Full Predictions for MLB's Next 5 Hall of Fame Induction Classes

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2015

Full Predictions for MLB's Next 5 Hall of Fame Induction Classes

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    On Sunday, the Baseball Hall of Fame will formally welcome Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz into its ranks. 

    And so the question immediately arises: Which players will earn the nod next year? And how about the year after that, and the year after that andwell, you get the idea. 

    We won't know until the HOF voters, in their infinite wisdom, cast their ballots. But we can make educated guesses based on eligibility, career accomplishments, past selections/rejections and a dash of old-fashioned gut feeling.

    One thing to keep in mind: We're assuming otherwise-worthy candidates spurned thus far because of damning steroid allegations—Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens—won't punch tickets to Cooperstown in the next half-decade. 

    The same goes for Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader and a celebrated honoree at the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati who remains haunted by his gambling past.

    So the following predictions will exclude some notable names. Which, honestly, is partly what makes the Hall such an intriguing topic for debate.


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    Michael Caulfield/Associated Press

    Notable First-Year Eligibles

    OF Garret Anderson, C Brad Ausmus, OF Jim Edmonds, 3B Troy Glaus, OF Ken Griffey Jr., RP Trevor Hoffman, C Jason Kendall, RP Billy Wagner

    Predicted Inductees

    Ken Griffey Jr.

    Ken Griffey Jr. smacked 630 home runs, collected 2,781 hits and drove in 1,836 runs despite nagging injuries, and he did it in the midst of the steroid era with nary a credible performance-enhancing drug allegation.

    Add 13 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and an American League MVP award, and you've got the Platonic ideal of a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    If you need further evidence (which you shouldn't), ESPN's Tim Kurkjian noted, "Ranking the greatest center fielders of all time is hard, but according to most statistical measures, Griffey would rank sixth behind [Willie] Mays, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Tris Speaker and Joe DiMaggio."

    Mike Piazza (fourth year on ballot)

    Mike Piazza earned 69.9 percent of the vote in 2015, tantalizingly close to the 75 percent needed for induction. It says here that the greatest offensive catcher in MLB history will finally get over the hump next time.

    Piazza leads all backstops in career home runs (427), OPS (.922) and slugging percentage (.545), and he was a 12-time All-Star.

    Other than unfounded steroid suspicions, it's unclear why he hasn't already punched his HOF ticket. The good news, for Piazza, is that his voting percentage has climbed in each of his three years of eligibility.


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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Notable First-Year Eligibles

    OF Vladimir Guerrero, OF Magglio Ordonez, C Jorge Posada, OF Manny Ramirez, SS Edgar Renteria, C Ivan Rodriguez, C Jason Varitek, P Tim Wakefield

    Predicted Inductees

    Vladimir Guerrero 

    The voters could decide to wait a year or two. But on the merits and the eyeball test, Vladimir Guerrero is Cooperstown-worthy.

    Don't ask us, ask veteran outfielder Torii Hunter, a teammate of Guererro's with the Los Angeles Angels.

    "Vlad's one of the greatest guys and best teammates I've ever been around," Hunter said, per MLB.com's Lyle Spencer. "I felt honored to play on the same team with a Hall of Famer."

    In all, Guerrero smacked 449 home runs while hitting .318, making nine All-Star teams and winning an MVP award in his illustrious, hard-hacking, 16-year career.


    Trevor Hoffman (second year on ballot)

    On the surface, Trevor Hoffman seems like a shoo-in. But relievers are generally held to a tough HOF standardjust ask Lee Smith.

    Plus, Hoffman is competing with Billy Wagner, another dominant closer, not to mention the specter of Mariano Rivera (more on him in a moment).

    Hoffman is second all-time with 601 saves, yet Wagner had a lower career ERA and WHIP and more strikeouts. 

    In the end, we'll give the edge to Hoffman for joining Rivera as the only members of the 600-save club, because Hall voters tend to love those round counting stats.


