Making Tracks on the Road to Cooperstown: Who’s Boosted Their Hall Odds in 2022?

Paul Goldschmidt Nolan Arenado
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Even for a player with six previous All-Star selections to his name, Paul Goldschmidt is having a career year. The 34-year-old first baseman finished the first half of the 2022 season leading the National League in all three slash-stat categories (.330/.414/.590) as well as wRC+ (184). He’s deservedly the starting first baseman for the NL squad in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, and he provides a great point of entry when it comes to the players who have helped their causes toward eventual enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This may not seem like an obvious time to check in on such players, but July is quite the logjam when it comes to the baseball calendar. In addition to the All-Star Game and its high-profile auxiliary events (the Futures Game and the Home Run Derby), we now have the amateur draft and the run-up to the trade deadline, even if the actual date of the latter has slipped to August 2 this year. Right in the middle of this is the Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend, which kicks off this Friday and culminates in Sunday’s ceremony. It’s a time that I get a lot of questions about active players vying for future elections, and in the interest of providing a one-stop shop, here we are.

Because I would like to keep this shorter than a novella, I’m not going to dwell upon the cases of Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, who have the major milestones that make them likely first-ballot choices, or Mike Trout, who’s already fifth in JAWS among center fielders and 14 points past the standard at the position, or Joey Votto, who’s 12th among first basemen, almost three points past the standard, and finally in the 2,000 hit club. Nor will I ruminate on the far-off possibilities or probabilities of bright young stars with seven or fewer seasons under their belts such as Ronald Acuña Jr., Alex Bregman, Rafael Devers, or Juan Soto. Additionally, I’ll skip breaking out the framing data to explain Yadier Molina’s case as he heads into the final half-season of his career.

I’m punting on pitching for this installment as well. I owe readers a couple more entries in the S-JAWS series I was working on during the lockout, and when I get back to that, I’ll look a bit more closely at Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Max Scherzer, all of whom have already cleared the standards. At some point I’ll also take a look at the trio of closers — Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Craig Kimbrel — who have each wandered into the weeds at a crucial time.

That still leaves plenty of players to discuss, even if they’re clustered in just five of the eight remaining field positions. For this exercise, I will be referencing Baseball Reference’s version of WAR for season and career totals, my JAWS metric, as well as the ZiPS rest-of-season projections created by Dan Szymborski, since one of the goals here is to give an idea of where these players will stand at the end of the season rather than crunching the numbers as if the season has ended.

First Base

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 55.5 42.3 48.9
2022: 4.8 | ROS: 2.0 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 57.5 44.3 50.9
HOF Standard 1B 65.5 42.1 53.8
ROS = Rest-of-Season ZiPS projected WAR.
All other figures use Baseball Reference WAR.

Goldschmidt entered the season just a whisker above the peak standard for first baseman, and thanks to his stellar first half, he’s now produced his seventh-best season by WAR, so any further progress will give him double traction in improving his JAWS — a situation that goes for several of the players here. Goldy has already risen from 25th to 23rd at the position in JAWS, and even the modest addition of his projected 2.0 WAR would nose him past Keith Hernandez (50.8 JAWS) for 20th, 0.1 behind Hall of Famers George Sisler and Hank Greenberg, all while pushing him to 15th in peak.

Goldschmidt is under contract for two more seasons with the Cardinals, which should give him time to reach 2,000 hits before he’s a free agent again (he has 1,684). After finishing second in the NL MVP voting in both 2013 and ’15, he has a real shot at taking home the award, though it’s worth noting that aside from Freddie Freeman and José Abreu in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, no full-time first baseman has won the award since Votto in 2010.

Freddie Freeman, 1B
Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 46.8 33.8 40.3
2022: 2.8 | ROS: 2.7 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 49.5 36.5 43.0
HOF Standard 1B 65.5 42.1 53.8

The 32-year-old Freeman’s season has been overshadowed by the very public drama surrounding his move from the Braves to the Dodgers. The saga hasn’t spilled over into his performance, however, as he’s hitting .321/.397/.530 for a 159 wRC+, second in the NL behind Goldschmidt.

Freeman is a couple lengths behind Goldschmidt in JAWS, but he does have an MVP award and a championship ring, both of which his St. Louis counterpart lacks. What’s more, he’s one of just two players who is at least halfway to 3,000 hits and has at least a 10% chance of reaching the milestone according to ZiPS; as of last September 23, Dan’s calculations put him at 28%, and he’s added another 125 in short order since then, which probably helps his odds a bit. Meanwhile, if he reaches his rest-of-season WAR projection, he’ll surpass his career high of 6.3 WAR, set in 2016. He’s currently 37th among first basemen in JAWS and has significant work to do over the next few years to give himself a shot at Cooperstown, but seasons like this can certainly help him make up ground.

