The Baseball Hall of Fame has one of the highest standard requirements of participants. You could be an incredibly skilled and relatively accomplished player, yet still miss the honor.
That’s what makes getting into the Hall of Fame a special accomplishment. For better or worse, you’re expected to have excelled on the field as much as you did off the field. Two of the all-time record holders in most baseball fan’s favorite counting stats (hits and homers) are likely to never take their rightful place in the Hall of Fame due to controversy and actions off the field.
During any given season, you can probably count on your hand how many current active players have earned the right to be recognized as Hall of Fame locks. There are many that may seem to be on their way, but can easily lose their way due to controversy, injury and/or eventual decline.
We are going to look at the seven players who should be considered Hall of Fame locks, barring any major controversies and/or cheating scandals surfacing in the coming seasons.
7. Justin Verlander (P, Houston Astros)
As mentioned in regards to scandals, we begin the list with Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. When it comes to his Hall of Fame case, he won’t receive many brownie points for having a championship. He won his only ring during the 2017 season, as part of the league-wide disgraced Astros. Even if you knock off Verlander’s ring and numbers from the 2017 season, he is still a relatively easy lock for the Hall of Fame.
Verlander has had two separate primes it seems like. He was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the early part of the 2010’s decade, highlighted by his historic 2011 season. He captured both the Cy Young and MVP award after tuning up a Triple Crown. Verlander continued his success, but seemed to have found the hill towards the end of his dominance.
From 2013-15, Verlander pitched at a high, yet more human-like level. Over that span, he posted a 33-32 record to go with a 3.84 ERA. Since then, Verlander has yet to finish with less than double-digit wins. He has gone 68-32 record to go with a 2.88 ERA, while capturing another Cy Young in 2019 and posting a career-high 300 strikeouts.
Verlander will look to add to his case, but he could retire today and be considered a lock for the Hall of Fame. He would close with an 225-129 record to go with a 3.33 ERA and 3,006 strikeouts (18th all-time). He also holds a 72.1 WAR; enough for 30th all-time.
6. Zack Greinke (P, Houston Astros)
Zack Greinke may have never enamored himself with any specific fanbase, since he has changed teams quite a bit, but he’s given elite seasons to each team he has been with. For the majority of his career, he has been a top-tier talent.
Greinke, 36, has yet to show any signs of slowing down. He could retire today and be considered a future Hall of Fame player, but he will look to add to his case over the next few seasons.
Greinke currently boasts a 205-123 record to go with 3.35 ERA. He is also 41st all-time among pitchers with a 65.9 WAR and has 2,622 strikeouts; enough for 26th all-time. He also holds six Gold Gloves at his position, with all them being consecutive from 2014 through the 2019 campaign.
5. Mike Trout (OF, Los Angeles Angels)
It’s pretty rare for an athlete in any sport to be considered a Hall of Fame lock by the age of 28, but Mike Trout is one of the few. He has played in just eight seasons, but already boasts a WAR of 72.8; which places him 86th all-time and 56th among position players.
It would take an extreme drop-off in Trout’s career for him to take himself out of the conversation. Even if he plays slightly below his average production, he’s still on track to be in the Hall of Fame. He already has three MVPs, seven Silver Sluggers, eight All-Star nominations, two Hank Aaron Awards and was the Rookie of the Year.
The only thing that can be held against Trout is his lack of postseason experience, which is hardly his own fault. Still, there is still plenty of time to check that off of his list as well.
4. Max Scherzer (P, Washington Nationals)
If Max Scherzer had pitched in many other eras in baseball’s history, he would be considered the best of his generation. Scherzer, 35, has already built up a Hall of Fame resume.
He has posted an 170-89 record to date to go along with a 3.20 ERA and 2,692 strikeouts; enough for 24th all-time. During his dominant career, Scherzer has the led the league in wins four times and led the league in strikeouts three consecutive seasons from 2016-19.
Scherzer has pitched to the tune of two no hitters, three CY Young awards, and was able to collect a World Series ring last season. He could retire tomorrow and be considered a first ballot Hall of Fame talent, but he will look to further cement his legacy when baseball resumes.
3. Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit Tigers)
The Detroit Tigers have proven to have an eye for Hall of Fame talent to date. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander were both Tigers for much of their career, but Miguel Cabrera still remains. Cabrera is one of the best hitters of our generation, and will likely be among the best in MLB history.
Unlike our previous mentions, there is little doubt that there is much left in the tank for Cabrera, but there is no changing the fact that he’s already a future first ballot Hall of Fame player. He won’t find himself at the top of many statistical categories, but he remains in the conversation.
Cabrera has tallied 2,815 hits, 477 homers, 1,694 RBIs to go with a career .315 batting average. Cabrera won back-to-back MVP awards in 2012 and 2013, while also winning the American League batting title in both seasons. He also became the 38th MLB player in history to win the Triple Crown award.
Unfortunately, despite the great dominance at the plate, Cabrera began to regress at the age of 33 due to injures beginning in 2017. However, he would not be the first player to have a late career resurgence. If that happens, Cabrera could begin to flirt with being just the seventh player in history to hit 500 home runs and 3,000 hits in their career.
2. Clayton Kershaw (P, Los Angeles Dodgers)
There have been many all-time great future Hall of Fame pitchers in the past 20 seasons. However, Clayton Kershaw is evidence that there are truly levels to greatness.
Kershaw has played in 11 seasons and is still just 31-years old. He has already posted a career 162-91 record to go with a 2.47 ERA and 2,464 strikeouts. During that time, he’s had the lowest ERA on five occasions, the most wins on three occasions, and is a three-time Cy Young winner.
The only thing holding Kershaw from being undoubtedly a top five pitcher of all-time involves his postseason struggles. Despite this, he will remain in the conversation after his career comes to an end.
1. Albert Pujols (1B, Los Angeles Angels)
It feels silly to explain the Hall of Fame case of Albert Pujols, because there is truly no need. Nearly any baseball fan should know that Pujols is a Hall of Fame talent.
Pujols is just the fourth player in MLB history to hit at least 600 home runs and 3,000 hits. His totals include 2,075 RBIs and a .300 career batting average. Pujols was also one of the better defensive first baseman in the earlier parts of his career and owns a career 100.8 WAR; enough for 30th all-time. He is a two-time World Series Champion, three-time MVP, 10-time All-Star, six-time Silver Slugger, and two-time Hank Aaron winner.
After spending 10 elite seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols cashed in with the Los Angeles Angels on a 10-year, $240 million deal in 2012. The only aspect to hold against Pujols is the fact that he isn’t the most skilled offensive talent of all-time, but he’s been dependable throughout his career.