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Next potential HOF inductees at each position

January 21, 2017

More than 18,500 men have played Major League Baseball, but only 220 of those players -- a group that now includes Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez -- have gained entry into the Hall of Fame. That amounts to roughly 1.2 percent, which sounds about right, doesn't it? Even

More than 18,500 men have played Major League Baseball, but only 220 of those players -- a group that now includes Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez -- have gained entry into the Hall of Fame. That amounts to roughly 1.2 percent, which sounds about right, doesn't it? Even Bernie Sanders would agree that a Hall of Fame should seek to represent the 1 percent, not the 99 percent.
But in 81 years of voting for the Hall, some positions on the field have been better-represented than others. What follows is a position-by-position rundown of the raw numbers of representation (the totals account for the additional 29 Negro League players who are in the Hall), with an eye on what the future holds.
Complete Hall of Fame coverage
Catchers (18 players)
Pudge will join this select group at his July induction, marking the second straight year a catcher will go in (Mike Piazza in 2016) after a 13-year drought. It might be a while before we have another backstop. In his first year of eligibility, Jorge Posada didn't obtain the necessary 5 percent to stay on next year's ballot.
Going by career WAR (per relative to other Hall of Famers at this position, the still-active Joe Mauer (50.0 WAR) has the best chance of getting inducted, though Buster Posey's impressive regular-season performance (33.5 WAR) and extensive postseason resume likely give him a clearer path to election.
First basemen (22)
Bagwell gets in this year, and there's plenty more where that came from. Jim Thome will be on the ballot for the first time next year, and, though he's no lock, his career WAR (72.9) is ahead of the average for Hall of Fame first basemen (65.9). Jose Pujols (101.1) and Jose Cabrera (69.6) aren't done yet, but have already logged convincing Cooperstown credentials. Fred McGriff (52.4) has a good case, but isn't faring well in the BBWAA vote.
Second basemen (21)
We've seen two second-sackers (Craig Biggio and Roberto Alomar) get in this decade, but right now, Jeff Kent is really lagging, appearing on just 16.7 percent of ballots in his fourth year of eligibility. There's a chance Lou Whitaker (whose 74.9 career WAR is higher than that of 2005 inductee Ryne Sandberg) will get in next year via the Modern Baseball Committee.

Active players with a good shot are Chase Utley (64.4) and Robinson Cano (62.4), and keep an eye on Ian Kinsler (52.9) and Dustin Pedroia (50.7).
Shortstops (24)
Barry Larkin, Class of 2012, is the most recent entry, but, like his former teammate Whitaker, Alan Trammell (70.4 WAR) has a chance to be elected by committee next winter.
Beyond that, it will be interesting to see how the BBWAA rates Omar Vizquel (45.3) when he gets on the ballot next year, and Miguel Tejada (46.9) when he's eligible in 2019. The next lock at short is Derek Jeter, who will almost certainly be a first-ballot entry in 2020. And Alexander Rodriguez's case (he played more games at short than at third) should depend on how the voting body views the PED issue by the time he's eligible.
Third basemen (16)
Obviously, a small group here, but don't worry: Reinforcements are coming for the hot corner. Chipper Jones (85 WAR) will be a first-timer on the ballot next year and is a shoo-in. The case for Scott Rolen (70), who will also be a first-timer in 2018, is more nuanced, but still quite strong. And when we watch Adrian Beltre (90.2) play for the Rangers, we are watching a Hall of Famer, plain and simple.
Graig Nettles (68) and Buddy Bell (66.1) might be Modern Game candidates next winter.
Left fielders (22)
Raines added to the left-field tally this year. Of course, if not for the association with PEDs, Barry Bonds would already be in, and Manny Ramirez, who was on the ballot for the first time this year, would have the statistical argument to join him. Bonds did cross the 50-percent threshold (53.8, to be exact) this year, so that bodes well for his future with five years of eligibility left, while Ramirez sat at just 23.8 percent.

Among players not yet on the ballot, Lance Berkman (51.7 WAR), who will be eligible in 2019, probably has the best case, but it's one that will be subject to a lot of debate.
Center fielders (24)
The BBWAA has been particularly stingy with center fielders in recent decades. Ken Griffey Jr. and Kirby Puckett are the only ones who have been voted in since 1981.
Kenny Lofton (68.2 WAR, relative to a 71.1 average for Hall of Famers at this position) had a decent case, but garnered just 3.2 percent of support and fell off a crowded ballot in his first year of eligibility in 2013. Jim Edmonds (60.3 WAR) suffered the same fate with 2.5 percent of the 2016 vote. Perhaps the Today's Era Committee will rescue him eventually. Andruw Jones (62.8) might get better support when he joins the ballot next year, and Carlos Beltran (70.4) is bound to get heavy support five years after he hangs 'em up.
If all else fails, ever hear of a guy named Michael Trout? He's already accrued a 48.5 career WAR, and he's 25.
Right fielders (24)
It has now been seven years (Andre Dawson, 2010) since a right fielder went in the Hall. We'll likely have another right fielder next year, assuming Vladimir Guerrero, who appeared on 71.7 percent of ballots on his first try, gets that final push.
Perhaps Larry Walker (72.6 WAR) will get in, but he'd have to make a serious surge in his last three years on the ballot after garnering just 21.9 percent support this year. Bobby Abreu (59.9) will merit a look when he's on the ballot in 2020, but the next lock after Vlad looks to be Ichiro Suzuki, assuming he ever stops playing.

Designated hitters (1)
The Hall of Fame website actually lists Frank Thomas as a first baseman, but we're all adults here. We know where the Big Hurt -- who played 1,310 games at DH and 917 at first -- belongs, and he could have company soon. Edgar Martinez is obviously trending upward, jumping from 27 percent on the 2015 ballot all the way to 58.6 this year. He's got two years of eligibility left and seems to have a good shot.
And of course, David Ortiz is looming in 2022.

Starting pitchers (72)
We've had five starting-pitching entries over the last two inductions in 2014 (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine) and '15 (Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz), but looks can be deceiving. The only other starters in the last 20 years to get inducted by the BBWAA were Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan and Bert Blyleven. Generally speaking -- and especially relative to the sheer number of people who start games -- this position has dried up.
Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Mike Mussina (51.8) both crossed the 50-percent threshold this year, so they have momentum. Curt Schilling probably has his Twitter account to thank for going under that threshold (45 percent) in '17, but he could claw his way back.

The pending pitcher with the best case is Roy Halladay (64.6 WAR), who will be eligible in 2019, and Clayton Kershaw (54.4 WAR) is among the active pitchers logging Cooperstown credentials. But for Halladay, Kershaw and others to get in, the voters might have to adjust their standards to the modern game, where the lofty innings standards of old (the 3,000 mark is becoming increasingly rare) usually don't apply.
Relief pitchers (5)
And here we have, perhaps, the trickiest position of all. Given the increasing influence of relief pitching on this sport, as well as the faulty nature of the save stat, voters are going to have a hard time knowing where exactly to draw the line of demarcation.
But for now, with the save stat still reigning supreme, Trevor Hoffman (601 saves), having just fallen five votes shy of 2017 induction, sure seems to be a 2018 lock. Mariano Rivera (652) will be eligible and could be right behind him in 2019. It's worth noting also that the vast majority of players who obtain at least 50 percent on a single BBWAA ballot get in eventually. So while Lee Smith (478) is now eliminated from the BBWAA ballot after failing to get in on his 15th and final try, he might have a shot via the Eras (veteran's) Committee path. Smith appeared on more than half of the ballots in 2012.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.