On Monday we looked at the HoME chances for pitchers and catchers. Today we’re going to look at everyone else. In short, even though there are some amazing young players in the game today, there are also a bunch of guys who are well into HoME-worthy careers.
Miguel Cabrera: Miggy is already a HoMEr. He started the season between Greenberg and Murray in 20th place at the position. He’s 33 now and slowing down some. On the other hand, he’s signed until 2023, so he’s going to be around for a while. Let’s give him 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1 and see where that moves him. Somewhat surprisingly, it would rank him just ahead of the version of Joe Mauer described on Monday. If we look at a run out that’s a little more hopeful – 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1 – we have only a slightly different story. With those final eight seasons, Cabrera would pass Pete Rose for 10th place, just behind Jeff Bagwell. A couple of lessons to be learned here are (1) it’s hard to compare part-career catchers to anyone and (2) Jeff Bagwell was awesome.
Joey Votto: He’s 32, still a star, and signed for this year and seven more. Maybe as he ages his bat speed will slow, and pitchers will stop nibbling at the corners. If he gets more strikes, he’ll walk less frequently and see his value drop as a result. Still, let’s give him 5, 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 1, and 1. If that’s how he closes out his career, we’re looking at a move from #39, behind Ed Konetchy to #18, between Willie McCovey and Hank Greenberg.
Adrian Gonzalez: At 34, it’s hard to project a lot of greatness moving forward, but the lefty swinger has been such a consistently strong performer, only once in the last decade posting an OPS+ below 125. And the 1B at #45 has been in the 4-WAR neighborhood for four straight years. The Dodgers have him until 2018. Let’s give him 4, 4, 2.5, 2, 1.5, and 1 until he’s 39. That wouldn’t be crazy. And it wouldn’t be enough. Not quite. He’d trail Will Clark and John Olerud just by a hair.
Robinson Cano: I think of Cano a little like Adrian Beltre in that his Seattle days aren’t the best of his career, but they’re still pretty darn good (we won’t bet vintage Cano this year, right?). Cano opened the season 14th on my list, ahead of Ross Barnes and just behind Craig Biggio. Well, he’s already ahead of Biggio now, and he can really do some damage in the next few seasons. Like Cabrera, he’s 33 and signed through 2023. It’s not hard to imagine he plays out his contract and then retires. A hopeful Cano fan might give him six wins this year. Let’s move from there, something like 6, 4.5, 3.5, 3, 2, 2, 1, 1. If he finished his career like that, he’d pass Craig Biggio, Joe Gordon, Roberto Alomar, Ryne Sandberg, Lou Whitaker, Jackie Robinson, Bobby Grich, and Frankie Frisch to retire as the sixth best second baseman in history.
Ian Kinsler: While Cano is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and clear HoMErs already, Kinsler is outside the HoME now and doesn’t yet seem to anyone like he belongs in the Hall. But maybe he can get there. He’s 34, but he’s off to a wonderful start this season at the plate. More importantly, it seems like he can still play passable defense. He has just this year and next guaranteed on his contract, but in 2018 there’s a team option at $12 million. I expect he’ll be worth that much, and the Tigers will pick it up. Guys at second base can age quickly, and Kinsler doesn’t seem like the type who will get lots of late-career DH at-bats, so let’s give him just four more seasons. How about 4.5, 3.5, 2, and 1? Those four seasons would move him from #27 to #20, probably just over the borderline. He’s leapfrog Johnny Evers, Fred Dunlap, Bobby Doerr, Jeff Kent, Chase Utley (who might actually have something left), Hardy Richardson, and Tony Phillips.
Chase Utley: If we give him two seasons of 2 and 1 WAR, he’d actually stay ahead of Kinsler. And he’d also pass Billy Herman by the slimmest of margins. When the time comes, Utley is going to be an incredibly interesting call. I suspect we’ll be hearing about the slide for many, many years.
Dustin Pedroia: He looks healthier so far than he’s been in a couple of years, so “Laser Show” fans have a prayer. But it’s going to take a lot, mainly a lot of health that previously injured 32-year-old middle infielders seldom have. Let’s say the guy at #36 gets lucky, at least a little. We’ll give him 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. That wouldn’t do it, but with a 5-win season on top of those, Pedroia would pass HoMEr Jeff Kent. It’s possible.
Adrian Beltre: The Ranger third sacker was hurting last year, which explains the drop off. He was also 36, so maybe that helps explain it too. But he’s healthy this year and playing decently, well enough that the Rangers extended him through 2018. Let’s say that’s all he has in him. He’s not the defender he once was, and since he’s not getting any younger, conservative projections are wise. If we give him 4, 2.5, 1, the guy who entered 2016 ranked 13th at the position would get past Ken Boyer, Buddy Bell, Brooks Robinson, Paul Molitor, and Chipper Jones into 8th place. Changing things to 4.5, 3. 1.5 would put him ahead of Deacon White and Home Run Baker too. Sixth best ever? Wow!
David Wright: I moved to New Jersey in 2004, less than two months after Wright debuted with the Mets. Even if he doesn’t get the love he should, he’s been a great, great Met. Unless you’re an incredible Doc Gooden or Jerry Koosman fan, he has to rank second all-time behind Tom Seaver. At third base he’s currently #25, needing only to pass three or four guys to make his HoME case. While he’s just 33, it feels like an old 33. Still, he’s signed for this year and four more. Let’s give him a little health and four more years at 2.5, 2, 1.5, 1, and 1. That could do it. He’d pass Ron Cey, John McGraw, Heinie Groh, and HoMEr Sal Bando. He’d even pass Bando with a little less. I’m really rooting for him to get there.
