We’re just a few hours away from finding out which greats have earned induction into baseball’s most exclusive fraternity as part of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2024. (Adrian Beltre is almost certain to reach the 75% threshold, with Joe Mauer, Todd Helton and Billy Wagner also holding out hope.) Which means we’re also just a few hours away from getting a head start on dissecting the ballot for 2025 — and much like this year, it’s quite a star-studded group of first-time additions.
Who’s set to see their name on the ballot next winter? Who has a shot to get in, and who might fall short? Much like this year’s ballot, which features a no-doubt inductee (Beltré), the 2025 slate has one easy choice and then some interesting candidates who will generate much of the discussion and even some of the same arguments. Let’s break it all down.
The question isn’t whether Ichiro will get in on his first ballot; the question is whether he can make a serious run at becoming the second player to earn unanimous induction into the Hall after Mariano Rivera did so back in 2019. Ichiro is one of the defining players of his generation, with an MVP, Rookie of the Year and 10 consecutive All-Star nods to his name — thanks to one of the most iconic swings in baseball history. And all of that isn’t even factoring in his stardom in Japan, and his status as one of the game’s first truly global superstars. This is as open and shut a case as you’ll see.
The Maybes: Second base
Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler
After that, however, the debate begins in earnest. There are four other first-timers with a credible case for induction into the Hall, and they can be split into two groups: starting pitchers (CC Sabathia and Felix Hernández) and second basemen (Pedroia and Kinsler).
The latter two can look at the candidacy of Chase Utley as a sort of bellwether. The former Phillies second baseman is in his first year on the ballot in 2024, and Ryan Thibodaux’s public ballot tracker currently has him trending toward just under 40% of the vote — well under the 75% threshold, but high enough that there’s a path to induction over his 10 years of eligibility. Utley’s career WAR total of 56.9 is higher than both Pedroia (46.5) and Kinsler (46.1), and his combination of offensive and defensive prowess makes him the best player of the three.
Pedroia, however, was among the most beloved players in the game — certainly both in the media and in New England — during his 14-year career with the Red Sox, and his reputation as a winner and leader could help earn him a spot on people’s ballots. Injuries, particularly knee issues, limited him to just 28 games after his 34th birthday, but in his prime he was among the very best at his position — with a Rookie of the Year, MVP, four All-Star nods and four Gold Gloves to go along with World Series rings in 2007 and 2013. It’s possible that his impressive peak and intangibles give him some momentum.
At first glance, Kinsler doesn’t have the same case as Utley or Pedroia, but it’s better than you might think. He has the same number of rings as Utley (one, with the Red Sox in 2018, albeit as a role player), the same number of All-Star appearances as Pedroia (four) and a pair of Gold Gloves. He had more hits than either, falling just a single hit short of 2,000. His career slash line is .269/.337/.440 with an OPS+ of 107. He has just two fewer home runs (257) than Utley and is best both in steals (243, 89 more than Utley, and 105 more than Pedroia.) It’s hard to argue Pedroia is a Hall of Famer without checking a box for Kinsler, as well — like Pedroia, he was a positive with the glove while consistently above-average with the bat, and he had some years in which he was among the best second basemen in the league.
The Maybes: Starting pitcher
CC Sabathia, Félix Hernández
Sabathia’s case will rightfully be compared to Andy Pettitte and Mark Buehrle, neither of whom has been elected yet — and neither of whom has come particularly close. But the lefty was more than a solid workhorse; over his seven-year peak from 2006 through 2012, he was arguably the best pitcher in the sport, his 140 ERA+ tied with recent inductee Roy Halladay for the best mark of any starter in that span. He also compiled several other solid seasons with both Cleveland and the Yankees, and his legendary postseason run in 2009 — not to mention his heroics with the Brewers after the 2008 trade deadline — shore up his big-game bona fides. He’s a member of the exclusive 3,000-strikeout club — of which only Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling remain out of the Hall — and his context-adjusted ERA+ of 117 is tied for the 35th-best among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings and better than 22 other Hall of Fame starters.
Hernández, on the other hand, is a trickier case — he last pitched in a regular-season game at age 33, and his years spent on a miserable Mariners team has artificially lowered some of his traditional counting stats. (Namely wins: Hernández has just 169, and the last pitcher with fewer than 200 to be elected to the Hall as a starter was Sandy Koufax.) Still, at his best, Hernández was as good as anyone in the game, bursting onto the scene in spectacular fashion as a 19-year-old rookie in 2005 and finishing in the top four of AL Cy Young voting four separate times between 2009 and 2014 (winning in 2010 despite a win-loss record of 13-12). He’s very much a peak candidate, but in an era with changing views on the Hall — particularly regarding starters — that peak could be enough.
Fighting for five
Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Zobrist, Curtis Granderson, Hanley Ramírez, Russell Martin
Per Hall rules, players must receive at least 5 percent of the vote from the BBWAA to be included on the next year’s ballot. It’s not impossible to find your way to Cooperstown after dropping off the ballot — Ted Simmons failed to reach 5 percent in 1994 but was elected via the Veterans Committee in 2020 — but it is difficult.
The 5 percent rule, coupled with the rule that allows voters to check just 10 names per ballot, has hastened some players’ exits, with Kenny Lofton, Carlos Delgado and Jim Edmonds among those unfairly harmed by having to contend with a ballot of backlogged candidates from the steroid era. That’s not to say anyone in this group — Tulowitzki, Zobrist, Granderson, Ramírez or Martin — has the credentials of Lofton and the gang, but they do have interesting cases. All five have career WARs of at least 38, and all of them were among the best at their positions at their very peak — even if that peak was frustratingly short-lived. These were genuinely great players, and they deserve to have their contributions considered with more than a passing glance.
Let’s remember some guys
On the other hand, there are always players who have no shot at making the Hall — but earned their spot on the ballot anyway with at least a decade of big-league service, a remarkable achievement in its own right.
This year’s list of potential nominees includes Adam Jones, Brian McCann, Martín Prado, Carlos González, Melky Cabrera, Clay Buchholz, Francisco Liriano, Ian Desmond, Jason Vargas, Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Fernando Rodney and Mark Reynolds.