Second Base

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 44.2 38.4 41.3
2022: 2.8 | ROS: 2.0 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 46.2 39.4 42.8
HOF Standard 2B 69.7 44.5 57.1

As of last September, Altuve had a 34% chance of reaching 3,000 hits, but with just 77 banked thus far via a .275 batting average and a 12-game trip to the injured list, that percentage has probably fallen by a few points. That said, the 32-year-old Astro is hitting for a still-robust .275/.368/.518 (155 wRC+) line and just made his eighth All-Star team. He’s just one win away from matching his seventh-best season in WAR (3.8), and with his rest-of-season projection, he would reach 24th in the second base rankings, just below Hall of Famer Nellie Fox (49.5/37.2/43.3). He’s got a long way to go to reach the standard, but with contemporaries Robinson Canó (seventh in JAWS but a two-time PED offender), Ian Kinsler, and Dustin Pedroia all waylaid en route to Cooperstown, his case will stand out, even amid the cloud of the Astros’ scandal.

Third Base

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 49.2 41.6 45.4
2022: 5.0 | ROS: 2.4 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 51.6 44.0 47.8
HOF Standard 3B 68.4 43.0 55.7

Arenado is another former NL West star whose transplant appears to have taken. In fact, the 31-year-old slugger leads the NL in both bWAR and fWAR (4.6) and is hitting .293/.359/.526 for a career-best 149 wRC+, putting to rest concerns that he would never be a star-level hitter outside Colorado. And as for defense, after turning in a career-low 6 DRS last year, he’s already at a major league-leading 15 this year and also tops in Statcast RAA (9). He’s got a very good shot at winning a 10th straight Gold Glove; that total would tie him with Mike Schmidt for second among third baseman, behind only Brooks Robinson (16). As for JAWS, he’s climbed from 29th to 23rd already this season and has added 1.4 WAR to his peak score. If he hits his rest-of-season projection, he will blow past the peak standard, up to 13th in that category’s rankings and 20th overall.

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 49.2 39.7 44.5
2022: 4.1 | ROS: 2.4 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 51.6 42.1 46.9
HOF Standard 3B 68.4 43.0 55.7

With Fernando Tatis Jr. sidelined and so many other veterans fizzling, Machado has carried the Padres on his back, and it’s not a coincidence that their offense sputtered while he was laid up by a left ankle sprain. He is currently hitting .303/.377/.513 for a 150 wRC+, which would match his career best, set in 2020. He’s fourth in the NL in bWAR and second in fWAR (4.5), a legitimate MVP candidate for a team that needs every bit of his contributions, including his leadership.

Thanks to his early start in the majors, Machado entered the season ranked fourth among third basemen through his age-28 season (45.2) behind only Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews, Ron Santo, and George Brett, and he’s just 1.2 WAR away from guaranteeing that he’ll maintain that ranking through his age-29 season (he turned 30 on July 6). Even with this year’s 4.1 WAR already representing one of his seven best seasons, he’s still got low-hanging fruit within that peak score, with seasons with WARs of 3.6 (2018) and 3.8 (’17) that he should be able to surpass in the next few years to boost his standing.

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 38.2 35.4 36.8
2022: 3.8 | ROS: 2.9 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 41.1 38.3 39.7
HOF Standard 3B 68.4 43.0 55.7

Ramírez is in the midst of another stellar season, batting .288/.368/.576 for a 161 wRC+; the Guardians’ 29-year-old star is fifth in the AL in slugging and wRC+, fourth in bWAR, and third in fWAR (4.3). He’s two months younger than Machado but almost eight points of JAWS behind him, albeit in about 1,500 fewer plate appearances. That said, he owns a 3–2 edge on Machado in seasons worth at least 6.5 WAR and looks to maintain that advantage via the pair’s rest-of-season projections, as well as a 3–1 edge over Machado in top-three finishes in MVP voting. With WARs of 2.5 (2020) and 3.1 (’19) among his best seven seasons, he’s got ample room to boost his peak score before he’s too far into his 30s. Stay tuned.