Evan Longoria: There’s always something about Longoria that feels like he’s been a disappointment, at least to me. On the other hand, he’s just 30, and coming into the season I had him ranked #32 in history at the hot corner. Let’s say he plays nine more years with WAR totals of 4, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, and 1. That “disappointment” would rank between Scott Rolen and Darrell Evans, and he’d have a place in the HoME. Of course, I’m being pretty hopeful giving him a trio of 4-win seasons. That’s exactly how you get disappointed, by keeping expectations a little unrealistically high.
Troy Tulowitzki: A-Rod isn’t catching Honus Wagner. Derek Jeter is retired. That means Tulo is the most interesting SS candidate until the current crop of great young stars gets about a decade under their belts. In some ways Tulowitzki isn’t close; he’s just 40th all-time. On the other, a season of 5.3 WAR would jump him to #29, so he’s a serious candidate. On the third hand, I don’t think he has a 5.3 left in him since he’s 31, plays a difficult position, and hasn’t exactly been the picture of health throughout his career. Like a lot of guys on this list, he’s signed for a while – until 2020. Let’s give him a fairly pessimistic 3.5, 3, 2, 1, and 1 the rest of the way. If he finishes like that, he not only catches #29, Rabbit Maranville. He also gets past Jim Fregosi, George Wright, and Vern Stephens. But that’s it. Those five years would only get him to 26th in history, almost certainly outside of the HoME. So what does he need? If we go 4, 3, 2, 2, 1, that helps a little. He passes Roger Peckinpaugh for #25. He needs to do more to punch his ticket though. Let’s give him another season and another decent one, say 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1. Even that’s not enough. What if he has one more all-star level season in him – 5, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1. Not enough. Two more such seasons might look like 5, 5, 3, 2, 2, 1. Now he’s past Bert Campaneris into 24th, but he still trails HoMEr Dave Bancroft and non-HoMEr Hughie Jennings. Right now there appears no reasonable path to the HoME for an active shortstop other than A-Rod with more than a few years of experience. Bad health stinks!
Ryan Braun: Left field may be weaker than shortstop. Or maybe not. Braun is 32 and signed until 2020. He’s seen his career take a real dive since his PED troubles. He’s hitting better this year than any since 2012, so maybe he’s not done. However, it’s going to take a lot for the positions 38th ranked player to get to a position where there’s a real conversation. Let’s give him seven more seasons at 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1. I don’t really think he can do that, but it would get him into the conversation, possibly over the line. He’d move to #20, past HoMErs Roy White and Jose Cruz, as well as non-HoMEr Joe Kelly. Still, I wouldn’t bet on him.
Carlos Beltran: He’s in already, ahead of five HoMErs in center. But there are three guys from his era, Ken Griffey, Jim Edmonds, and Andruw Jones who are ahead of him. He’s 39, and this may be his final season. In the last two years combined, he’s put up just 0.33 WAR by my numbers. These days he’s a negative defensively, but DH in New York is occupied, so I don’t expect he’ll add much the rest of the way. He’d need a 2 WAR year to get past Andruw Jones. That’s not happening.
Mike Trout: I saw something recently about him already being ahead of something like fourteen Hall of Famers in career WAR. Well, it’s already eighteen Hall hitters by MAPES. I don’t much care whether he, Bryce Harper, or someone else is the game’s best player; it’s clear to everyone that Trout is in the conversation’s first or second sentence. Trout is just 24, he’s never had a WAR below 8.07 with my adjustments, and he’s off to another fine start. Let’s give him thirteen more seasons at 8, 8, 7, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1. He’d finish comfortably behind Mickey Mantle and comfortably ahead of Joe DiMaggio as the fifth best to ever play the position. Even if we gave him two more All-Star level seasons, he’d still be behind Mantle. Mick was pretty good. To pass Mantle, he’ll probably need to be in the 9+ range a time or two more.
Andrew McCutchen: He’s not Mike Trout, he plays in Pittsburgh. Those are the only two excuses I can come up with for McCutchen not being a bigger star. McCutchen is a stud who has the chance to do some really nice things historically. He’s already the equal of Dom DiMaggio, and he’s just 29. If he plays through age 38 and only maintains his current level for a couple of years, he’s getting into the Hall. If McCutchen goes 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, and 1 he winds up ahead of Duke Snider and Kenny Lofton as the thirteenth best center fielder ever. I think he can do better.
Ichiro Suzuki: Over the last five years, Ichiro has totaled 1.89 WAR with my adjustments. He should be done. The good news for him is that he’s over the line, ahead of HoMErs Dave Winfield, Bobby Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Reggie Smith. A season of -5 WAR would drop him behind those guys. That’s obviously not going to happen, and he’s going to retire at season’s end, I hope.
Jose Bautista: I can’t believe I’m writing this guy’s name seriously. He wasn’t even good until he was 29. But at age 36, he’s going strong again this year. Let’s say he goes 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 over the next five campaigns. That would get him into a virtual tie with Vlad Guerrero for 27th ever. If he goes 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 1.5, 1 he’d have an outstanding case, getting past Vlad, Smith, Sam Rice, and Sosa. I absolutely believe it’s possible for the guy I like to call JBoww! to get there.