Weaver, with several factors going Hamels’ way—he's a left-handed pitcher, he has a World Series ring and he has better strikeout numbers and a better walk rate.

    Hamels is vying for the largest contract ever handed out to any pitcher, and his performance over the last two-plus seasons has vaulted him into the conversation for a top-seven or top-eight pitcher in the game.

Robinson Cano

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    Status: On Track

    Robinson Cano is one of the five best all-around players in the game, as he’s a superb hitter and a tremendous fielder at second base.

    Cano has batted .300 in five of the last six seasons, he’s got 25-home run power and he has won a Gold Glove and been named to three American League All-Star teams.

    Cano has 1,315 hits, and he’s just 29 years old. He’s got a very good chance of reaching 2,500 hits and an outside chance of approaching 3,000.

    The closest he gets to that magic number, the better his chance is.

Joey Votto

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    Status: On Track

    Joey Votto has extremely similar career numbers to Ryan Braun, except he hasn’t been convicted of steroid use. Votto is a .313/.409/.552 hitter with 126 home runs in six seasons, and he’s been named an MVP before.

    He just signed a 10-year deal to stay with the Cincinnati Reds, so he will have plenty of opportunities to go for 400, 450, or even, 500 home runs.

Jonathan Papelbon

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    Status: On Track

    It makes me angry how Boston fans legitimately think Jonathan Papelbon is a bad closer.

    He has a 2.33 career ERA, his 4.47 strikeout-to-walk ratio is better than Mariano Rivera, and he has a 1.00 lifetime postseason ERA in 27 innings.

    Papelbon is pitching lights out in Philadelphia, having converted all 14 of his save chances so far, and he has a pretty good chance to retire as the second-best closer of all time.

Clayton Kershaw

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    Status: On Track

    If I were starting a major league team and could pick any pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw would probably be a top-three pitcher. He’s already accumulated 51 wins, he has a Cy Young award and over 800 strikeouts—and he is just 24 years old.

    Kershaw has a 2.80 lifetime ERA that will likely only go down as he continues to dominate. He is 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA in 10 starts in 2012, and he should be in the running for the Cy Young award for each of the next 10 seasons.

Matt Kemp

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    Status: On Track

    I wouldn’t have put Matt Kemp on this list at all until he exploded for an MVP-caliber campaign in 2011 and followed it up with an equally strong start to 2012.

    Kemp is 27 years old, and he already has 140 home runs to go with 146 stolen bases. He’s a Gold Glove defender in center field, and he’s now one of the top 10 or so players in the game.

    Check back in seven years but there’s a good chance Kemp may one day wind up in Cooperstown.

Brian McCann

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    Status: On Track

    Not many catchers have made six All-Star teams by their 27th birthday, and Brian McCann is building his Hall of Fame case quickly.

    He is a 20-home run threat, a .285 career hitter and .840 lifetime OPS at the catcher position is higher than that of Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk or Ivan Rodriguez.

    McCann plays good, not great, defense, and he will need to keep playing as an All-Star for many more seasons, but when he reaches 10 or 11 All-Star teams, it will be tough to keep him out.

Evan Longoria

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    Status: On Track

    Evan Longoria’s Hall of Fame resume is piling up, even though he’s still just 26 years old—he has 117 home runs, three All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year award, two Gold Gloves and four seasons of MVP votes.

    Longoria may need to separate himself from both David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman to strengthen his Cooperstown case.

Troy Tulowitzki

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    Status: On Track

    Shortstops who can hit 30 home runs don’t come along every day, and Troy Tulowitzki is one of a kind. He is signed for nearly another decade to play ball in Colorado, and he can hit and field.

    Tulo is a two-time Gold Glover, and there aren’t too many dual-threat shortstops over the last 50 years better than Tulowitzki.

Stephen Strasburg

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    Status: Too Early to Tell But if They Keep it Up

    Stephen Strasburg has made just 26 big-league starts, so I am in no way creating a plaque for him in Cooperstown. But don’t tell me you haven’t ever thought of it.

    Strasburg is 10-5 with a 2.42 ERA, and he's averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He doesn’t walk many hitters at all, he gives up very few home runs, and he has a chance to win two, three, four, or even more Cy Young awards.

Bryce Harper

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    Status: Too Early to Tell But if They Keep it Up

    Again, Bryce Harper is a teenager, but I can’t ever remember a prospect like him. Harper was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB amateur draft, and he has all the tools a player needs to succeed.

    Harper can hit for power, he can run and he could probably play any position on the field. Harper and Stephen Strasburg could be the best hitter and best pitcher in the game in just several seasons.

Mike Trout

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    Status: Too Early to Tell But if They Keep it Up

    Mike Trout is just 20 years old, but he has the tools to become one of the game’s top three players within a few years. He has 30-home run and 30-stolen base potential, and he can play all three outfield positions.

    Watch for this kid to win his share of MVP awards.

Giancarlo Stanton

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    Status: Too Early to Tell But if They Keep it Up

    He’s just 22 years old, and Giancarlo Stanton already has 67 home runs and close to 200 RBI to his name. Stanton has a .529 slugging percentage and .875 OPS, and he will be one of the game’s top right-handed hitters within a few years.

Starlin Castro

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    Status: Too Early to Tell But if They Keep it Up

    Starlin Castro is 22 years old, and he has over 400 hits, 45 stolen bases and a .306 batting average. Castro needs to work on his patience, as he drew just 35 walks last year in 715 plate appearances, and he makes too many errors, but he will only get better the more he plays.