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Looking ahead to the 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

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It's been less than 24 hours since the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its class of 2023, but that doesn't mean it's too early to look ahead. Next January's ballot features a loaded group of first-time candidates, highlighted by a couple of all-time greats who could headline induction weekend and several returnees poised to finally get over the hump.

Let's forecast what the 2024 Hall of Fame ballot might look like, and who could be enshrined.

Note: All WAR figures courtesy Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.

The newcomers

First-ballot lock

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Player Pos. MLB Seasons JAWS WAR
Adrian Beltre 3B 21 71.1 93.5

Beltre is poised to sail in next winter. He's firmly in the conversation for greatest third baseman of all time: Only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews accrued more WAR at the hot corner, while several defensive metrics place only the great Brooks Robinson ahead of Beltre with the glove. July 2024 promises to be a fun-filled celebration of one of the most popular and beloved modern players. Just remember not to touch his head on induction day.

Should be a lock, but ...

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Player Pos. MLB Seasons JAWS WAR
Joe Mauer C/1B 15 47.1 55.2

Mauer was indisputably the best catcher of his era. The 2009 AL MVP and three-time Gold Glover stands the only AL catcher to win a batting title - he won three - and is one of 12 primary catchers with at least 2,000 hits. Every catcher that's ahead of Mauer in both WAR and JAWS is already in the Hall of Fame. It's hardly a stretch to place him on the short list of greatest catchers in baseball history.

Ideally, he'll join Beltre on the dais next year, but in reality it's far from a guarantee. Only two catchers - Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez - have been elected on their first try. The historical precedent of catchers on the ballot, combined with Mauer's case being one of an incredible peak cut short by concussion problems, means that some voters might need more time to be swayed.

Most intriguing newcomer

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Player Pos. MLB Seasons JAWS WAR
Chase Utley 2B 16 56.9 64.5

A cornerstone of the great mid-2000s Phillies clubs, Utley quietly crafted a resume that puts him in some very good company at the keystone. He's just a hair below the average Hall of Fame second baseman by JAWS, has more WAR than several inductees and some of his not-yet-eligible contemporaries at the position, and was a consistent force on both sides of the ball for winning teams.

But Utley's counting stats are low, and he fell well short of 2,000 hits, a longtime benchmark that only one expansion-era Hall of Famer (Tony Oliva) failed to reach. A darling of the advanced stats without too many round numbers makes him next year's most intriguing newcomer to watch, with potential to grow support long term. Utley's candidacy is sure to inspire plenty of polarizing debate.

Other notable first-timers

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Player Pos. MLB Seasons JAWS WAR
Bartolo Colon SP 21 40.8 46.2
Adrian Gonzalez 1B 15 39.1 43.5
Matt Holliday LF 15 39.4 44.5
Victor Martinez C/1B 16 30.5 32.0
David Wright 3B 14 44.3 49.2

The most notable name in this group, and the one with the most potential of slowly building a case, is Wright. An unfortunate back injury that derailed his career at age 30 left him with low counting stats and may have ultimately doomed his candidacy. But he does have both an amazing peak and status as a Mets icon on his side, which could help him stay above 5% at the very least. Third base is still underrepresented in the Hall, even with Rolen now in and Beltre on deck.

Gonzalez, a sweet-swinging ironman for multiple franchises, won four Gold Gloves and was considered one of the best defensive first basemen of his time. The ever-popular Colon has a Cy Young in his pocket and surpassed the 2,500-strikeout mark during his seemingly never-ending career. He'll also join the group of known PED users on the ballot, having served a 50-game suspension following a positive test in 2012. Martinez was an underrated hitter whose offensive numbers, which include 2,153 hits, look pretty good for a catcher. However, offense-first backstops - even one like Martinez, who spent an equal amount of time at DH - always face enormously long odds. Holliday, one of the top left fielders during his career, owns a higher JAWS score than Lou Brock and won several awards over his 15 seasons.

One and done

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These players logged the required 10 years of major-league service time before retiring after the 2018 season and are therefore eligible, but not guaranteed, to appear on next year's ballot.

If they make the ballot, they'll be unlikely to receive a single vote, let alone reach 5%. However, that shouldn't be viewed as an insult to their excellent careers, which include multiple All-Star appearances, championships, and other awards. Simply making the ballot is a prestigious honor that they should be proud of.

