Baseball Hall of Fame 2020: Derek Jeter tops list of ballot newcomers

The BBWAA has elected at least one player in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility every year since 2014. The names are instant Cooperstown royalty: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and — just announced — Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay.

I’ll go ahead and end the suspense. The streak will live another year, because the Hall of Fame class of 2020 will be headlined by Derek Jeter. 

You probably knew that already. But what other former stars will be on the ballot, and does anyone else stand a chance of being elected? Let’s take a look at the newbies. 

Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2020 ballot newcomers

Derek Jeter

Everyone has an opinion about Jeter. Some Yankees fans whisper his name in the same breath as franchise legends Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. Some outside the Bronx think his legacy is mostly overrated. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that truth shows he’s undeniably a Hall of Famer. His career bWAR and JAWS numbers are solidly above that of the average Hall of Fame shortstop. He was the leader of five World Series-winning teams, and he hit .321 in 38 career Fall Classic games. The only real question is this: Will Jeter be a unanimous selection?

Bobby Abreu

Abreu had a better career than you probably remember. He never had one signature, MVP-type season, but he was a pillar of excellence for more than a decade; from 1998 to 2009, Abreu posted a .301/.406/.497 slash line, with averages of 21 homers, 97 RBIs, 28 stolen bases and a 133 OPS+, and he posted a bWAR of 5.2 or higher for seven consecutive years. Among right fielders, he falls short of the “average” Hall of Famers bWAR/JAWS numbers, but ahead of inductees Vladimir Guerrero, Enos Slaughter and Harold Baines (way ahead of Baines). He probably deserves at least a second year on the ballot, though it’s not likely to happen.

Cliff Lee

If this was strictly a Hall of I-don’t-want-to-face-this-guy-in-his-prime, Lee might be a shoo-in. But overall his career was too short — he didn’t stick in the majors until his Age 25 season, and he was done after his Age 35 season — and injury-plagued to warrant inclusion in Cooperstown. But, yeah, when he was healthy and in a rhythm, Lee was one of the best in baseball. He won the AL Cy Young in 2008, and in 2010 he posted a mind-boggling 10.28 strikeout-to-walk ratio pitching for Seattle and Texas. He won’t get the 5 percent necessary to stay on the ballot, but don’t be surprised if he picks up a couple of votes. 

Jason Giambi

Giambi’s peak was phenomenal. He had a four-year stretch in which he averaged 39 homers, 126 RBIs, a 177 OPS+, a .326 average and .452 on-base percentage. And he had four other 30-plus home run seasons, too. But a late start (his first full season was his Age 25 year), injuries and PED admissions will almost certainly conspire to make his time on the Hall ballot short. 

Paul Konerko

Like Abreu, Konerko’s career was probably better than you realized. He popped 439 homers — 13 seasons with at least 21 — cleared 1,400 RBIs and finished with an .841 OPS. Oh, and he popped five October home runs during the White Sox’s run to the 2005 World Series title. Outstanding career, but he falls short of Cooperstown. 

Josh Beckett

Beckett was brilliant on the big stage. In his first 10 career postseason games, he produced a 1.73 ERA, including a 1.16 ERA in three World Series starts. Overall, not enough there to merit serious Hall consideration. 

Eric Chavez

Wish he would have stayed healthy. Averaged 28 homers, 94 RBIs and a .847 OPS from 2000 to 2006, but never played more than 113 games in a season after his Age 28 year. 

Adam Dunn

Dunn was nothing if not consistent. He hit exactly 40 homers four years in a row, had between 100 and 106 RBIs six times in a seven-season stretch and an on-base percentage between .386 and .388 four times in a five-year stretch. Those 462 homers aren’t easily overlooked, but a bWAR of 17.4 isn’t going to cut it. 

Rafael Furcal

Furcal was an exciting player when healthy, no doubt, and he ranks fifth on the bWAR list for Hall ballot newbies, at 39.4. Problem is, the average bWAR for Hall of Famers is 67.0.

Alfonso Soriano

His career included plenty of highlights — remember the 40/40 season in 2006? — but the overall numbers (28.2 bWAR, 112 OPS+) aren’t particularly close to Hall standards. 

Brian Roberts

Injuries killed whatever chances Roberts might have had for the Hall, and that’s a shame. For a six-year stretch ending in his Age 31 season (2009), he averaged a .290/.365/.438 line, with 12 homers, 35 stolen bases and 101 runs scored as Baltimore’s second baseman. After that, though? Injuries kept him from ever playing in more than 91 games in a season. 

Raul Ibanez

Most baseball players thrive in their 20s and desperately fight against the inevitability of aging in their 30s. Ibanez was the opposite. He struggled to survive in the majors in his 20s — he never played more than 104 games in a season and had a .741 OPS — but came to life in his 30s. From 2002 through 2013 (his Age 30 to 41 seasons), Ibanez compiled 1,800 hits, scored 929 runs and averaged 23 homers, 87 RBIs and an .817 OPS. 

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