Hall of Very Good: Ranking MLB Players Likely to Get Bounced off 2022 HOF Ballot

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2022

Hall of Very Good: Ranking MLB Players Likely to Get Bounced off 2022 HOF Ballot

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    The 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame voting results will be revealed on Tuesday, and while much of the focus has been on longtime holdovers Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and newcomers David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, there are 26 other players on the ballot.

    From that group, there are 12 guys currently projected to fall short of the five percent voting support necessary to stick around for another year, according to the invaluable Hall of Fame voting tracker from Ryan Thibodaux.

    Before we dive into our predictions for how the voting will play out early next week, let's shine some light on the players who are on pace to be bounced from the ballot.

    Ahead, those 12 guys have been ranked based on their Hall of Fame credentials, and each of them has a compelling case for a place in the Hall of Very Good.

    Off we go!

12. 1B Justin Morneau

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Stats: 1,545 G, 120 OPS+, .281/.348/.481, 1,603 H, 247 HR, 985 RBI, 5 SB

    Accolades: 1x MVP, 4x All-Star, 2x Silver Slugger

    WAR: 27.0

    Drafted as a catcher in the third round of the 1999 draft, Justin Morneau found a home at first base and in the middle of the Minnesota Twins lineup during the late 2000s.

    He enjoyed a brief four-year peak from 2006 through 2009, during which time he hit .292/.364/.516 for a 132 OPS+ while averaging 36 doubles, 30 home runs and 118 RBI. The first year of that stretch earned him AL MVP honors when he batted .321/.375/.559 with 34 home runs and 130 RBI for a 96-win Twins team.

    While concussion issues kept him from compiling more counting numbers in his early 30s, he did win the NL batting title with the Colorado Rockies as a 33-year-old in 2014, hitting .319 with 17 home runs and 82 RBI.

11. LF Carl Crawford

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Stats: 1,716 G, 105 OPS+, .290/.330/.435, 1,931 H, 136 HR, 766 RBI, 480 SB

    Accolades: 4x All-Star, 1x Gold Glove, 1x Silver Slugger

    WAR: 39.1

    Carl Crawford was a dynamic speed threat during his time with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, leading the league in stolen bases four different times and eclipsing the 50-steal mark on five separate occasions. He also led the league in triples four times, finishing with 123 three-baggers.

    A career .290 hitter who batted over .300 six times, he was the prototypical table-setter, and his speed also helped him play above-average defense in left field.

    He enjoyed the best season of his career in 2010 when he hit .307/.356/.495 with 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 home runs, 90 RBI, 110 runs scored, 47 steals and 7.0 WAR. He finished seventh in AL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove, and made the All-Star team for the fourth time.

    That earned him a massive seven-year, $142 million deal from Boston in free agency, but his production quickly dropped off, and he produced just 3.5 WAR over the life of that contract playing for the Red Sox and Dodgers.

10. 1B Ryan Howard

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    John Williamson/Getty Images

    Stats: 1,572 G, 125 OPS+, .258/.343/.515, 1,475 H, 382 HR, 1,194 RBI, 12 SB

    Accolades: 1x MVP, ROY, 3x All-Star, 1x Silver Slugger, 1x WS winner

    WAR: 14.7

    Tasked with replacing slugger Jim Thome at first base and in the middle of the Philadelphia Phillies lineup, Ryan Howard posted a 133 OPS+ with 22 home runs in 88 games to win NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2005.

    He took home NL MVP honors the following year with a .313/.425/.659 line and a staggering 58-homer, 149-RBI showing, and for a brief stretch he was arguably the best power hitter in baseball, averaging 50 home runs and 143 RBI over his first four seasons in the majors.

    However, the drop-off from there was relatively steep, and in the end, his career compares surprisingly well to 1990s star Cecil Fielder:

    • Howard: 125 OPS+, 382 HR, 1,194 RBI, 14.7 WAR
    • Fielder: 119 OPS+, 319 HR, 1,008 RBI, 17.2 WAR

    Both players had a 50-homer season, a relatively short peak, and a largely one-dimensional skill set.

9. SP Tim Lincecum

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Stats: 270 GS, 110-89, 3.74 ERA (104 ERA+), 1.29 WHIP, 1,736 K, 1,682 IP

    Accolades: 2x Cy Young, 4x All-Star, 3x WS winner

    WAR: 19.9

    Similar to Ryan Howard, San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum had a Hall of Fame-worthy peak, but he didn't maintain that level of production long enough to build a viable resume for induction.

