In the past 10 years, 14 players have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in their first year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Will any first-timer make the cut this year? There are some strong candidates.
The BBWAA unveiled its 2024 Hall of Fame ballot on Monday. It features a few ballot veterans -- Todd Helton, Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones -- who have a legitimate chance of receiving votes on 75% of the ballots cast, which is the threshold for induction. It will also be interesting to see how much support Gary Sheffield receives in his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot. He was included on 55.0% of ballots last year. Then there’s Alex Rodriguez, who received 35.7% of the vote last year, his second on the ballot.
But let’s use this space to appreciate the newcomers. Many of them are likely to go one and done by receiving less than 5% of the vote, but there appears to be at least one sure-fire Hall of Famer in this group. You could make a good case for a handful of other players, too.
Here is a look at each of the 12 players who have joined the ballot for the first time, in descending order of career wins above replacement (WAR), per Baseball-Reference.
BBWAA voters have until Dec. 31 to cast their ballots. The results will be announced Jan. 23, 2024, on MLB Network.
Adrián Beltré (93.5 WAR)
It’s not hyperbole to call Beltré one of the greatest all-around players in baseball history. His WAR ranks 27th for a position player, placing him between Cap Anson and Al Kaline. Only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews have more WAR among primary third basemen. Beltré, who made his MLB debut for the 1998 Dodgers just a few months after his 19th birthday, is one of eight players with at least 3,000 hits and 450 home runs.
While the first half of Beltré’s 21-year career had its highlights, including a 48-homer season in 2004, he really solidified his Hall of Fame case during his mid-30s. From 2010 until his retirement after the 2018 season, Beltre slashed .307/.358/.514 while averaging 25 homers per year for the Red Sox and Rangers. This period included his four All-Star appearances and three of his four Silver Slugger Awards.
Beltré complemented his outstanding play at the plate with terrific defense at the hot corner. He garnered five Gold Gloves as well as the first two American League Platinum Gloves in 2011 and ‘12.
Chase Utley (64.5 WAR)
Utley played 13 of his 16 seasons in Philadelphia, where he became a team leader, fan favorite and one of the most productive players in the Phillies’ storied history. Only Schmidt has more WAR with the franchise.
The peak of Utley’s career (2005-10) included three seasons with 30-plus home runs, four 100-RBI seasons, four Silver Sluggers and five All-Star appearances. His 45.5 WAR in this six-year span was topped only by Albert Pujols (52.1). Utley often came up big on the grandest stages as he produced a .901 OPS and 10 homers in 164 postseason at-bats with the Phils. His October success was highlighted by two dingers during Philadelphia’s triumph over the Rays in the 2008 World Series.
Joe Mauer (55.2 WAR)
The story of Mauer’s 15-year career feels destined for a movie: Born and raised in Minnesota, he was drafted No. 1 overall by his hometown Twins in 2001 and soon became the face of the franchise and one of the greatest catchers in history.
A .306 lifetime hitter, Mauer won three batting titles and five Silver Sluggers. He was the AL MVP in 2009, a season in which he led the league in each triple-slash category (.365/.444/.587). He also excelled behind the plate and was recognized for his defense with three Gold Gloves. Mauer’s WAR ranks ninth among primary catchers; everyone ahead of him is in the Hall of Fame. Among that star-studded group, Mauer ranks third in average and first in on-base percentage (.388).
David Wright (49.2 WAR)
Wright -- or Captain America -- was a seven-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover and two-time Silver Slugger with the Mets by the end of his age-30 season. Beginning with his first full Major League year in 2005, he produced a .302/.384/.505 slash line with 208 homers over the next nine seasons. His 44.4 WAR during that period was tied for the sixth most in MLB. He appeared to be on a Hall of Fame track, but injuries halted Wright’s career in his early 30s.
Bartolo Colon (46.2 WAR)
In the Wild Card Era (since 1995), only CC Sabathia has made more starts and thrown more innings than Colon. His 21-year journey through the Majors took him to 11 teams and included 247 wins -- the most by a Dominican-born pitcher. He topped 200 innings in seven seasons, including his AL Cy Young year of 2005 with the Angels. Colon earned that honor after going 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA over 222 2/3 frames. He was an All-Star four times and absolutely shocked the world once.
Matt Holliday (44.5 WAR)
Before he was known as the father of MLB’s No. 1 prospect, Holliday was a seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger. Fourteen of his 15 big league seasons were spent with the Rockies and Cardinals, and he logged an OPS+ better than 130 for each franchise. In 2007 with Colorado, Holliday was the MVP runner-up after pacing the NL in hits (216), RBIs (137), batting average (.340) and total bases (386). He won a World Series ring with St. Louis in 2011. By the time he retired, Holliday had more than 1,100 runs and 1,200 RBIs.
Adrián González (43.5 WAR)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 Draft by the Marlins, González spent most of his career as an elite run producer on the West Coast. The lefty slugger recorded a robust .292/.366/.501 slash line from 2006-2015. He exceeded 25 homers and 100 RBIs seven times during that decade-long span. The Southern California native made five All-Star Games and won four Gold Gloves during his time with the Padres and Dodgers.
José Reyes (37.5 WAR)
Reyes was one of the most dynamic, exciting players during the first decade of the 2000s. From 2005-08, he recorded at least 190 hits, double-digit triples and 55 stolen bases each season. The speedy shortstop is one of four players in the Divisional Era (since 1969) with at least 100 homers, 100 triples and 500 steals; Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Tim Raines are also in that group. Reyes, a four-time All-Star with the Mets, won a batting title with New York in 2011.
José Bautista (36.7 WAR)
The start of Bautista’s career was a nomadic experience as he played for five teams through five seasons. But beginning in 2010 with the Blue Jays, Bautista would become known as Joey Bats, one of the most prodigious sluggers in baseball. He went deep 54 times that year and slugged 227 homers from 2010-15. He was an All-Star in each season and finished among the top 10 in AL MVP voting four times. Even if he doesn’t make it to Cooperstown, Bautista will always be remembered for one unforgettable bat flip.
Victor Martinez (32.0 WAR)
Martinez was a fantastic offensive catcher early in his career, and as he moved into a DH role later, he just kept right on hitting. V-Mart finished nine seasons with a 120 or better OPS+. A five-time All-Star, he clubbed 246 home runs and compiled a .360 career on-base percentage while playing for Cleveland, the Red Sox and Tigers.
James Shields (30.7 WAR)
Shields was a bona fide workhorse who pitched 200 innings in 10 of his 13 seasons. He had at least one such year with each of his four teams (Rays, Royals, Padres, White Sox). He won 145 games and tallied 23 complete games. Eleven of those CGs came with the Rays in 2011, when Shields placed third for the AL Cy Young Award.
Brandon Phillips (28.4 WAR)
The man known as Dat Dude was a three-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner at second base. He began his career in Cleveland, but he shot to stardom in Cincinnati, where he averaged 20 homers per season from 2006-13. His 30 dingers in 2007 are the most by any Reds second baseman.