Before we leave the hot corner, I should probably note the fading chances of a pair of 36-year-olds, Evan Longoria and Josh Donaldson. Longoria has produced just 0.2 WAR, inching his line to 57.7/41.9/49.8 (18th in JAWS), but he’s played in just 46 games due to injuries and is considering retirement after this season. His JAWS, accompanied by 1,852 hits and 325 homers, probably won’t be enough to get him to Cooperstown. Donaldson has played 72 games and produced 2.0 WAR, lifting him to 46.4/41.7/44.1 (27th in JAWS); with another 1.3 WAR this year — exactly his rest-of-season projection — he would start adding to his peak score. However, Donaldson has just 1,237 hits, and so 2,000 appears to be a reach. More damagingly, there’s the late-May incident in which he called Tim Anderson “Jackie” in a manner that was widely perceived as racist. His explanation for his actions didn’t wash, he drew a one-game suspension from the league, and his former teammates notably backed away from offering public support. None of that will be forgotten when he reaches the ballot.

Shortstop

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 36.4 34.7 35.5
2022: 2.3 | ROS: 2.1 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 38.5 36.8 37.6
HOF Standard SS 67.7 43.2 55.4
Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 34.0 32.7 33.3
2022: 2.8 | ROS: 2.4 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 36.4 35.1 35.7
HOF Standard SS 67.7 43.2 55.4
Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 32.6 30.0 31.3
2022: 3.5 | ROS: 2.3 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 34.9 32.3 33.6
HOF Standard SS 67.7 43.2 55.4

Age isn’t everything when it comes to making progress towards Cooperstown, but it’s pretty important, and it’s worth keeping in mind as we track the progress of some of the game’s young shortstops who really aren’t so young anymore. Bogaerts, now 29 years old, is hitting .316/.389/.453 in his 10th major league season and ranks third in bWAR among shortstops behind Tommy Edman (4.5) and Dansby Swanson (3.8). He’s garnering considerable attention because he can opt out after this season, but in terms of JAWS, he still projects to remain about two points behind 28-year-old Lindor and four points behind 27-year-old Correa, each of whom is only in his eighth major league season.

All three have already surpassed the peak scores of Rabbit Maranville, the lowest-ranked Hall of Fame shortstop (43.9/30.5/37.2), not to mention scandal-ridden current candidate Omar Vizquel (45.6/26.8/36.2). Each member of the trio also has at least a couple seasons lower than 4.0 WAR in his own peak score, increasing the likelihood of gaining traction before reaching 30, but they’re all still a long ways off from where Arenado, Machado, and even Ramírez are. And for as great as 29-year-old Trea Turner looks this year (138 wRC+, 3.2 bWAR, 3.8 fWAR), he’s another beat or two behind these guys with a 28.0/27.7/27.9 line, with 28-year-old Corey Seager (3.0 bWAR this year, 24.3/23.7/24.0 career) even further away.

Right Field

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 52.9 47.7 50.3
2022: 2.9 | ROS: 2.8 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 55.7 49.8 52.8
HOF Standard RF 71.1 42.4 56.7

It’s been an up-and-down season for Betts, who has bookended a stretch where he was red hot — 16 homers with a .714 SLG in 183 PA from April 22 to June 4 — with two very frosty ones on either side, the second of which included a cracked rib. Overall, his batting line (.265/.340/.523) scans as unremarkable but is still good for a 143 wRC+, eighth in the NL, and he’s added above-average defense (4 DRS) as well.

It’s thanks in part to that glove that the 29-year-old Betts has already surpassed the peak standard for right fielders, and he’s just 0.8 WAR away from surpassing his seventh-best season and pushing that score (already ninth at the position) even higher. Already this year he’s surpassed the JAWS of Gary Sheffield (49.3, 24th at the position) and matched that of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. (21st). If he matches his rest-of-season projection, he will climb over Bobby Abreu, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Sammy Sosa, Reggie Smith, future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, and Dwight Evans (52.3) — all while still in his age-29 season. Throw in his MVP award, five Gold Gloves, and two championship rings, and this is a guy who will likely wind up on the Cooperstown dais someday.

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 30.7 30.7 30.7
2022: 4.4 | ROS: 3.0 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 33.7 33.7 33.7
HOF Standard RF 71.1 42.4 56.7

I said I wouldn’t dwell upon anybody with seven or fewer seasons, but Judge, who leads the AL in bWAR and the majors in fWAR (4.7), is worth making an exception for while he’s in the midst of a monster season. He’s already 30 years old, and between his late start (he was a 25-year-old rookie) and his difficulty staying on the field (he’s played more than 112 games in a season just twice), he’ll have to remain exceptionally productive for at least the next half-decade to reach Cooperstown. Still, we’re talking about a player who has averaged 7.0 WAR per 650 PA thus far and who has raised his ceiling considerably over the past three months.

