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Inbox: What are Andruw's HOF chances?

Braves beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
January 20, 2017

I assume Chipper Jones will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and I hope Andruw Jones gets in eventually. Do you think there is a strong case to be made for Andruw? -- Josh W., Austin, TexasTen years ago, I would have projected Andruw Jones to be a no-doubt Hall

I assume Chipper Jones will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and I hope Andruw Jones gets in eventually. Do you think there is a strong case to be made for Andruw?
-- Josh W., Austin, Texas

Ten years ago, I would have projected Andruw Jones to be a no-doubt Hall of Famer. But now I doubt he will ever be elected, simply because of how significantly the final five years of his career tarnished the Hall of Fame-caliber numbers produced in the first decade.
When I hear that a voter included Barry Bonds on his or her ballot due to the belief that he was a Hall of Famer before he allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs, I think about the likes of Dale Murphy or Fred McGriff and wonder, "Does this mean we can simply judge them on a portion of their careers? And what constitutes a suitable data range?" This line of thinking would aptly relate to Andruw Jones, who produced MLB's third-best Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, as he won 10 consecutive National League Gold Glove Awards from 1998-2007. The two men ranked ahead of him are Bonds and Alexander Rodriguez. The man ranked immediately behind him is Chipper Jones.
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While Chipper Jones seemed to reserve his place in Cooperstown by gaining three more All-Star selections, winning a batting title and producing a 132 OPS+ over the remainder of his career, Andruw Jones batted .210 with a 95 OPS+ over the final five years of his career, which included his age-31 to age-35 seasons. Andruw Jones never played more than 107 games in a season after his 30th birthday, and he totaled just 68 starts as a center fielder in that span.
Andruw Jones totaled 368 home runs through his age-30 season, and he led many to believe he might have been the greatest defensive center fielder the game has ever seen. He will receive votes from those who deem that span of greatness sufficient and from those who recognize that the Hall has reserved spots for other defensive greats such as Ozzie Smith, though he performed his wizardry for a longer period of time.
Even with his sudden offensive decline, Andruw Jones still put up a .254 career batting average, 434 home runs and a 111 OPS+. His 67.1 fWAR as a center fielder ranks 10th all time, trailing Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Ken Griffey Jr., Billy Hamilton, Al Simmons and Carlos Beltran.
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With Luiz Gohara, I'd say the Braves added a pretty high-potential pitcher to their already deep farm system. Who would you now say has the highest ceiling and best potential to become a top-of-the-rotation ace?
-- Michael C., Kennesaw, Ga.

Because Gohara, acquired from Seattle, has not pitched above the Class A level, some have said he didn't develop as quickly as expected in the Mariners' system. That might be true, but he didn't turn 20 until July 31, and he still managed to produce a 1.81 ERA over a combined 69 2/3 innings between two Class A levels last year.

Gohara's strikeout and walk ratios are comparable to 23-year-old Sean Newcomb. Both left-handers have significant ceilings and the potential to become an ace.
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As I mentioned in a previous Inbox, I'd rather wait to see some of these pitchers reach the Double-A level and experience some of the "weeding out" process before anointing them with potential greatness. But if simply asking which pitchers in the farm system have the highest ceiling, I'll go with either Kolby Allard or Max Fried.
Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz could enter that discussion once we get a better read on them as they progress through their first full pro season this year. One guy who continues to intrigue me is Mike Soroka, simply because of the consistent command he's shown during the early portion of his career.
If Ender Inciarte is sidelined for a significant portion of time, who would play center field? Is there a chance Atlanta will pursue Austin Jackson or a similar free agent?
-- Patrick C., Mechanicsburg, Pa.

While Jackson and Peter Bourjos have been discussed, it appears the Braves are leaning more toward sticking with what they have. Sean Rodriguez and Jace Peterson would be able to spell Inciarte, but the bench depth would be weakened if both were in the lineup on a consistent basis, with one in center field and the other at second base.
The other top internal options would be Chase d'Arnaud, Emilio Bonifacio and the recently acquired Micah Johnson. Bonifacio spent most of the past season with Triple-A Gwinnett, but Atlanta signed him to a Minor League deal with the apparent hope that he'll begin the upcoming season as the primary backup outfielder. Johnson may end up battling d'Arnaud for the final roster spot if Bonifacio ends up at the big league level.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001.