Chances of Each MLB Hall of Fame Candidate Being Inducted in 2021

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2020

Chances of Each MLB Hall of Fame Candidate Being Inducted in 2021

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The 2021 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot was officially announced Monday afternoon, and with no slam-dunk newcomers among the 11 players added to the mix this year, it will be interesting to see how voters handle the field of candidates.

    The voting results won't be revealed until January 26, and plenty of words will be spent debating the merits of each player in the months to come. But for now, let's take an early look at how the field stacks up.

    Holdovers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Omar Vizquel each received more than 50 percent of the vote last year, while several others saw a significant spike in support as a crowded ballot started to thin out.

    Will this be the year one or more of those polarizing players gets the call?

    Ahead, we've given an overview of every player on the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot and their chances of being immortalized in Cooperstown.

The Obvious One-and-Done Newcomers

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    Grady Sizemore
    Grady SizemoreJeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The following players are set to appear on the ballot for the first—and likely onlytime this year:

    • A.J. Burnett
    • Michael Cuddyer
    • Dan Haren
    • LaTroy Hawkins
    • Nick Swisher
    • Shane Victorino
    • Barry Zito

    After Ryan Tepera received a National League MVP vote, it seems unwise to say that none of these players will have their box checked on Hall of Fame ballots.

    Barry Zito has a Cy Young Award, Dan Haren had an impressive peak, and Shane Victorino was a steady performer for some good Philadelphia Phillies teams, so don't be surprised if they sneak in a few votes.

Holdovers with a Long Way to Go

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    Sammy Sosa
    Sammy SosaRON FREHM/Associated Press

    The following seven players received enough votes last year to hang around on the ballot, but the gap between their vote total and the total needed for enshrinement was wide enough that they are not legitimate candidates to get the nod in 2021:

    • Todd Helton: 29.2 percent (Trend: up 12.7 percent)
    • Manny Ramirez: 28.2 percent in 2020 (Trend: up 5.4 percent)
    • Jeff Kent: 27.5 percent in 2020 (Trend: up 9.4 percent)
    • Andruw Jones: 19.4 percent in 2020 (Trend: up 11.9 percent)
    • Sammy Sosa: 13.9 percent in 2020 (Trend: up 5.4 percent)
    • Andy Pettitte: 11.3 percent in 2020 (Trend: up 1.4 percent)
    • Bobby Abreu: 5.5 percent in 2020 (First year on ballot)

    That doesn't mean these players face a hopeless uphill battle.

    Larry Walker received just 10.2 percent of the vote at one point during his 10 years on the ballot, but he steadily improved on that total before ultimately earning induction as part of the 2020 class.

    Here's a look at how his vote totals climbed in his final five years on the ballot:

    • 2016: 15.5 percent
    • 2017: 21.9 percent
    • 2018: 34.1 percent
    • 2019: 54.6 percent
    • 2020: 76.6 percent

    In other words, it's not impossible for a player to climb from a sub-20 percent vote total up to the necessary range. However, it generally takes a few years of building. So for a 2021 induction, it's safe to rule out the guys listed above.

The Cream of the Newcomer Crop

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    Mark Buehrle
    Mark BuehrleCharles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    SP Mark Buehrle

    A true workhorse, Buehrle reached the 200-inning mark in a staggering 14 consecutive seasons. His 60.0 career WAR is tied with Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser for 65th all-time among pitchers, and with 214 wins and a 117 ERA+ in 3,283.1 innings, his case for enshrinement is more compelling than you might think.

    The biggest knock against him is that he was never one of the best in baseball, receiving Cy Young votes just once in his 16-year career.

    Stays on Ballot: Yes


    SP Tim Hudson

    Hudson quietly won 222 games with a 3.49 ERA and 120 ERA+ in 3,126.2 innings over a terrific 17-year career with the Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants. He finished in the top five in Cy Young voting three times and was a four-time All-Star, earning his final trip to the Midsummer Classic in his age-38 season. His 56.5 career WAR is 77th all-time among pitchers.

    Similar to Buehrle, he was more of a steady presence than a truly elite starter. The fact that he played in smaller markets and doesn't have the same career highlights as Buehrle, who threw a no-hitter and a perfect game, will likely hurt him in the voting.

    Stays on Ballot: No


    OF Torii Hunter

    One of the best two-way players in recent history, Hunter won nine Gold Glove awards while also making a significant impact in the middle of the lineup with 353 home runs and 1,391 RBI in 19 seasons. He topped 30 home runs just once, but he was a consistent offensive performer with 11 seasons of at least 20 home runs and 75 RBI.

    Andruw Jones has a similar resume with a more compelling overall Hall of Fame case, and he has yet to eclipse 20 percent of the vote, so it's hard to view Hunter as a legitimate candidate for enshrinement at this point. There's a good chance he'll land the 5 percent needed to hang around, though.

    Stays on Ballot: Yes


    3B Aramis Ramirez

    Only 13 players who primarily played third base are currently enshrined in Cooperstown. Ramirez has more home runs (386) than all but three of those players and more RBI (1,417) than all but four of them, but his 32.4 career WAR leaves him well short of elite status.

    More than likely, he'll join Graig Nettles, Ken Boyer, Darrell Evans, Ron Cey, Robin Ventura, Matt Williams and a long list of other terrific third basemen who didn't quite make the cut.

    Stays on Ballot: No

Holdovers Trending in the Right Direction

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    Haraz N. Ghanbari/Associated Press

    3B Scott Rolen35.3 percent in 2020 (Trend: plus 18.1 percent)

    I'm of the opinion that Rolen should already be in the Hall of Fame.

