What to watch for in 2023 HOF voting

November 21st, 2022

The 2023 Hall of Fame ballot is out. Here's what to watch for this year.

The Baseball Writers Association of America revealed the newest ballot on Monday. Who might enter Cooperstown in the Class of 2023? Which players joined the ballot for the first time? What trends from last year's voting could continue this cycle?

These are the seven biggest storylines of the 2022-23 Hall of Fame voting.

1) Beltrán on the ballot

Carlos Beltrán is the headliner of the players on the ballot for the first time this year. One of the best switch-hitters of all time, Beltrán starred for the Royals, Astros, Mets, Giants, Cardinals and Yankees. An all-around superstar, he hit 435 home runs, stole 312 bases, won three Gold Glove Awards in center field and made nine All-Star teams.

Beltrán's 70.1 career Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference, ranks eighth all-time among center fielders, behind only six Hall of Famers -- Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr. and Joe DiMaggio -- and Mike Trout. 

Beltrán might be the only 2022-23 newcomer with a realistic chance at becoming a Hall of Famer, whether it's on the first ballot or later.

2) K-Rod, too

The other big first-timer on the 2023 ballot is closer Francisco Rodríguez. K-Rod had 437 career saves, fourth all-time behind Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith, and is MLB's single-season saves record-holder with the 62 he recorded for the Angels in 2007.

After Beltrán, Rodríguez has the next-strongest Hall of Fame résumé among next year's first-time-eligible players, although the road to Cooperstown is difficult for relievers.

3) Can Rolen ride his momentum into the Hall?

Scott Rolen, who's now in his sixth year of eligibility, looks like he'll get into the Hall of Fame eventually ... maybe sooner rather than later. The star third baseman has made big leaps in the voting every year he's been on the ballot and is fast closing in on the 75% threshold for election.

Rolen's Hall of Fame voting share by year:

2018 -- 10.2%
2019 -- 17.2% (+7 points)
2020 -- 35.3% (+18.1 points)
2021 -- 52.9% (+17.6 points)
2022 -- 63.2% (+10.3 points)

He'd need to jump about 12 percentage points more to be elected in 2023. But even if he doesn't join the Hall of Fame this year, it's probably just a matter of time for Rolen, who was a seven-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glover and one-time Silver Slugger in his career with the Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds.

4) What happens now that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling are off the ballot?

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling are all off the BBWAA ballot after passing through their 10th and final year of eligibility without being elected to Cooperstown. But that doesn't mean their Hall of Fame chances are over.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling will all be considered for the Hall of Fame Class of 2023 by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee. The trio is part of an eight-man ballot that was released earlier this month, along with Albert Belle, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy and Rafael Palmeiro. The ballot features candidates whose primary contribution to baseball came in 1980 or later.  

Back to the main ballot. There was something of a logjam in Hall of Fame voting in recent years, but with Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sammy Sosa all leaving the ballot, and David Ortiz being elected on his first ballot in 2022, that could clear the way for other players to gain ground in the voting.

Over a third of BBWAA voters voted for the maximum 10 players allowed on their ballots last year. Holdover candidates like Rolen, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez and Jeff Kent, who all sat around the 30-60% range of the vote, could pick up some votes that went to Bonds & Co.

5) Will Helton and Wagner keep trending up?

Besides Rolen, Helton (52%) and Wagner (51%) are the only returning players who got at least half the vote on the 2022 ballot. They'll be two others to watch in the 2023 cycle.

Helton is looking to follow the trajectory of his Rockies teammate Larry Walker, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in his final year of eligibility in 2020. Helton, who was a lifetime .316 hitter and slugged 369 home runs with Colorado, is only in his fifth year of eligibility (Walker didn't break 50% of the vote until his ninth year).

It will be interesting to monitor Wagner alongside K-Rod, with two of the most dominant closers of their times vying for election. Wagner, who recorded 422 saves and averaged 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, has made steady gains in the last few election cycles. Now in his eighth year on the ballot, he has three more chances remaining.

6) A-Rod, Year 2

The biggest name on the whole ballot is A-Rod. But will his vote total catch up to his career numbers?

Rodriguez's 696 home runs, 3,115 hits and three MVP Awards speak for themselves, but he got just over a third of the vote in his Hall of Fame ballot debut in 2022 (34.3%), likely due to the same PED concerns that plagued Bonds and Clemens.

Will A-Rod follow a similar trajectory to those two -- all-time greats who ultimately fell short of being voted into the Hall? Will he make a jump in his second year now that the ballot is more open? Rodriguez might be the biggest question mark of the 2023 Hall of Fame voting cycle.

7) Other new players joining the 2022-23 ballot

Along with Beltrán and K-Rod, here are the players who are on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

Hitters: Jacoby Ellsbury, Andre Ethier, J.J. Hardy, Mike Napoli, Jhonny Peralta, Jayson Werth

Pitchers: Bronson Arroyo, Matt Cain, R.A. Dickey, John Lackey, Huston Street, Jered Weaver