It's been less than 24 hours since the National Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed four new members. But it's never too early to look ahead to next January when Cooperstown's Class of 2020 will be revealed.
Next year's list of first-timers is generally thin on Hall of Fame credentials (save for one icon who can start writing his speech now). That means 2020 is shaping up to be a celebration of returning candidates, some of whom might finally get the call after years of waiting.
Here's a very early look at what the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot might look like, and who could be enshrined next year.
|Player||POS||Year||2019 Total (+/-)|
|Curt Schilling||SP||7th||60.9% (9.7%)|
|Roger Clemens||SP||7th||59.5% (2.2%)|
|Barry Bonds||OF||7th||59.1% (2.7%)|
|Larry Walker||OF||9th||54.6% (20.5%)|
The controversial Schilling recorded the second biggest 2019 jump in support among returning candidates. Only Gil Hodges has failed to get into the Hall of Fame after passing the 60-percent mark on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. Schilling will get a plaque sooner or later, and it's possible 2020 is the year due to the lack of first-ballot locks.
Walker's jump above 50 percent is long overdue, but he's entering year 10 of 10 on the ballot. It may be too late for him, even with the logjam starting to clear.
Bonds and Clemens - forever intertwined as two of the all-time greatest who are tainted by allegations of steroid use - stagnated and failed to cross 60 percent for the second straight year. The lack of quality first-ballot candidates could help them climb in 2020, but it feels like there's simply not enough support to be gained before their eligibility expires in three years.
|Player||Year||2019 Total (+/-)|
|Omar Vizquel||2nd||42.8% (5.8%)|
|Manny Ramirez||3rd||22.8% (0.8%)|
|Jeff Kent||6th||18.1% (3.6%)|
|Scott Rolen||2nd||17.2% (7%)|
|Billy Wagner||4th||16.7% (5.6%)|
|Todd Helton||1st||16.5% (--)|
|Gary Sheffield||5th||13.6% (2.5%)|
|Andy Pettitte||1st||9.9% (--)|
|Sammy Sosa||7th||8.5% (0.7%)|
|Andruw Jones||2nd||7.5% (0.2%)|
Clear paths have been opened for the likes of Rolen, Wagner, and Helton to begin gaining support in 2020. Expect their percentages to start rising dramatically next January as voters look to fill several open spots on their ballots. The Hall of Fame adding two relievers this year - Rivera, and Today's Game Era Committee inductee Lee Smith - could prompt voters to give Wagner's stellar career a closer look.
Andruw Jones, however, is perhaps the biggest down-ballot winner simply because he gets to stay on the ballot after coming dangerously close to falling off. Support for Jones can be found among some of the more statistically-inclined Hall of Fame voters, plus those who appreciate defense - which is how Jones made his mark. His otherworldly glove work in center field could now catch the attention of voters, especially those who continue to boost the case for Omar Vizquel, another defense-first candidate.
Jeter, one of the greatest shortstops ever, might not get in unanimously like his longtime Yankees teammate Rivera did on Tuesday. But he'll unquestionably be headlining the Class of 2020 and will likely garner his own near-historic vote total.
While several recent classes have included two or more deserving first-ballot inductees, Jeter is the only sure bet for next year.
Abreu is the one to watch from this group. The former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder was a talented on-base machine, solid fielder, and routine 30-30 threat for many years. But he went about his business quietly and often didn't receive his due while playing. If he can stay above five percent to remain on the ballot in 2021, there's a chance the statistically-inclined wing of voters who have helped Tim Raines, Larry Walker, and Edgar Martinez gain support will take up his case.
Giambi, the AL MVP in 2000, is an interesting candidate. A mid-career admission of steroid use clouds his on-field accomplishments, and voters are going to remember that.
The rest of this group might get enough down-ballot support to (surprisingly) cross five percent after producing excellent careers.
These players logged the required 10 years of major-league service time and are therefore eligible, but not guaranteed, to appear on next year's ballot.
The players listed below likely won't receive a single vote, let alone five percent. But that shouldn't be viewed as an insult. Simply making the ballot is a prestigious honor, and these men will hopefully cherish it and be proud of what they accomplished on the diamond.
Position Players: Jason Bartlett, Eric Chavez, Adam Dunn, Chone Figgins, Alex Gonzalez, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Ludwick, Nate McLouth, Lyle Overbay, Carlos Pena, Brian Roberts, Marco Scutaro
Pitchers: Heath Bell, Kyle Farnsworth, Brad Penny, J.J. Putz, Joe Saunders, Jose Valverde, Jamey Wright