    His 70.1 WAR ranks ninth all-time among third basemen, trailing seven Hall of Famers and Adrian Beltre, who will likely be a first-ballot inductee when his time comes.

    He was an excellent defender and a potent middle-of-the-order slugger, winning eight Gold Glove awards and slugging 316 home runs in 17 seasons. Injuries robbed him of some time during his prime, and his production dipped in the later stages of his career, but he did more than enough to earn a place among the best ever at his position.

    After his voting percentage more than doubled in his third year on the ballot, he could take another significant leap forward in 2021.


    RP Billy Wagner: 31.7 percent in 2020 (Trend: plus 15.0 percent)

    A flamethrowing lefty in the days before throwing 95 mph was nothing, Wagner is one of the most dominant relievers in MLB history.

    His 422 saves are sixth all-time, and he converted 85.9 percent of his save chances over the course of a 16-year career. He backed that impressive save total with a 2.31 ERA (187 ERA+) and 1.00 WHIP while racking up 1,196 strikeouts in 903 career innings for an impressive 11.9 K/9.

    He sat below 20 percent of the vote in each of his first four years on the ballot before taking a significant step forward last year, so it will be interesting to see how he continues to progress.


    3B/OF Gary Sheffield: 30.5 percent (Trend: plus 16.9 percent)

    Sheffield is an admitted steroid user, although he maintains he did not know at the time what he was taking was illegal. With 509 home runs, 1,676 RBI and one of the most ferocious swings in MLB history, there is no question he has the resume of a Hall of Famer.

    The question is whether enough voters will come around in his four remaining years on the ballot.

    He spent his first five years of eligibility treading water between 11 and 14 percent of the vote before seeing a huge spike to 30.5 percent in 2020. He still has a long way to go and a short amount of time in which to do it, but perhaps that increase in support will open the floodgates.

Legitimate 2021 Candidate: SS Omar Vizquel

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    RON SCHWANE/Associated Press

    Voting History

    • 2018: 37.0 percent
    • 2019: 42.8 percent
    • 2020: 52.6 percent

    One of the best defensive shortstops the game has ever seen, Omar Vizquel has made steady progress toward the 75 percent mark in his three years on the ballot.

    A career .272 hitter with an 82 OPS+ in 24 seasons, he has been a polarizing candidate as a glove-first player who never had a clear offensive peak.

    However, there is no arguing with his 11 Gold Glove awards and countless highlight-reel plays.

    If he had tallied 123 more hits to get to the hallowed 3,000 mark for his career, he might already be inducted. But given his current vote totals, it looks like he'll still get the necessary support before he reaches the 10-year limit.

    As for 2021, expect another nice step forward to something north of 60 percent, setting him up for a serious push toward enshrinement in 2022.

    Predicted Vote Total: 68 percent

Legitimate 2021 Candidate: LF Barry Bonds

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    BEN MARGOT/Associated Press

    Voting History

    • 2013: 36.2 percent
    • 2014: 34.7 percent
    • 2015: 36.8 percent
    • 2016: 44.3 percent
    • 2017: 53.8 percent
    • 2018: 56.4 percent
    • 2019: 59.1 percent
    • 2020: 60.7 percent

    Barry Bonds has two more years before his case is turned over to the Veterans Committee.

    Statistically speaking, he is arguably the greatest player in MLB history with 762 home runs, seven MVP awards, 14 All-Star selections, 12 Silver Sluggers and eight Gold Gloves among his career accolades.

    However, his prominent role in the Steroid Era has forced him to play the Cooperstown waiting game.

    His support has steadily grown since jumping above 50 percent in 2017, and he finally sneaked over the 60 percent mark last year as the ballot began to thin out.

    Picking up another 15 percent seems unlikely, though another step forward to set up a final-year push is quite possible.

    Predicted Vote Total: 65 percent

Legitimate 2021 Candidate: SP Roger Clemens

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Voting History

    • 2013: 37.6 percent
    • 2014: 35.4 percent
    • 2015: 37.5 percent
    • 2016: 45.2 percent
    • 2017: 54.1 percent
    • 2018: 57.3 percent
    • 2019: 59.5 percent
    • 2020: 61.0 percent

    It should come as no surprise that Roger Clemens has followed a nearly identical trajectory to Barry Bonds in his eight years on the Hall of Fame ballot.

    He is unequivocally one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game from a statistical standpoint, winning seven Cy Young Awards, seven ERA titles and an MVP award while going 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 4,672 strikeouts in 4,916.2 innings en route to 138.7 career WAR.

    He is also similarly weighed down by his links to the Steroid Era.

    Expect another small step toward the magical 75 percent mark before voters are faced with an interesting decision in what will be his final year of eligibility in 2022.

    Predicted Vote Total: 65 percent

Legitimate 2021 Candidate: SP Curt Schilling

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Voting History

    • 2013: 38.8 percent
    • 2014: 29.2 percent
    • 2015: 39.2 percent
    • 2016: 52.3 percent
    • 2017: 45.0 percent
    • 2018: 51.2 percent
    • 2019: 60.9 percent
    • 2020: 70.0 percent

    Setting aside how you feel about his off-field persona, Curt Schilling put together a Hall of Fame-worthy resume during his 20 MLB seasons.

    His 3,116 strikeouts rank 15th on the all-time list, and his 80.5 WAR is the highest total for any pitcher besides Roger Clemens not currently enshrined.

    A stellar postseason career only furthers his case.

    Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 19 career postseason starts, winning three World Series rings, the 1993 NLCS MVP and the 2001 World Series co-MVP.

    If anyone is going to earn the requisite 75 percent in 2021, it's Schilling

    Predicted Vote Total: 77 percent (Hall of Fame inductee)


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.