The next Beltré? These players could see late-career surge to HOF

January 28th, 2024

took an unorthodox path to Cooperstown. One of three new members of the Hall of Fame elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Beltré wasn’t necessarily on a Hall of Fame trajectory through the first decade of his 21-year career. It was the second half in which he cemented himself as one of the greatest third basemen of all time.

Are there any active players who could follow in Beltré’s footsteps, players who aren’t necessarily viewed as future Hall of Famers but could find another gear in their 30s to reach baseball immortality?

Here’s a look at seven players who fit the bill:

Beltré through age-30 season: 1,681 games; .271/.325/.454 (105 OPS+); 250 HR
Bogaerts through age-30 season: 1,419 games; .291/.355/.456 (117 OPS+); 175 HR

Much like Beltré, Bogaerts was a touted prospect, one whom the Red Sox could see developing into a perennial All-Star shortstop with power. But over his first four full seasons, he was a league-average hitter (100 OPS+), slugging only .410.

Bogaerts finally had the breakout season Boston fans were hoping for in 2018, belting 23 homers and driving in 103 runs. He was even better in ’19, when he slugged .555 with 33 home runs.

From there, Bogaerts’ power steadily declined, though he continued to be a valuable hitter with an .832 OPS from 2020-23. If the power returns, he could certainly make a run at putting together a Hall of Fame resume before hanging up his spikes. It also wouldn’t hurt if a trend he began last season in the stolen base department -- he stole a career-high 19 -- continues.

Beltré through age-29 season: 1,570 games; .271/.327/.459 (107 OPS+); 242 HR
Bregman through age-29 season: 966 games; .274/.373/.487 (135 OPS+); 165 HR

Through his first four Major League seasons, it looked as though Bregman was poised to be a superstar for many years to come, and even a potential Hall of Famer -- he had a career .911 OPS with 99 home runs and was coming off a career year in which he smashed 41 homers with a 1.015 OPS to finish runner-up in American League MVP voting.

But since then, while he’s still been a productive hitter for the Astros, Bregman has an .804 OPS with 66 homers. A rediscovery of his 2019 form would go a long way toward getting him back on a Hall of Fame track as he enters his 30s. Perhaps one advantage he has over Beltré is that he’s racked up less mileage -- Beltré had played in 604 more games than Bregman at the same age.

Beltré through age-28 season: 1,427 games; .271/.327/.460 (107 OPS+); 217 HR
Correa through age-28 season: 1,023 games; .272/.351/.468 (124 OPS+); 173 HR

There’s a distinct feeling that we haven’t yet seen Correa’s best even though he’s hit 20 or more home runs in six of his nine seasons and posted an OPS of .850 or better four times. Injury has been an issue -- he’s only played in 150 or more games once in his career due to various ailments, including the notoriously difficult-to-shake back and foot problems.

Correa’s offensive output last season was the lowest of his career (excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign). He hit .230/.312/.399 with 18 homers, once again limited by nagging back and foot injuries. The injury history certainly clouds Correa’s outlook in the years to come, but if he can manage to stay on the field enough, we could see markedly better production from a superstar-caliber player.

Beltré through age-29 season: 1,570 games; .271/.327/.459 (107 OPS+); 242 HR
Lindor through age-29 season: 1,223 games; .274/.341/.473 (117 OPS+); 215 HR

For a three-season period from 2017-19, Lindor was one of the game’s best all-around players. He averaged 34 home runs with an .856 OPS and won his second career Gold Glove Award at shortstop in that span. Already a four-time All-Star at 25 years old, it looked as if the sky was the limit for him.

But he took a big step back at the plate over the next two seasons, over which he hit .240/.327/.413. Over the past two seasons, he’s recovered, posting numbers that are closer to what they were from 2017-19 -- from 2022-23, he combined for 11.5 bWAR with a .797 OPS and 57 homers. If that marks the beginning of a consistent run of excellence, Lindor could very well end his career with strong Hall of Fame credentials.

Beltré through age-29 season: 1,570 games; .271/.327/.459 (107 OPS+); 242 HR
Seager through age-29 season: 906 games; .292/.361/.512 (134 OPS+); 170 HR

Seager is on this list largely because of how much playing time injuries have taken from him during his nine-year Major League career. He’s been pretty consistent in his offensive production when in the lineup, including last season, when he put up the best numbers of his career.

In 127 fewer plate appearances than he had in 2023, Seager led the AL with 42 doubles and tied a career-high with 33 homers while posting a 1.013 OPS and helping the Rangers win their first World Series title. If he could do that in 119 games, who knows what we could see him do over a full season now that he’s in his prime?

Health, of course, will be a major factor in determining whether Seager will ever have a plaque in Cooperstown.

Beltré through age-30 season: 1,681 games; .271/.325/.454 (105 OPS+); 250 HR
Turner through age-30 season: 1,004 games; .296/.349/.483 (121 OPS+); 150 HR

Turner has consistently been considered one of the best shortstops in the game, and for good reason -- each year, he brings to the table the potential for a .300/30-homer/30-steal season.

But if we look at his career to this point, while he’s been very good, he has only had one full season (excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign) in which his OPS+ was above 124 -- that was in 2021, when he hit .328 to win the batting title and posted a 145 OPS+ for the Nationals and Dodgers.

Some of that has to do with injuries. If he can stay healthy in the second decade of his career, Turner could very well reach the 300-homer, 400-steal milestones. Those alone could qualify him for Cooperstown in the minds of the writers.

Beltré through age-31 season: 1,835 games; .275/.329/.462 (108 OPS+); 278 HR
Yelich through age-31 season: 1,393 games; .286/.376/.464 (129 OPS+); 193 HR

Yelich gradually evolved into one of the game’s elite hitters by 2018, when he took home NL MVP honors thanks to a 1.000 OPS with 36 home runs and 22 steals for the Brewers. He was even better the following season, hitting .329/.429/.671 with 44 homers and 30 steals.

But that’s when his production suddenly fell to around league average within two years. From 2020-22, he posted a .745 OPS and averaged 12 homers per season. He bounced back a bit in ’23, finishing with an .818 OPS and 19 homers.

If Yelich continues trending upward toward something near what he used to be, he could still make a run toward Cooperstown. But that’s a big “if,” and the improvement will need to be significant and consistent to approach that level again.