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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Notable First-Year Eligibles

    OF Johnny Damon, OF Andruw Jones, 3B Chipper Jones, OF Hideki Matsui, P Jamie Moyer, 3B Scott Rolen, 1B Jim Thome, SS Omar Vizquel, P Kerry Wood

    Predicted Inductees

    Chipper Jones

    If you're looking to make Chipper Jones' Hall of Fame case, you can basically pick your argument.

    You could highlight his .303/.401/.529 career slash line, 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI. You could note he was named the 1999 NL MVP and won a batting title by hitting .364 in 2008, his age-36 season.

    More esoterically, you could point to the fact that he played his entire 19-year career with one organization—the Atlanta Braves—and helped guide them to 12 postseason appearances and a World Series win in 1995.

    If you want to sum it all up, though, just state that Jones is one of the greatest switch-hitters to ever put on a uniform and drop the mic. Hall of Famers don't come much more obvious than this.

    Jim Thome

    Jim Thome quite simply crushed baseballs during his 22-year MLB career, finishing with 612 home runs.

    In any other era, that'd be an unimpeachable HOF credential all by itself. But Thome did his mashing during the steroid era, and while he was never directly linked to PEDs, he bears the implicit stain.

    Still, expect the big left-handed swinger to rise above, much the way Frank Thomas did in 2014, and gain a well-deserved plaque.

    Omar Vizquel

    Here's an interesting case. On the one hand, Omar Vizquel "had very little offensive value (two seasons with a 100-plus OPS+ in his 24-year career)," as CBS Sports' Mike Axisa pointed out.

    On the other hand, the slick-fielding shortstop won 11 Gold Gloves and figures to get bonus points for being the anti-steroid user—a slender, glove-first anomaly in a sea of hulking bashers. 

    If you're going to let Vizquel in, though, as Axisa argues, Alan Trammell should be close behind.


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    DAVID J. PHILLIP/Associated Press

    Notable First-Year Eligibles

    1B/OF Lance Berkman, P Roy Halladay, 1B Todd Helton, P Roy Oswalt, P Andy Pettitte, OF Juan Pierre, RP Mariano Rivera  

    Predicted Inductees

    Mariano Rivera

    Any doubts about the merits of relief pitchers will disappear with Mariano Rivera, unquestionably the most heralded bullpen arm of all time.

    You don't need the stats and accolades, but let's run through them anyway: a record 652 saves, 13 All-Star appearances, five top-five AL Cy Young Award finishes, MVP of the 1999 World Series, a career 0.70 postseason ERA—does that suffice?

    The answer: Yes, it certainly does.

    Ivan Rodriguez (third year on ballot)

    If it takes Mike Piazza four years to get in, it should take Ivan Rodriguez at least three.

    Not because Pudge isn't worthy based on the numbers—he ranks among the top 10 catchers all-time in home runs, batting average and RBI—but because he nearly confessed to PED use in 2009.

    Specifically, when asked if his name would appear on a list of players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, Rodriguez replied, "Only God knows," according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

    If not for that, the 14-time All-Star would be a first-ballot HOF lock.


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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Notable First-Year Eligibles

    P Josh Beckett, 3B Eric Chavez, 1B/DH Adam Dunn, 1B/DH Jason Giambi, SS Derek Jeter, 1B Paul Konerko, OF Alfonso Soriano

    Predicted Inductees

    Derek Jeter

    There are plenty of scenarios where other players could join Derek Jeter on the 2020 HOF podium. Plausible candidates from previous years, and even this one, abound.

    Here's betting, though, that the Baseball Writers' Association of America voters bend in deference to The Captain and elect him and him alone.

    Certainly Jeter earned it with his glistening regular-season and playoff credentials and the indelible mark he left during 20 seasons with arguably baseball's most iconic franchise.

    Mostly, however, this induction bears the whiff of inevitability, as though Jeter's plaque were already ordered, molded and polished and merely waiting for the requisite years to pass and obligatory selection process to be completed.

    Which probably isn't far from the truth.

    All statistics courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted; eligibility information courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.