    The No. 10 pick in the 2006 draft used his quirky mechanics and electric stuff to win back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, and for a brief four-year stretch he was squarely in the mix for the title of best pitcher in baseball.

    • 2008: 18-5, 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 265 K, 227.0 IP, 7.8 WAR
    • 2009: 15-7, 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 261 K, 225.1 IP, 7.4 WAR
    • 2010: 16-10, 3.43 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 231 K, 212.1 IP, 3.3 WAR
    • 2011: 13-14, 2.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 220 K, 217.0 IP, 3.7 WAR

    His ERA spiked to 5.18 in 2012, and he never returned to that elite-level of production. His final appearance in the big leagues came in 2016, shortly after his 32nd birthday.

8. C A.J. Pierzynski

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Stats: 2,059 G, 94 OPS+, .280/.319/.420, 2,043 H, 188 HR, 909 RBI, 15 SB

    Accolades: 2x All-Star, 1x Silver Slugger, 1x WS winner

    WAR: 23.8

    In terms of peak performance, A.J. Pierzynski is the most obvious candidate for the bottom spot in these rankings, but his full body of work is sneaky good.

    He is one of only 10 catchers in MLB history with 2,000 hits, and the list of guys ahead of him is made up of seven Hall of Famers, a sure-fire eighth in Yadier Molina, and an underrated player in his own right in Jason Kendall.

    While most catchers break down as their career progresses, Pierzynski won a Silver Slugger in his age-35 season and hit .300/.339/.430 for a 112 OPS+ in 436 plate appearances in his age-38 campaign with the Atlanta Braves.

    He may not be a Hall of Famer, but Pierzynski is more comfortably in the "Hall of Very Good" than it may seem at first glance.

7. 1B Prince Fielder

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    Don Smith/Getty Images

    Stats: 1,611 G, 134 OPS+, .283/.382/.506, 1,645 H, 319 HR, 1,028 RBI, 18 SB

    Accolades: 6x All-Star, 3x Silver Slugger

    WAR: 23.8

    Prince Fielder had a slightly bigger window of peak production than Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau, but he still falls well short of the necessary counting numbers for a player whose value was predicated almost entirely on power production.

    He played in at least 157 games every year from his rookie season in 2006 through his final year with the Detroit Tigers in 2013, hitting .286/.390/.528 for a 142 OPS+ while averaging 35 home runs and 108 RBI during that eight-year span.

    He had a 50-homer season in 2007, an NL-leading 141 RBI in 2009, and he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four different times.

    Unfortunately, a neck injury brought his career to an abrupt halt in 2015 at the age of 32. Otherwise, he might have made a run at 500 home runs.

6. SP Jake Peavy

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Stats: 377 GS, 152-126, 3.64 ERA (110 ERA+), 1.20 WHIP, 2,207 K, 2,377 IP

    Accolades: 1x Cy Young, 3x All-Star, 2x WS winner

    WAR: 37.2

    Jake Peavy closed out his career as a veteran presence at the back of the rotation for the San Francisco Giants, but at his peak, he was one of baseball's elite aces.

    He made his MLB debut shortly after his 21st birthday and turned in a breakout season two years later when he went 15-4 with an NL-best 2.27 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 166.1 innings.

    The 6'1" right-hander was an All-Star for the first time the following year, and two years after that in 2007, he went 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 223.1 innings to win the NL pitching Triple Crown and take home NL Cy Young honors unanimously.

    He eclipsed 200 innings just twice more over his final nine seasons, otherwise his Hall of Fame case might be more compelling.

    As it stands, his overall body of work compares favorably to second-tier aces from the 1990s like Kevin Appier, Doug Drabek and Andy Benes.

5. RP Joe Nathan

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Stats: 787 G, 377/423 SV, 89.1 SV%, 2.87 ERA (151 ERA+), 1.12 WHIP, 9.5 K/9

    Accolades: 6x All-Star

    WAR: 26.4

    A middling starter early in his career, Joe Nathan moved into the bullpen during his age-28 season with the San Francisco Giants. That offseason, he was traded to the Minnesota Twins along with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser in the ill-fated A.J. Pierzynski blockbuster.

    He immediately stepped into the closer's role in Minnesota and saved 44 games while finishing fourth in AL Cy Young voting. In his first six seasons with the Twins, he piled up 246 saves with a 1.87 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 in 412 appearances.

    After missing the entire 2010 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, he had a lackluster final season in Minnesota before joining the Texas Rangers in free agency.

