They fell short this year, but 4 players have hope for Hall

January 24th, 2024

While three baseball legends were voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, there were also some Hall hopefuls who, despite falling short of the necessary 75% threshold, set themselves up well for future induction.

That quartet includes one player who came up just a handful of votes shy in his penultimate year on the ballot, two legendary outfielders who saw an uptick in their voting percentage and one franchise icon who made a respectable debut on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.

Albeit under varying circumstances, each of the following four players has reason to believe his name could be called in upcoming years.

Billy Wagner
2024 percent of votes: 73.8%
Increase from 2023: +5.7%
Year on ballot: 9th

Next year will mark Wagner’s final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot, but he continues to trend in a positive direction. After hovering around 10% in his first three years on the ballot (10.5% in 2016, 10.2% in ’17 and 11.1% in ’18), Wagner then made a marginal jump to 16.7% in ’19.

But that number nearly doubled to 31.7% in 2020, and it has continued to climb in each year since, checking in at 46.4% in ’21, 51% in ’22 and 68.1% in ‘23. After falling just short of the 75% threshold this year -- his 73.8% left him five votes shy of induction -- Wagner is pounding on the door of Cooperstown heading into his final year on the ballot.

Andruw Jones
2024 percent of votes: 61.6%
Increase from 2023: +3.5%
Year on ballot: 7th

Similar to Wagner, Jones’ Hall of Fame chances have significantly increased in recent years. Not only did Jones appear on less than 10% of the ballots in each of his first two years of eligibility, but his 7.3% in 2018 and 7.5% in ’19 were barely enough to keep him above the 5% threshold needed to remain on the ballot.

But the five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner has garnered far more consideration in recent years, going from 19.4% in 2020 to 33.9% in ’21 to 41.4% in 2022. That number then took a major jump to 58.1% in 2023, seemingly setting up Jones to make a push for the necessary 75% threshold. While his increase was much smaller in ’24 – jumping to only 61.6% -- it’s yet another sign that Jones’ Hall of Fame bid continues to gain traction among voters. With three years of eligibility remaining, Jones is set up to make a Wagner-esque push toward induction.

Carlos Beltrán
2024 percent of votes: 57.1%
Increase from 2023: +10.6%
Year on ballot: 2nd

After debuting at 45.5% in 2023, Beltrán made a sizable jump to 57.1% in just his second year on the ballot. That puts him well ahead of where some recent inductees were tracking in their first year on the ballot. Class of 2023 inductee Scott Rolen received just 10.2% in his first year of eligibility, while Helton claimed only 16.5% of the vote when he debuted in 2019.

That means Beltrán was already well ahead of the game when he was listed on nearly half the ballots last year, but he’s in even better shape after this year’s leap. With eight more years of eligibility, Beltrán has plenty of time left to reach that 75% threshold.

Chase Utley
2024 percent of votes: 28.8%
Increase from 2023: N/A
Year on ballot: 1st

Utley didn’t receive nearly as much support as fellow first-ballot candidates Beltré (95.1%) or Mauer (76.1%), but he still finds himself in a good spot after his first year of eligibility. As mentioned above, he’s in a much better spot than recent inductees Rolen and Helton after just one year on the ballot, plus Utley will have the benefit of potentially gaining votes in future years from anyone who maxed out their 10 selections while voting for any of this year’s three inductees (or Gary Sheffield in his final year of eligibility).

Plus, let’s not forget that Jones received only 7.3% of the votes in his debut year and Wagner earned just 10.5% in his first year of eligibility -- and they both are on the cusp of induction heading into next year.