Arguing over who should make the Hall of Fame on this year’s ballot is fun. It is also so passe. Why spend so much time arguing about the past when we can spend even more time arguing about the present and future? How about instead of pontificating on the credentials of some over-the-hill has-beens, we take a look at which over-the-hill has-beens we’ll be bickering about via the computers implanted in our brains while we ride in our flying cars twenty years from now? Or, in layman’s terms, which current MLB players under the age of 30 are most likely to be in the Hall of Fame?
Ryan Braun …if he can put all this failed test nonsense behind him – Maybe the PED witch hunt will end by the time Braun is eligible to be voted in, but maybe it won’t be. Maybe the voters in 2029 will buy his medical excuse for his failed drug test, but maybe they won’t. Of course, if Braun keeps producing like he has been, his numbers could be so overwhelming that voters might not have a choice when it comes to forgiving this little trespass.
Miguel Cabrera …if he stays motivated – Cabrera is one of those hitting savants that seems like he can hit well over .300 with 30+ home run power for as many years as he feels like it. The only reason to doubt his eventual enshrinement is his struggles with off-field incidents and buffet lines. Even with those factors, Cabrera still seems to be getting better. The trick from here on out is keeping those distractions from cutting into his productivity before he can pass some of the important counting stat milestones (through age 28, Cabrera is already past the halfway point to 3,000 hits and 500 homers).
Carl Crawford …if 2011 was just a fluke – Up until he arrived in Boston, Crawford’s spot in Cooperstown probably would’ve been a lock, but his miserable 2011 season has put that in doubt. If he can rebound and churn out a few more years like he had in Tampa, he should be back on track. In an era where voters will hopefully be more savvy about advanced defensive metrics, his statistically stellar defense in left and what should be a top 25 all-time stolen base total should be more than enough to earn him a plaque.
Prince Fielder …if he ages well – Prince Fielder gets mocked a bit for his weight, but it might actually be his best asset in the eyes of HoF voters. That big belly of his is a big jiggly exemption from the PED suspicion that plagues all sluggers of his prolific nature. The only problem is that the general consensus is that big guys don’t age well which means Prince is the player most likely to have his production fall off a cliff. But if the similarly-built CC Sabathia can keep mowing batters down like he has at age 31, there is plenty of hope that Prince can keep smashing homers well into his thirties.
Felix Hernandez …if voters finally realize pitchers can’t control wins – Having entered the league at age 19, King Felix has an opportunity to have a much longer career than most, which means he should be able to rack up more counting stats than most of his peers. The one stat that he might have trouble with though is wins, especially if he is going to remain stuck on a lousy Seattle team that will damn him to an eternity of .500 win-loss records. The voters already overlooked his mediocre win totals once to give him a Cy Young award, one would think voters will be even smarter in twenty years and do the same to give him entry to the Hall of Fame.
Tim Lincecum …if he stays healthy – He already has two Cy Young awards, truckloads of strikeouts and was the winning pitcher in the Giants World Series-clinching win. He is showing little sign of slowing down anytime soon, so all he really needs is his slight frame to hold up for another few years and he’s a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame.
Evan Longoria …if he doesn’t get hit by a bus – While Longo has yet to do anything truly great on the field, this one feels inevitable. He hasn’t even reached his prime yet and he is a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove winner. Just because he hasn’t grabbed an MVP or led the league in anything other than ridiculous trade proposals from fans on the internet doesn’t mean that he won’t be able to have a long career of compiling strong stats and playing top-notch defense which should be more than enough to carry him to Cooperstown.
Joe Mauer …if he doesn’t devote his life to evil – He’s a three-time batting champion, a former AL MVP and to top it all off, he’s doing that as a multiple Gold Glove catcher. He’d probably have to be caught on camera drowning a bag of puppies while guzzling a bottle of HGH for the BBWAA to not vote him in, and even then.
Francisco Rodriguez …if he can pile up a few more 30-save seasons – I’m not sure what is more amazing, that K-Rod is still under 30 (he turns 30 on January 7th, so he just barely makes this list) or that he has a good shot at Cooperstown. It has been getting easier and easier for closers to get into the Hall in recent years and that may be to K-Rod’s benefit because if there is one thing Hall of Fame voters love, it is records and Francisco currently owns the single-season save record at 62. If that holds up by the time he is eligible for voting and he can move back into a closer gig for a few more seasons, he should also be top five all-time in saves when it is all said and done. Say what you want about the save stat, but K-Rod has HoF credentials, including three top four finishes in AL Cy Young voting. Yeah, I know, I don’t like it either.
Troy Tulowitzki …if the voters believe in the power of the humidor – The Coors Field effect will be a factor, but the humidor might prove to be Tulo’s savior since it will hopefully mitigate all the claims that he just compiled big numbers in high altitude. As long as not too many voters overrate the park factor, Tulo still possesses the combination of power and slick defense that should keep voters impressed two decades from now.
Justin Verlander …if his arm doesn’t fall off – Verlander has had his ups and downs in his young(ish) career, but with his recent Cy Young-MVP tandem award win is such a rare thing that it will keep his profile inflated for decades to come. It also helps that he throws 100 miles per hour, which should serve him well towards amassing several more 200+ strikeout seasons to buoy his candidacy even further.
Honorable Mention (aka the list of players I am going to include to keep the commenters from calling for my head): Dustin Pedroia, Joey Votto, Jose Reyes