Hall of Fame voting season seems like it comes a little earlier each year, but this year -- when last December seems like both 20 years and 20 minutes ago -- it feels out of both space and time. The world is a very confusing place these days.
Still, Hall of Fame voting season it is, and it will be compelling and contentious as ever. But remember: Someday, they’ll be voting on all these current players, too. Every team has its Hall of Famers (well, every team but the Marlins, Rays, Rockies and Nationals), but every fanbase thinks that someone, anyone, from their favorite team has a chance at the Hall someday.
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So today, we take a look at the most likely player on every team to someday reach the Hall of Fame. We don’t care about what hat they’re wearing into the Hall; Albert Pujols is the choice for the Angels, not the Cardinals, for example. It’s just the player in every current organization with the best chance of getting in. Many of these will seem like quite a stretch, a fantastical dream. But isn’t that what the Hall of Fame is all about? Dreaming?
Here’s a pick, a dream, from each team.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B: Yeah, his career hasn’t started out with the explosion we were all hoping for, but he’s still 21 and has, of course, that Hall of Fame pedigree. (Not the only guy on his team who has that, actually.)
Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C: Yeah, this is probably a bit much. But he’s clearly the top talent in this organization, and who else are you going to make the case for? Chris Davis?
Rays: Wander Franco, SS: Even though this was a World Series team, there really aren’t any legitimate Hall of Fame contenders here. (Even Blake Snell is 28, which almost makes it too late for him to start compiling stats in time.) So we’ll go with the teenage top prospect again.
Red Sox: Rafael Devers, 3B: He obviously still has a long way to go, but 187 extra-base hits at the age of 24 -- not to mention a World Series ring -- isn’t a terrible start.
Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton, OF/DH: Still your best bet here, no? He has an MVP, could end up with 500 homers (or more) and could have himself a big Yankees moment in the postseason sometime. Gerrit Cole is your next bet.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: José Ramírez, 3B: Maybe? He’s only 28, he has a higher career WAR than teammate Francisco Lindor (he’s only one year older) and seems to only be getting better. Keep an eye out here.
Royals: Salvador Perez, C: The last couple years of injuries have obviously set him back, but he started his career early, was amazing last year and would seem to have plenty of years ahead of him. Could he end up getting Yadier Molina-type votes?
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, 1B/DH: Just five years after he decides to retire, no question about it.
Twins: Josh Donaldson, 3B: Another excellent team with no obvious contenders, Donaldson’s injuries and late start means he probably has no shot … but with an MVP under his belt already, maybe winning another one would give him an outside chance?
White Sox: José Abreu, 1B: Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert are probably better bets, but Abreu just won an MVP and seems to be getting better every season.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, and Mike Trout, CF: There’s no need to choose here. They’re both obvious slam dunks already, even if they retire tomorrow.
A’s: Matt Chapman, 3B: He’s still young, but it’d be helpful if the A’s could go on some deep playoff runs over the next few years.
Astros: Justin Verlander, RHP: He’s obvious, but how about making a case for Jose Altuve, too? Even with the rough year, even with all the bad feelings … he’s still only 30 and about to bust into the top 40 of Jay Jaffe’s top 40 second basemen …
Mariners: Kyle Lewis, OF: Yeah, there’s no one here, so we’re just going to imagine what it would be like if 2020 was the start of Kyle Lewis’ Hall of Fame career. Isn’t that a fun future?
Rangers: Joey Gallo, OF: He’s coming off his worst season, but he’s only 27 and he was hitting 40 homers a season just a couple of years ago. If he could do that for through his, say, 34th birthday (not out of the question!), he’d be at 400 homers. It could happen!
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Freddie Freeman, 1B: So he’s the best he’s ever been, on the best team he’s ever played for and he just won an MVP. Win a World Series and keep those numbers up, there’s a good chance here.
Marlins: Sixto Sánchez, RHP: There aren’t any real possibilities here, other than Derek Jeter, but there should be a loop of Sixto pitching in the Hall somewhere, regardless.
Mets: Jacob deGrom, RHP: He missed out on his third straight Cy Young, but it sure feels like there might be one or two more in his future.
Phillies: Bryce Harper, RF: He has more than a decade left in Philadelphia to keep improving on those counting stats.
Nationals: Max Scherzer, RHP: Has he already gotten himself in? Those three Cy Youngs, and the World Series title, have to do it, yes?
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Christian Yelich, OF: Assuming 2020 was an aberration, this is still very much on the table.
Cardinals: Yadier Molina, C: He’s a free agent, but we’ll assume he stays in St. Louis. There may be some analytics guys lining up against him, but it’s difficult to imagine him not getting in. Staying with the Cardinals might help his case, actually.
Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, 1B: Legitimate question: Are any players from the 2016 Cubs getting into the Hall? With all of them getting older and taking steps back in the last couple of years, Rizzo, still raking (and still beloved around baseball), may be the best chance.
Pirates: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B: There’s obviously nobody here, so let’s pick Hayes just to put some more pressure on him.
Reds: Joey Votto, 1B: He’s already ahead of many Hall of Fame first basemen on Jaffe’s JAWS scale , including Eddie Murray, Hank Greenberg and Harmon Killebrew. But will voters appreciate that?
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Madison Bumgarner, LHP: He’s obviously going to have to turn it around, and fast. But people won’t forget his Octobers any time soon.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP: It’s not like he needed that World Series title to secure his spot in Cooperstown, but now he has one, regardless.
Giants: Buster Posey, C: Molina is the one to watch here. These two were compared for most of their careers and, generally, Posey won more awards than Molina did. If Posey can keep going a few more years, could he get in with Molina?
Padres: Manny Machado, 3B: Third base is always tough, but he’s already No. 35 on Jaffe’s JAWS chart, and with plenty of career left.
Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 3B Speaking of which: Arenado is 33 on that list. But which team will he keep adding to that total for?