Soon, members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will cast their ballots for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017.Among their choices will be returners who fell just shy of the 75-percent threshold in last year's voting, a group that includes Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent), Tim Raines (69.8) and
Soon, members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America will cast their ballots for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017.
Among their choices will be returners who fell just shy of the 75-percent threshold in last year's voting, a group that includes Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent), Tim Raines (69.8) and Trevor Hoffman (67.3). There also are a few high-profile newcomers. Vladimir Guerrero was a feared hitter with 449 homers and a National League MVP Award, Ivan Rodriguez is third all-time among catchers in wins above replacement (WAR), and Manny Ramirez hit 555 homers but also was suspended twice for his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Those bigger names can obscure some of the others who are eligible for the first time -- those players who have been retired for five years following a career of at least 10 Major League seasons. While it's likely that none of them will wind up in Cooperstown -- and many could fall off the ballot after one year by receiving less than five percent of the vote -- they still have accomplishments that are worth celebrating.
In that spirit, here is a look at the first-year candidates other than Guerrero, Rodriguez and Ramirez:
Career WAR: 24.9
Blake appeared in just 49 big league games between 1999-2002 before breaking out as a 29-year-old with the Indians in '03. Over the next eight seasons with the Indians and Dodgers, he averaged 20 home runs, 73 RBIs and 108 OPS+ while playing mostly third base but also first base and right field.
Career WAR: 18.8
After finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2000, Burrell became one of nine players to smack at least 20 homers in each of the next eight years, with a high of 37 in '02. He also played a key role for two World Series-winning clubs: the '08 Phillies and '10 Giants.
Career WAR: 21.4
From 2001-09, nobody started more times at shortstop than Cabrera, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who reached at least 153 games played in eight of those seasons. A contact hitter, Cabrera racked up more than 200 career steals and helped Boston win a long-awaited World Series championship in 2004.
Career WAR: 46.5
His .249 career batting average made him perpetually underrated, with just one career All-Star selection. But Cameron is one of just 13 players in history to have at least 10 seasons of 3.0 WAR or more in center field, thanks to his above-average production on both sides of the ball. He also is one of five primary center fielders to rack up at least 275 homers and 275 steals, joining Willie Mays, Carlos Beltrán, Eric Davis and Steve Finley. An 18th-round pick in 1991, Cameron put together an 11-season run from 1999-2009 during which he averaged 22 homers, 22 steals and a 111 OPS+ while winning three Gold Glove Awards.
Career WAR: 44.9
Although he battled injuries, Drew could be a force when healthy. His 2004 season with the Braves demonstrated that, as the sweet-swinging lefty batted .305/.436/.569 with 31 homers, 93 RBIs, 118 walks and 8.3 WAR. Drew never came close to matching that production, but he still generated a career 125 OPS+, popped 242 homers and won a ring with the 2007 Red Sox.
Career WAR: 27.7
Once a prospect traded to the Mariners in the Astros' deal for Randy Johnson, Guillen eventually blossomed in his own right. Guillen notched a 104 OPS+ or better in each of his final five seasons as a regular shortstop from 2003-07, a run that included three seasons with at least 19 homers and a .500 slugging percentage. By OPS+, his 2004 (143) and '06 (136) campaigns with Detroit are the second- and third-best produced by a switch-hitter at the position.
Career WAR: 34.3
At the top of his game, Lee was the best hitter in baseball with the 2005 Cubs, leading MLB in average (.335), slugging (.662), OPS+ (174) and doubles (50), while launching 46 homers. That was the highlight of a decade (2000-09) in which the big first baseman posted a 130 OPS+ and averaged 27 homers, winning a ring with the '03 Marlins. Lee finished his career with more than 300 homers and 1,000 RBIs.
Career WAR: 28.2
Mora played every position except pitcher and catcher over 13 seasons, starting at least 130 games apiece at third base, shortstop, left field and center field. He also was a late bloomer, making his big league debut at age 27 in 1999 -- eight years after the Astros signed him out of Venezuela. Mora made up for lost time, however, posting a 116 OPS+ and averaging 20 homers and 3.6 WAR from 2002-08 with Baltimore.
Career WAR: 38.5
A dangerous right-handed batter for the White Sox and Tigers, Ordonez made six All-Star teams between 1999-2007, batting .315/.376/.534 (133 OPS+) with an average of 25 homers and 102 RBIs over that span. Despite some subpar defensive numbers, Ordonez put together four seasons of at least 5.0 WAR, including 2007, when he led the Majors in batting average (.363) and doubles (54) for Detroit.
Career WAR: 42.7
Hall of Famer or not, Posada certainly will go down as a Yankees legend, spending his entire career with the organization and donning the pinstripes in six World Series. A five-time All-Star who won five Silver Slugger Awards, Posada also is one of the best offensive catchers of all time. The switch-hitter's 275 career homers rank eighth at the position, while his 121 OPS+ sits fourth among catchers with at least 5,000 plate appearances since 1940.
Career WAR: 32.1
The five-time All-Star shortstop won the 1997 World Series for the Marlins with a walk-off hit, and the 2010 World Series for the Giants with a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning of the decisive Game 5. He was named MVP of the latter Fall Classic. In between, Renteria enjoyed a six-year peak ('02-07) in which he batted .303/.361/.434 (107 OPS+) and averaged 11 homers, 38 doubles, 18 steals and 3.6 WAR for St. Louis, Boston and Atlanta.
Career WAR: 15.0
The left-hander debuted as a 21-year-old starter in 1991, but he spent most of his 20-year career in the bullpen. Rarely used as a closer (33 saves), Rhodes still racked up 900 appearances -- sixth-most all-time for a southpaw. From 1998-2010, he held left-handed batters to a meager .212/.273/.302 line over more than 1,100 plate appearances.
Career WAR: 15.8
Sanchez played only 41 big league games before turning 27, and injuries ended his career at 33. He made the most of the time in between, making three All-Star teams as an infielder and winning an NL batting title in 2006, when he hit .344 and led the league with 53 doubles. Over his final seven seasons, Sanchez batted .299 with a 100 OPS+ and earned a ring with the 2010 Giants.
Career WAR: 14.3
The Canadian slugger hit 265 career home runs in 19 seasons, with his best stretch coming with the A's from 1997-2000, when he averaged 28 homers, 90 RBIs and a 125 OPS+. Stairs became a feared pinch-hitter and the end of his career, and he finished with an MLB-record 23 homers off the bench. Stairs also set a record for position players by suiting up for 13 teams (12 franchises).
Career WAR: 24.3
Between 1997-2011, Varitek caught nearly 1,500 games for the Red Sox. During that time, he set a record (since tied by Carlos Ruiz) by guiding four pitchers to no-hitters, and he helped Boston win the World Series in 2004 and '07. A switch-hitting three-time All-Star, Varitek finished just shy of 200 career homers, posting 11 seasons in double digits.
Career WAR: 34.5
One of the game's top knuckleball artists, Wakefield's career took off in 1995, when the Red Sox signed him after his release by the Pirates. In 17 seasons with Boston, Wakefield won 186 games -- taking him to an even 200 -- ate up more than 3,000 innings, and posted an above-average 106 ERA+. By the time his career ended at age 45, he had become the sixth pitcher since 1940 to log more than 450 starts and 150 relief appearances.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.