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Which active MLB players will make the Hall of Fame? Breaking down the locks and the long shots

Let’s see who’s on track and who has some serious work to do.

We’re about 24 hours away from discovering which players have earned induction as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2024. We’ve broken down the ballot six ways to Sunday, and made the case for the eight players we think are deserving of a spot in Cooperstown this year.

But all this talk about past baseball greats got us thinking: Which active MLB stars are most likely to reach the Hall themselves one day? On average, there are anywhere from 35 to 40 future Hall of Famers playing in any given season — just who those 35 to 40 players are, however, is another matter. So as the Hall gets set to welcome a new batch of legends, we decided to break down who might be joining them in a few years’ time.

Of course, this list is very much subject to change; if you’d conducted the same experiment just a couple of years ago, names like Kris Bryant and Trevor Story would’ve at least garnered some pretty serious consideration. Making it to Cooperstown is a marathon, not a sprint, but here’s our best guess anyway.

Which active MLB players will make the Hall of Fame?

Tier 1: They’re in

Mike Trout (85.2 WAR)
Justin Verlander (80.9)
Clayton Kershaw (79.9)
Max Scherzer (75)
Zack Greinke (77.5)
Joey Votto (64.4)
Paul Goldschmidt (61.7)

If you wanted to quibble, you could probably divide this into sub-tiers: The first four names on this list, with nine Cy Young Awards and five MVPs among them, could have retired years ago and sailed into Cooperstown. But we’re also confident that, if Greinke, Votto and Goldschmidt ended their careers tomorrow, they too would have an easy claim to a Hall of Fame resume. Greinke only has one Cy to his name, but he finished in the top 10 four other times, and his combination of peak and longevity make him a slam dunk. Votto is one of only 17 players in the integrated era to have a career .400 on-base and a .500 slugging — the rest of that list is comprised exclusively of Hall of Famers — while Goldschmidt’s 2022 MVP campaign was enough to push him over the line.

Tier 2: On the right path

Mookie Betts (64.5)
Bryce Harper (46.2)
Gerrit Cole (41.2)
Jose Altuve (49.3)
Freddie Freeman (55.7)
Nolan Arenado (54.4)
Manny Machado (54.9)
Kenley Jansen (20.5)

Betts is the closest to butting into the top tier, but we’ll leave him here for now; he’s peak is already Hall-worthy, but he could stand to do a little stat compiling in his 30s. Similarly, Harper has the star power and the two MVPs to his name, and he’s still just 31, but he needs some more good seasons to get his WAR more in line with other right fielders in Cooperstown.

Two years younger than Goldschmidt, Freeman is putting together a very similar case, and while his career might look a little lacking if it ended tomorrow, he’s surely on a Cooperstown pace. Machado and Arenado match excellent bats with all-time great defense, but they’ve been maddeningly inconsistent in recent years, pairing vintage 2022 seasons with a disappointing 2023. The defensive value still leaves them in good shape, and they’re still young enough to have some prime years left, but they need at least a couple more down-ballot MVP years to shore up their cases.

Cole finally got his first Cy Young Award, and he’s likely to go down as the greatest pitcher of his generation (assuming he’s considered part of the generation after Kershaw, Verlander and Scherzer, which seems fair). He needs to put a few hundred more innings up there, even in this age of lower starter workloads, but he’s still going strong at age 33.

Without the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scandal hanging as a potential dark cloud over his candidacy, Altuve would likely be higher, rightly regarded as among the best post-war second basemen ever. If Billy Wagner winds up in the Hall one day, that bodes very well for Jansen, who’s set to pass him on the saves list this year and has him beat in K rate and WHIP over a similar workload.

Tier 3: Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani (34.7)

How do you evaluate Ohtani in an exercise like this? On the one hand, he’s already reached unprecedented heights, a player that the game has literally never seen before. On the other, he’s only been a big leaguer for six years, many of them marred by injury. Ohtani’s career bar should probably be a little lower; if he plays long enough and well enough to get onto a Hall of Fame ballot, voters would (justifiably) give him an extra boost just for doing things that no one else has. Not, of course, that he’ll necessarily require the help, given the level at which he’s playing right now.

Tier 4: Work left to do

Aaron Judge (41.5)
Jose Ramirez (45.6)
Jacob deGrom (44.8)
Chris Sale (47.2)
Aaron Nola (31.7)
Francisco Lindor (42.7)
Trea Turner (33)
Xander Bogaerts (39.6)
Carlos Correa (40.9)
Corey Seager (32)
Pete Alonso (17.3)
Alex Bregman (35.4)
Giancarlo Stanton (44)
Corbin Burnes (13.5)
Craig Kimbrel (23.5)

You could also place Judge by himself: His 62-homer campaign in 2022 was objectively one of the greatest seasons in the history of baseball, and his 2017 (8.7 WAR, setting the rookie homer record with 52) was historic in its own right. You don’t have seasons like that and not make a list like this. And yet: Injuries and a relatively late start to his career leave Judge well behind when it comes to WAR for a player who’s already on the wrong side of 30. Fair or no, he has some catching up to do.

Sale was in the “best pitcher in the game” conversation from 2012-’18, finishing in the top six of Cy Young voting each of those years and nabbing a ring with Boston to boot. He’s also got modern history’s best strikeout/walk ratio among starters with at least 1,000 innings (just ahead of deGrom). But given all the time he’s missed over the last four years, he needs to put up a full, competent season to get back on track.

The calculus is different for deGrom, who at age 35 has very little chance of compiling a compelling career innings total. He’s going to have to be a peak candidate, but considering his Rookie of the Year Award, two Cy Youngs and a case to be considered the most dominant per-batter pitcher in the history of the sport, the righty might be able to pull it off. But if he has one more great season and wins a third Cy? It’s a guaranteed entry, so long as you’re not Roger Clemens.

(If you’re quibbling with Stanton’s inclusion here, please remember that he has an outside shot at 500 homers.)

Tier 5: Legends in the making

Juan Soto
Ronald Acuna Jr.
Rafael Devers
Yordan Alvarez
Julio Rodriguez
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Adley Rutschman
Austin Riley
Spencer Strider
Bo Bichette
Fernando Tatis Jr.
Bobby Witt Jr.
Corbin Carroll
Gunnar Henderson

Part of the reason this exercise is so exciting is the unknown, the thrill of waiting to see what these guys might have in store for us as their careers begin to unfold. Devers is the oldest of this group, and he only just turned 27 in October. There have been ups and downs here — Acuña’s knee injury, some inconsistency from Guerrero, Tatis Jr.’s suspension — but these are the leaders of the group that has been so good, so young that it would almost be a surprise if they didn’t have incredible careers. Witt Jr., Carroll and Henderson broke out as dynamic two-way stars in 2023, while guys like Rodriguez and Strider built on their already promising starts.