When I wrote about Judge spurning the Yankees’ $230.5 million extension offer just before the season opened, Dan supplied me with an eight-year ZiPS projection that included 5.1 WAR this year and 16.6 for 2023–27. When he ran another set of projections for his June 1 piece, Judge had already banked 2.8 WAR in less than two months, projected to add another 3.0 WAR this year, and had raised his 2023–27 projection to 21.5 WAR. Just comparing those two trajectories though his age-35 season, his pre-season projection would have put him at 48.1/39.6/43.9 at that point, which would rank 29th ahead of nine Veterans and Era Committee honorees but 13.8 points shy of the JAWS standard. His June 1 projection would boost that line to 53.7/41.1/47.4, which would rank 26th, just below Enos Slaughter (57.8/37.4/47.6) but with a good chance to move into Sheffield/Guerrero territory if he remained at least modestly productive during the back half of his 30s. Given that he’s added two wins in the short time since that latter projection, he’s probably gained even more ground.

Long story short, a Hall of Fame berth for Judge isn’t out of the question, but he can’t afford to miss a quarter or a third of a season, or to suddenly turn into a 3–4 WAR per year player if he’s to get there.

Category Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Current 45.4 35.1 40.3
2022: 1.4 | ROS: 1.3 Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Projected End 2022 46.7 35.1 40.9
HOF Standard RF 71.1 42.4 56.7

Stanton has bashed 24 homers, some of them very clutch and/or spectacular, for the Yankees’ current juggernaut, pushing his career total to 371, but while DHing nearly 50% of the time, he’s not accruing much value. If the 32-year-old slugger meets the rest-of-season projection, he would overtake 2022 inductee Tony Oliva (43./38.6/40.8) for 34th. Stanton has seasons of 3.1 and 3.7 WAR within his peak score, but the more time he spends at DH, the slower the going will be; even to match Sheffield’s JAWS will require another 18 WAR, for a total of 63.4.

That said, if Stanton reaches 500 homers (he had a 26% chance via ZiPS last year), a plaque figures to be in play for the two-time home run champion and former MVP. Everybody who has reached 500 without being implicated as a PED user is in the Hall, and David Ortiz, who reportedly failed the 2003 survey test (which commissioner Rob Manfred later disavowed) is breaking new ground with this week’s induction. Ortiz (55.3 WAR), Harmon Killebrew (60.5), and Willie McCovey (64.5) own the lowest WARs of any honorees in the 500 Club, and the better outcomes for Stanton probably put him in that range.





Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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Left of Centerfield
2 months ago

Great stuff as always Jay! Seems like Bryce Harper deserves a mention as well. Even if he doesn’t come back this season (though he insists that he will), his 2.6 bWAR is his 7th best. So that has helped his 7-year peak WAR + his overall WAR. He’s basically neck and neck with Stanton among rightfielders and has a good chance of bypassing him soon.

Last edited 2 months ago by Left of Centerfield
tung_twista
2 months ago

Harper’s HoF odds are already high enough that his so-far-good performance doesn’t boost it that much especially with the additional injury risk.
A mediocre(?) wrc+ 130 as a healthy outfielder
might be preferrable for Harper’s future HoF odds
than a wrc+ 170 as a DH where he is missing games
even though the latter would be a better season.

TKDCmember
2 months ago
Reply to  tung_twista

As long as Harper finishes his contract as a mostly everyday player he should have good to amazing counting stats and already has two MVPs. I don’t even think a lot of time at DH will hurt him as he’s not that good in the field and it might help him avoid the IL, especially as he ages.

Left of Centerfield
2 months ago
Reply to  tung_twista

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that Harper deserved a full write-up, particularly since his injury makes it unclear how much he will play the rest of the season, But he has improved his chances based on what he did this season, so a sentence or two seems appropriate.

sadtrombonemember
2 months ago

People forget how young Harper is. He’s probably got another decade in him. It won’t be as good as his first decade but he’s got a lot of time.

Left of Centerfield
2 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

His contract has 9 more years after this one, so yeah, he’s going to keep playing for a while.

sadtrombonemember
2 months ago

If he plays the next four years at a 4 win level (on average), and then 5 years at about a 3 win level (on average) he’ll end with something like 75 fWAR. That’s not just ahead of Dwight Evans and Tony Gwynn, that’s ahead of Reggie Jackson. And it is really easy to imagine him doing that, or even better.

If you take active players who are definitely not Hall of Famers already, Bryce Harper might be the most likely player of them to get it.If you take active players who are definitely not Hall of Famers already, Bryce Harper might be the most likely player of them to get it. And on his Hall induction day people will still be asking if he lived up to expectations.