Breaking down every first timer on 2023 HOF ballot

November 21st, 2022

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America unveiled its 2023 Hall of Fame ballot on Monday, and much of the discussion going forward will focus on the players who have been there before.

This is the last shot for Jeff Kent, while longtime candidates such as Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield will hope to maintain momentum. Then there’s Alex Rodriguez, who received 34.3% of the vote in his first chance a year ago.

But this is a good opportunity to appreciate the newcomers, even if most of them are likely to go one and done by receiving less than 5% of the vote. Here is a look at each of the 14 players who have joined the ballot for the first time, in descending order of career wins above replacement (WAR), per Baseball-Reference.

BBWAA voters have until Dec. 31 to cast their ballots, with the results set to be announced on Jan. 24, live on MLB Network.

Carlos Beltrán (70.1 WAR)

The one player on this list who would appear to have a realistic chance for induction, Beltrán nonetheless will have to contend with his connection to the Astros sign-stealing scandal, which dates back to his final MLB season in 2017. That could complicate a Hall of Fame case that otherwise appears quite strong.

Beltrán was a nine-time All-Star with a stellar all-around game. He is one of five players with at least 400 home runs and 300 steals, joining Barry Bonds, Andre Dawson, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez. The 1999 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner captured three Gold Gloves for his work in center field and was a sensational postseason performer (1.021 OPS), including one of the greatest playoff runs of all time with the 2004 Astros.

John Lackey (37.3 WAR)

The right-hander was a key rotation piece on three World Series championship teams: the 2002 Angels, ‘13 Red Sox and ‘16 Cubs. He started 446 games, plus 23 more in the postseason, and reached double digits in wins 15 times.

Jered Weaver (34.6 WAR)

The longtime Angels righty made three straight All-Star teams from 2010-12 and went 51-25 with a 2.73 ERA (141 ERA+) over that span, while finishing fifth, second and third in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Jacoby Ellsbury (31.2 WAR)

While Ellsbury’s Yankees tenure didn’t go well, his early seasons with the Red Sox were dynamic. He led the AL in steals three times -- swiping at least 50 bags in each -- and was the 2011 AL MVP runner-up after leading the Majors in total bases.

Jhonny Peralta (30.4 WAR)

A three-time All-Star, Peralta hit more than 200 homers over 15 seasons with Cleveland, Detroit and St. Louis. His 190 big flies from 2005-15 were third most among primary shortstops in that span.

Jayson Werth (29.2 WAR)

While injuries helped prevent Werth from establishing himself until his late 20s, he became a key part of several playoff teams. Werth produced a 1.046 OPS in 29 postseason games for the 2008-09 Phillies teams that reached the World Series.

Matt Cain (29.1 WAR)

His entire professional career, including 13 big league seasons, came with the Giants. That produced three All-Star selections, an unforgettable perfect game in 2012 and three championship rings. Cain had a 2.10 ERA in eight career playoff starts.

J.J. Hardy (28.1 WAR)

At his best, Hardy combined power (five 20-homer seasons) with strong shortstop defense (three Gold Gloves). The two-time All-Star spent 13 seasons with the Brewers, Twins and Orioles and appeared in the postseason for each.

Mike Napoli (26.3 WAR)

He began his career as a power-hitting catcher for the Angels but transitioned into being a first baseman/DH as he moved on to Texas, Boston and Cleveland. Napoli smacked 267 career homers and was a key member of the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox.

K-Rod burst onto the scene as a lights-out reliever during the 2002 Angels’ title run before establishing himself as one of the game’s top closers. His 62 saves for the 2008 Angels remains the single-season record, and his career total of 437 ranks fourth on the all-time list.

R.A. Dickey (23.7 WAR)

It was an unusual career for Dickey, who struggled early on before successfully reinventing himself as a knuckleballer. He won the 2012 NL Cy Young Award with the Mets and wound up making 84% of his career starts after turning 35.

Bronson Arroyo (23.4 WAR)

For a 10-season stretch from 2004-13, Arroyo was as reliable as anyone, averaging 33 starts and 207 innings, with an above-average ERA+ of 105. He won a World Series with the 2004 Red Sox and was an All-Star for the ‘06 Reds.

Andre Ethier (21.5 WAR)

Traded to the Dodgers as a prospect, Ethier spent all 12 of his MLB seasons in L.A., where he became a fan favorite and developed a reputation for big moments. Ethier topped a 120 OPS+ seven times and made a pair of All-Star teams.

Huston Street (14.5 WAR)

He saved 324 career games (20th all-time) and notched at least 33 in a season for each of the four teams for which he played (A’s, Rockies, Padres and Angels).