Position Players: Jose Bautista, Chase Headley, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes, Denard Span

Pitchers: Santiago Casilla, Doug Fister, Yovani Gallardo, Phil Hughes, Jim Johnson, Ryan Madson, Brandon Morrow, James Shields, Chris Tillman, Brad Ziegler

Returning candidates

On the doorstep

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Player Pos. Year on ballot 2023 Total (+/-)
Todd Helton 1B 6th 72.2% (+38.8%)
Billy Wagner RP 9th 68.1% (+33.5%)

Helton was so close to pulling off a shocker Tuesday, missing out on joining the class of 2023 by just 11 votes. Instead, he'll have to wait one more year - but this time, the wait should bear fruit. In some ways, the Rockies icon is more of a lock than Mauer for next year thanks to momentum.

Wagner's jump was also gigantic, pushing him past the 60% mark - almost always the point of no return. Arguably the greatest left-handed reliever ever, he's now positioned to potentially crash next year's party. It's an incredible turn of events for someone who started at 10.5% and actually went down in Year 2. For Wagner, the question now is when, not if, he gets in.

Getting a bump

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Player Pos. Year on ballot 2023 Total (+/-)
Carlos Beltran CF 2nd 46.5% (-)
Andruw Jones CF 7th 58.1% (+41.4%)
Gary Sheffield RF/3B 10th 55% (+35.5%)

There was plenty of celebrating in the Jones and Sheffield households after both made massive gains.

Jones, perhaps the best defensive center fielder ever, finally received the groundswell of support he was looking for. With four years remaining, he's now in position to reach Cooperstown within two ballots. Defense belongs in the Hall of Fame, and it seems that the younger electorate is starting to get that message. Sheffield, one of the most dangerous hitters of his generation, also finally gained supporters - but it might be too little, too late. He's got just one year left and needs a gigantic 10th-year bump to get over the hump.

And then there's Beltran, who's set himself up quite nicely for future induction despite the Astros' sign-stealing scandal clouding his resume. Beltran is going to get a phone call, although he might have to wait into 2025.

Stuck in the mud

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Player Pos. Year on ballot 2023 Total (+/-)
Manny Ramirez LF 8th 33.2% (+14.9%)
Alex Rodriguez SS/3B 3rd 35.7% (+4.1%)

It will be more of the same for these two in 2024. Both Rodriguez and Ramirez are dogged by positive drug tests during their otherwise remarkable careers, and they're not gaining any meaningful support. You can't ever say they won't make it, but their odds just grew even longer.

Trying again

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Player Pos. Year on ballot 2023 Total (+/-)
Bobby Abreu RF 5th 15.4% (+79.1%)
Mark Buehrle SP 4th 10.8% (+86.2%)
Torii Hunter CF 4th 6.9% (+30.2%)
Andy Pettitte SP 6th 17.0% (+58.9%)
Francisco Rodriguez RP 2nd 10.8% (-)
Jimmy Rollins SS 3rd 12.9% (+37.2%)

There are some big gains here, but hardly enough for these players to make much meaningful noise in 2024.

Abreu and Rollins are the names in this group to watch long term after dramatic spikes of support. The perennially underrated Abreu finally has something resembling momentum after crossing the 10% mark heading into his fifth turn. That's a huge deal for him, although it might have come a year later than he would have hoped. Rollins experienced his own minor surge, and he's got far more time on his side, along with some traditional attributes and awards that often catch some eyeballs.

Rodriguez hung on for a second year and could be a candidate to keep hanging on longer as voters study his case, but that's hardly a guarantee for a one-inning reliever. Seeing Hunter and Buehrle not only keep their spots again, but increase their totals, was a surprise, although they don't have too much momentum.

Falling fast

Player Pos. Year on ballot 2023 Total (+/-)
Omar Vizquel SS 7th 19.5% (-18.4%)

Vizquel continued his historic tumble. His vote total has now dropped significantly since he crossed the 50% barrier three years ago. The unprecedented collapse follows allegations of domestic violence from Vizquel's second wife in 2021 and a lawsuit alleging he sexually harassed a bat boy with autism while managing in the minors. His chances in 2024 are slim to none, and it wouldn't be shocking to see his vote total dip even more.

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