7 storylines to follow for 2025 HOF ballot

January 24th, 2024

The Hall of Fame Class of 2024 was unveiled on Tuesday, with Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton and Joe Mauer all voted into Cooperstown by the BBWAA to join Eras Committee electee Jim Leyland.

Now let's look ahead to next year's ballot.

The 2025 Hall of Fame election cycle will bring two powerhouse newcomers to the ballot, the last chance for a dominant closer, longtime superstar outfielders continuing their push toward Cooperstown and more. (Note that the 2025 Hall of Fame ballot is not yet official.)

Here are seven Hall of Fame storylines to watch for on the 2025 ballot.

1) Will Ichiro be the next unanimous Hall of Famer?

Ichiro will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2025, and the only question isn't whether he's a Hall of Famer … It's not even whether he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer … It's whether he'll be the next unanimous Hall of Famer.

Mariano Rivera is the one and only unanimous Hall of Famer. But if anyone has a chance to join him, it's Ichiro. The Mariners icon is one of the greatest pure hitters the game has ever seen -- a 3,000-hit club member despite not arriving in MLB until he was 27 years old, a .311 lifetime hitter and MLB's single-season hits record holder.

Plus, Ichiro's impact on baseball transcends his MLB career. He's beloved in America, but an even bigger legend in Japan, where he amassed 1,278 hits in Nippon Professional Baseball before coming to the Major Leagues, bringing his career professional hit total to an incredible 4,367.

2) CC can break the starting pitcher drought

CC Sabathia's arrival on the ballot in 2025 will mark the first likely Hall of Fame starting pitcher to become eligible on the BBWAA ballot in a while -- he's the biggest starting pitching name to enter the voting since Roy Halladay, who won first-ballot election in 2019.

The fan-favorite left-hander had 251 career wins and 3,093 strikeouts in his 19-year career with the Indians, Brewers and Yankees, winning a Cy Young Award in Cleveland and a World Series championship in New York. Sabathia's 3,000-strikeout club membership and ace status for two decades across three franchises should make him an eventual choice for the Hall of Fame. But can he make it on the first ballot like Halladay?

After CC gets in, we also might be looking at another starting pitcher drought in Hall of Fame voting. There might not be another Hall of Fame starter until the likes of Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw eventually retire and become eligible five years later.

3) Last chance for Wagner

Billy Wagner just barely missed election to the Hall this year, receiving 73.8% of the vote and falling just five votes short of Cooperstown. Next year will be his 10th and final year of eligibility. Can he make it?

He seems like he'll have a good chance. Wagner continues to increase his share of the vote every year -- over just the last three election cycles, he's gone from 51% to 68.1% to 73.8%, and once a player reaches this point, he tends to get in.

With Beltré, Helton and Mauer all cleared off the ballot, Wagner will be one of the Big Three on the 2025 ballot, alongside Ichiro and Sabathia. The dominant closer amassed 422 saves in his career, with a 2.31 ERA, 11.9 K/9 and a 33.2% strikeout rate that are among the best marks of all time.

We've also seen a couple of recent successful pushes into the Hall of Fame by players in their final year of eligibility -- Larry Walker made it in his 10th year on the ballot in 2020, as did Edgar Martinez in 2019.

4) Beltrán looks for another step forward

Just by the numbers, Carlos Beltrán's Hall of Fame case is very strong. His 70.1 career Wins Above Replacement rank eighth among center fielders all-time, he had 435 home runs and 312 stolen bases, and he was an elite offensive and defensive center fielder.

That hasn't materialized into Hall of Fame election over his first two ballot cycles -- likely due to his link to the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing scandal -- but he's on the right track. After receiving 46.5% of the vote in his first year in 2023, Beltrán shot up to 57.1% in 2024.

Having broken past the 50% mark so early, and considering his big gain from Year 1 to Year 2, Beltrán is in good position to make it to Cooperstown over the next few seasons. We'll see if his upward trajectory continues toward that 75% threshold in 2025.

5) Does King Félix have a chance?

Félix Hernández will join the Hall of Fame ballot in 2025 along with Sabathia, but does the longtime Mariners ace have a shot at Cooperstown?

King Félix had an exceptional run of dominance as one of the very best pitchers in MLB from 2009-15 -- peaking with his Cy Young Award in 2010, when he won the MLB ERA crown with a 2.27 mark, struck out 232 batters and led the American League with 249 2/3 innings pitched. He even pitched a perfect game. But Hernández's Hall of Fame case might be a long shot.

Hernández has a sort of parallel Hall of Fame case to Johan Santana, who won two Cy Young Awards and a Triple Crown for the Twins and was the best pitcher in the world at his peak -- his peak was just all too short. Johan fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after his first year. King Félix has slightly better counting stats than Santana, with 2,524 career strikeouts to Santana's 1,988, but he still might not have had the longevity to get into the Hall.

6) Second base stacked with Utley, Pedroia and Kinsler

Chase Utley joined the ballot alongside Mauer as a similar type of candidate -- he was also one of the best of his era at his position, with a peak run as one of the best players in baseball but limited longevity.

But the Phillies' great second baseman didn't receive the same love as Mauer in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, receiving 28.8% of the vote while Mauer was elected. Utley has a ways to go to reach Cooperstown, but it was a promising start -- more promising than recent electees like Helton and Scott Rolen -- so the Hall of Fame is certainly within the realm of possibility.

In 2025, Utley will also be joined on the ballot by two other great second basemen of that generation: Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. It'll be interesting to see how the Hall of Fame voters view that trio. All three finished with over 50 career WAR -- Utley leading the way with 64.5 WAR to Kinsler's 54.1 and Pedroia's 51.9.

As for the two newcomers: Pedroia won an MVP Award, Rookie of the Year Award and two World Series rings with the Red Sox in his 14 seasons in Boston, where he was a .299 career hitter. Kinsler was a four-time All-Star for the Rangers and Tigers, and finished his career with 1,999 hits, 257 home runs and 243 stolen bases.

7) Can Andruw Jones make a late-ballot-years push?

Like Beltrán, Jones was an elite offensive and defensive center fielder. Many consider the 10-time Gold Glover one of the best defensive center fielders of all time, if not the best, and Jones also hit 434 career home runs.

The Braves icon is entering his eighth year of Hall of Fame eligibility in 2025, meaning he has three shots left at induction via the BBWAA ballot. And Jones has hope: He's finally started to generate significant Hall of Fame support over the last few voting cycles.

Jones received 61.6% of the vote this year, his highest share yet, and he's come a remarkably long way from the 7.3% of the vote he received in his first year on the ballot in 2018. He just might have one final push toward Cooperstown in his last few years on the ballot, especially if Jones can get a campaign going behind him like Walker did a few years ago.