9 storylines on 2024 Hall of Fame ballot

November 20th, 2023

With the 2024 Hall of Fame ballot being unveiled Monday, it's worth taking a look at both the biggest returning names still seeking election, and the top newcomers who will be Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time.

These are the nine storylines to watch for in this upcoming year's Hall of Fame voting.

1. 2024 could be the year for Todd Helton

Scott Rolen and Helton were neck and neck in the Hall of Fame voting last year. Rolen got in (76.3% of the vote); Helton didn't (72.2%). But he barely missed, by only 11 votes. Now it should be only a matter of time. Helton doesn't need much to reach the 75% threshold for Cooperstown, and based on the steady gains he's made every year he's been on the ballot, 2024 looks like it's going to be his time.

The Rockies' great slugging first baseman, who had 369 home runs and 2,519 hits in his career, and was a .316 lifetime hitter and the 2000 MLB batting champion, needs only 2.8% more of the vote in his sixth year. A few extra ballots with his name on them, and he'll be in.

2. But is it the year for Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones?

Wagner and Jones are getting close. They've made big gains in the last few years, with Wagner jumping from 51% of the vote in 2022 to 68.1% in 2023 and Jones jumping from 41.4% to 58.1%. Wagner, one of the dominant closers of his era with 422 saves, a 2.31 ERA and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, will be in his ninth year on the ballot next year, meaning he has two chances remaining at election. Jones, who hit 434 home runs and was one of the greatest defensive center fielders in MLB history, will be in his seventh year on the ballot. Both of them have a good chance to get in at some point. Will it be 2024? Wagner needs to jump by 6.9% to make it, less than half the gain he made this year. Jones needs a bigger jump of 16.9%, so he might have a longer wait than Wagner.

3. Adrián Beltré has first-ballot potential

The big newcomer to the ballot is Beltré, who's a surefire Hall of Famer. He had 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and 93.5 Wins Above Replacement, third-most among third basemen behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews. The only question is, will Beltré get in on the first ballot? He'd become the fifth Dominican-born Hall of Famer, along with Juan Marichal (1983), Pedro Martínez (2015), Vladimir Guerrero (2018) and David Ortiz (2022).

4. How will voters evaluate the peaks of Joe Mauer and Chase Utley?

Mauer and Utley are on the ballot for the first time in 2024, and they have interesting Hall of Fame cases. They might not have all the counting stats of other Hall of Famers, but at their peak, they were the best players at their positions. Mauer's five-year run with the Twins from 2006-10 is one of the best by any catcher ever -- it included three batting titles, three Gold Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, four All-Star seasons and the 2009 AL MVP Award. Mauer was also a .306 career hitter, and his 55.2 career WAR ranks seventh among catchers. Every other catcher in the top 10 is in the Hall of Fame.

Utley's five-year peak with the Phillies from 2005-09 made him just as dominant among second basemen as Mauer was among catchers. Utley amassed 39.7 WAR over that time, nearly doubling the next-best second baseman, Brian Roberts (23 WAR). Utley led all second basemen in WAR in four of those five seasons, including a career year for the 2008 World Series champs. Utley's 1,885 hits and 259 homers might seem a little low, but his 64.5 career WAR is close to the average for a Hall of Fame second baseman, and his peak WAR is above-average.

5. David Wright, Matt Holliday and lots of new sluggers

After Beltré, Mauer and Utley, the headliners of the 2024 ballot are Wright and Holliday. Wright, the Mets' captain, was one of MLB's best third basemen before spinal stenosis shortened his career -- a seven-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger who hit .296 with 242 home runs and led the Mets to the 2015 NL pennant. Holliday was a seven-time All-Star for the Rockies and Cardinals, a World Series champion with St. Louis in 2011 and a batting champion for the 2007 Rockies. He finished his career with a .299 batting average, 316 home runs and 2,096 hits.

Other big names who are Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time: two-time MLB home run king José Bautista (344 homers), five-time All-Star catcher Victor Martinez (.295 batting average), five-time All-Star first baseman Adrián González (2,050 hits) and three-time stolen base champion José Reyes (517 steals).

6. Will Carlos Beltrán make a jump in Year 2?

Beltrán has a strong Hall of Fame resume -- nine All-Star seasons, a World Series ring, 435 home runs, 2,725 hits and 70.1 WAR as one of the best switch-hitters ever -- but he fell well short in his first year on the ballot, getting 46.5% of the vote. But that's a solid start. Only a select few baseball legends are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Beltrán has plenty of time.

So he'll be one of the big names to watch in 2024. He still has one of the strongest cases of anyone on the ballot, and there shouldn't be enough players ahead of him to block him from getting votes. We'll see if the voters give him a little more love in Year 2.

7. Bartolo on the ballot

There's one fun big-name pitcher on the 2024 ballot: Bartolo Colon. Bartolo might not have quite enough Hall of Fame credentials, but he pitched until he was 45, and he's beloved by baseball fans everywhere. And hey, he does have 247 career wins, 2,535 strikeouts and a Cy Young Award to his name. And one home run, of course.

8. Last chance for Gary Sheffield

The feared slugger Sheffield is entering his 10th and final season of Hall of Fame ballot eligibility in 2024. He crushed 509 home runs in his career, but he'll be a long shot to make it to Cooperstown on the writers' ballot. Sheffield reached his highest share of the vote ever in 2023, increasing from 40.6% in '22 to 55% in 2023 … but that still means he'll have to jump by another 20% in 2024.

9. Who else joined the ballot?

We've covered the 2024 first-time eligible players with the strongest Hall of Fame cases, but just making it onto the ballot means you had a great MLB career. Aside from those detailed above, second baseman Brandon Phillips and durable right-hander James Shields both joined the Hall of Fame ballot this year. Phillips was a three-time All-Star with the Reds who finished his career with 211 home runs and 209 stolen bases, including a 30-30 season in 2007. The workhorse Shields was an All-Star in 2011, amassed 2,234 career strikeouts and was the winning pitcher in the Rays' first World Series game victory as a franchise in 2008.