    He returned to form with two strong seasons with the Rangers, and closed out his 16-year career with 377 career saves, currently good for eighth on the all-time list.

4. RP Jonathan Papelbon

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    Stats: 689 G, 368/417 SV, 88.2 SV%, 2.44 ERA (177 ERA+), 1.04 WHIP, 10.0 K/9

    Accolades: 6x All-Star, 1x WS winner

    WAR: 23.3

    A declining Keith Foulke left the Boston Red Sox with a glaring hole to fill at the back of their bullpen, and young right-hander Jonathan Papelbon proved to be the answer.

    Developed as a starter in the minors where he emerged as one of baseball's top pitching prospects, he spent his rookie season in the bullpen where he posted a 0.92 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 9.9 K/9 while converting 35 of 41 save chances.

    Just like that, he had found his long-term role.

    Papelbon tallied at least 30 saves in eight different seasons, and while he never led the league in that category during any single season, his 368 career saves rank 10th on the all-time list.

    Serving as the closer for a World Series winner in 2007 and tossing 10.2 scoreless innings during that year's postseason run are enough to push him ahead of Joe Nathan.

3. 1B Mark Teixeira

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Stats: 1,862 G, 126 OPS+, .268/.360/.509, 1,862 H, 409 HR, 1,298 RBI, 26 SB

    Accolades: 3x All-Star, 5x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 1x WS winner

    WAR: 50.6

    Offensively, Mark Teixeira was not quite Carlos Delgado:

    • Teixeira: 126 OPS+, 1,862 H, 409 HR, 1,298 RBI
    • Delgado: 138 OPS+, 2,038 H, 473 HR, 1,512 RBI

    Defensively, he was one of the better defenders of his era at first base, but he wasn't as good with the glove as Keith Hernandez and Steve Garvey.

    None of those players are in the Hall of Fame, but they are all no-brainers for the Hall of Very Good, and that's where Teixeira belongs as well thanks to a well-rounded career that falls just short of checking the boxes for Cooperstown induction.

    He had nine seasons with at least 30 home runs, eight seasons with 100-plus RBI, and at his peak he was a 7.2-WAR player during the 2005 season with the Texas Rangers when he hit .301/.379/.575 with 41 doubles, 43 home runs and 144 RBI.

2. CF Torii Hunter

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    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

    Stats: 2,372 G, 110 OPS+, .277/.331/.461, 2,452 H, 353 HR, 1,391 RBI, 195 SB

    Accolades: 5x All-Star, 9x Gold Glove, 2x Silver Slugger

    WAR: 50.7

    Torii Hunter brought a rare mix of power, speed, defense and longevity that was enough for him to receive 9.5 percent of the vote in his first go-around on the ballot, but he's on pace to fall short of the five percent necessary to stick around this year.

    He won nine straight Gold Glove Awards in center field during his time with the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels, and he turned in a pair of 20/20 seasons during that same stretch of time, impacting the game in a variety of ways at his peak.

    Even later in his career when he shifted to right field, he still made an impact, and he had a 22-homer, 81-RBI season in his final year in the big leagues at age 39.

    In 19 MLB seasons, he produced enough to rank in the top 100 all-time in doubles (498, 66th), home runs (353, 92nd), RBI (1,391, 80th), total bases (4,087, 82nd) and extra-base hits (890, 70th).

1. SP Tim Hudson

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Stats: 482 GS, 222-133, 3.49 ERA (120 ERA+), 1.24 WHIP, 2,080 K, 3,126.2 IP

    Accolades: 4x All-Star, 1x WS winner

    WAR: 56.5

    Tim Hudson was one of the last of a dying breed as an innings eater who brought durability and consistency to the mound, albeit while falling just short of true dominance.

    He went 20-6 with a 4.14 ERA in 202.1 innings as a 24-year-old in 2000 to finish runner-up in AL Cy Young voting while earning his first All-Star selection.

    A whopping 14 years later, he was an All-Star again for the fourth and final time when he posted a 3.57 ERA in 189.1 innings as the elder statesmen on a World Series-bound San Francisco Giants team.

    In between, he pitched at least 175 innings an impressive 12 times during his 17-year career, and he had an ERA north of 4.00 just three times, including that 20-win campaign in 2000.

    His 222 wins rank 76th on the all-time list, his 56.5 WAR is good for 77th all-time among pitchers, and he is one of just 85 pitchers in baseball history with 2,000 strikeouts.

    He belongs in the same category as guys like Orel Hershiser and Kevin Brown, and all three are first-ballot Hall of Very Good selections.

          

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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