The next 5 HOF ballots are stacked

January 25th, 2024

The Hall of Fame's Class of 2024 is complete. Now the question becomes: Who's next?

When the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) revealed the results of its 2024 voting cycle on Tuesday night, three players had punched their tickets to Cooperstown: first-timers Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer, along with Todd Helton, who made it in his sixth year of eligibility.

But what will the future Hall of Fame ballots look like? With help from Baseball-Reference, here is a preview of each of the next five potential BBWAA ballots, starting with 2025.

(The projections below are unofficial until each year's ballot is announced. Players must be retired for five seasons and have appeared in the Majors in at least 10 seasons to be eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot.)

2025 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia
It’s pretty easy to imagine these two giving induction speeches in July 2025. For Ichiro, it was a matter of when, not if, with his 15 games played in 2018 and two in ‘19 delaying his arrival on the ballot. His 3,000-plus MLB hits and larger impact on the game should make him an overwhelming choice. Meanwhile, Sabathia bolstered his case by crossing the 250-win and 3,000-strikeout plateaus in his final season, to go along with a Cy Young Award and other accomplishments.

Other notable first-timers: Curtis Granderson, Félix Hernández, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramírez, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist
King Félix was one of the game's top aces over his first 11 seasons (2005-15), but his struggles after that point mean it will likely be an uphill climb for him. Kinsler and Pedroia present an interesting pair of cases to watch, as the two second basemen rank similarly in career WAR but with Pedroia benefiting from much more in the way of awards, accolades and media attention. Like David Wright -- who debuted on the ballot in 2024 -- Pedroia is another player who would have built a much stronger case had injuries not interfered.

Final year on the ballot: Billy Wagner
What do BBWAA voters do about closers? That’s a difficult question, with Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman being the recent exceptions. Wagner does appear to have a good chance in his final year, however, after finishing just five votes shy of induction in 2024.

2026 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Cole Hamels, Ryan Braun
Hamels didn't officially retire until August 2023, but he last appeared in 2020. The left-hander's case is more intriguing than you may think for a pitcher who never placed higher than fifth in Cy Young Award voting, but logging just one game after his age-35 season due to injuries was a big blow. As for Braun, his relatively short career (14 seasons) and ties to PEDs (including a 2013 suspension) figure to hamper the six-time All-Star's candidacy significantly despite some major accomplishments.

Other notable first-timers: Shin-Soo Choo, Edwin Encarnación, Alex Gordon, Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, Hunter Pence
Kemp looked like a potential Hall of Famer early in his career, such as in his incredible 2011 season. But injuries soon took their toll.

Final year on the ballot: Manny Ramirez
Ramirez has never been in danger of falling off the ballot by polling under 5%, but he also has made little headway since he debuted in 2017 with 23.8% of the vote. He actually lost ground in 2024, dropping slightly to 32.5%, and multiple PED violations make it unlikely that his fortunes will change.

2027 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Buster Posey, Jon Lester
While catchers are a difficult group to judge, Mauer's first-ballot selection in 2024 has to bode well for Posey, who has a similar sort of case as an MVP Award-winning catcher whose peak excellence should overcome his relatively short career. (The three championship rings won't hurt, either). Lester figures to have a much more difficult time, despite his admirable personal story and impressive postseason credentials. With that said, he could gain support over time if the voting body adjusts its evaluation of starting pitchers to keep up with modern usage patterns.

Other notable first-timers: Jay Bruce, Brett Gardner, Kyle Seager, Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann
Gardner's total of 44.3 WAR probably would surprise some people, but excellent defense and baserunning made him a well-rounded player. Zimmerman looked like a potential Hall of Famer in his early 20s, but injuries held him to just 6.4 WAR after his age-28 season.

Final year on the ballot: Andruw Jones
Jones garnered less than 10% of the vote in each of his first two years on the ballot, but his Hall chances have received a huge boost since, all the way up to 61.6% in 2024. The 10-time Gold Glover is trending toward enshrinement.

2028 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina
Pujols reunited with Molina for one last run on the 2022 Cardinals, and now the good friends just might be first-ballot Hall of Famers together in 2028. Pujols is a lock in that respect, with his magical run late in '22 (including reaching the 700-homer mark) just the icing on the cake. Molina will be a more divisive candidate, given that he was a below-average hitter over the course of his career, but his reputation as an all-time great defensive catcher and postseason hero should give him a real chance.

Other notable first-timers: Robinson Canó, David Price, Stephen Strasburg, Lorenzo Cain, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton
These players each have not appeared in an MLB game since the 2022 season, even if they are not all officially retired. Canó has the raw numbers to garner serious consideration, but his multiple PED suspensions will be a major issue. Price and Strasburg were both No. 1 overall Draft choices who enjoyed a lot of early-career success but likely did not sustain that for long enough to reach Cooperstown.

Final year on the ballot: Andy Pettitte
Pettitte received only 13.5% of the vote in 2024 -- down from 17.0% in '23 -- so a lot of voters would have to change their minds about the left-hander to give him a realistic chance.

2029 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera closed out his sensational career at the end of his 21st season in 2023, and he is certain to waltz into the Hall on his first ballot. Alongside Pujols, the two-time AL MVP Award winner is one of seven players with at least 3,000 hits and 500 homers, and he owns MLB's only hitting Triple Crown since 1967.

Other notable first-timers: Adam Wainwright, Nelson Cruz, Michael Brantley
While some other big names could join this list if they don't end up signing with a team for 2024, Wainwright, Cruz and Brantley have announced their retirements already. All three likely will fall short of Cooperstown, although Wainwright probably has the best chance to stick on the ballot.

Final year on the ballot: Bobby Abreu
Abreu has a fringy case that appears unlikely to land him at 75%, although he has picked up some ground after barely surviving his first ballot in 2020 (5.5%). In 2023, Abreu's support jumped from 8.6% to 15.4%, although it dipped back to 14.8% in '24.