Here's how the next 5 HOF ballots look

January 25th, 2023

The Baseball Hall of Fame will welcome two new members when it holds its 2023 induction ceremony on Sunday, July 23 in Cooperstown, N.Y. 

Scott Rolen was the lone player to receive at least 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America as revealed Jan. 24 on MLB Network. He will join Fred McGriff, who was unanimously elected for induction by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee back on Dec. 4.

Now the question becomes: Who's next? With help from Baseball-Reference, here is a preview of each of the next five BBWAA ballots. It’s worth noting that these are unofficial for now. (Players must be retired for five seasons and have appeared in the Majors in at least 10 seasons to be eligible)

2024 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley
This is shaping up to be quite an incoming class. Beltré put together one of the most impressive late-career surges in history to go from probably not coming close to election, to a virtual lock for first-ballot enshrinement in Cooperstown. He ranks third all-time among third basemen in WAR (93.5) and fourth in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS score (71.1), ahead of George Brett, Chipper Jones and Brooks Robinson.

There is more uncertainty for Mauer and Utley, neither of whom enjoyed especially long careers or posted the sorts of traditional counting stats that will aid Beltré’s case. (Utley fell short of even 2,000 hits). Yet both can boast a Hall-worthy peak, and the continual evolution of the BBWAA electorate -- as advanced stats become more mainstream -- should aid both players.

Other notable first-timers: José Bautista, Bartolo Colon, Adrián González, Matt Holliday, Victor Martinez, José Reyes, David Wright
Wright was a Hall of Fame-level player before injuries derailed his career, likely leaving him short of election.

Final year on the ballot: Gary Sheffield
After remaining in a holding pattern for five voting cycles, Sheffield jumped from 13.6% support in 2019 to 40.6% in ‘21 (not far from where Edgar Martinez was on his seventh go-round). Although his progress stalled in ‘22, Sheffield took another big leap in '23, up to 55.0%. He will still need a big final-ballot push to get to the finish line.

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 Felix’s place here comes after he was in Spring Training with the Braves in 2020 and the Orioles in ‘21 but never actually made it back to the Majors. 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 Wright, he’s 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 lot of momentum, though. His 68.1% support in 2023 puts him on the path to election in ’25, if not before.

2026 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Cole Hamels, Ryan Braun
Hamels' place here is at least a little tenuous, as he has not officially retired, despite not pitching in 2021 or '22 (and only making it into one game in '20). 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. By 2023, that number had nudged up to 33.2%. He needs to pick up momentum soon to have a chance, but multiple PED violations would seem to make that unlikely.

2027 ballot

Top first-time candidate(s): Buster Posey, Jon Lester
While catchers are a difficult group to judge, it does appear that Posey will garner significant support and perhaps even get in on the first ballot. 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 huge boosts since, all the way up to 58.1% in 2023. The 10-time Gold Glover is trending toward enshrinement well ahead of his final year on the ballot.

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: TBD
Most of this ballot is still in flux, depending on which veteran players return to Major League action in 2023 and which do not. Some other possible first-timers on the '28 ballot, should they retire this offseason, include Zack Greinke, Robinson Canó (whose PED suspensions would be a major issue), David Price and Lorenzo Cain.

Final year on the ballot: Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte
Helton fell only 11 votes shy of enshrinement in 2023, so he may have to wait just one more year before getting his call to the Hall. Pettitte's candidacy, on the other hand, is stuck in neutral after five years on the ballot. He received 17.0% of the vote in '23, so a lot of voters would have to change their minds about Pettitte to give him a realistic chance.