For players who wouldn't enter as a member of their current team, the expected team on their Hall plaque is in parentheses.
STONE COLD LOCKS
Surprisingly, only five current position players are definites for the Hall of Fame.
Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Once he completed the required ten seasons in 2010, Pujols guaranteed his Hall of Fame induction. He's been rightly considered the best player in baseball throughout his career, an honor he backs up with a .421 career on base percentage, 442 career home runs, an average of well over 100 runs and RBI a season, and excellent defensive skills. He's won three MVP awards but would have been a credible choice for the honor in any of his seasons to date. The Hall of Fame is a lock, and by the end of his career the discussion will be about whether he was the greatest ever.
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
A-Rod's sheer numbers virtually guarantee that he'll be enshrined in Cooperstown. Rodriguez ranks very high in the big-time counting stats that ensure the honor: 628 home runs (6th all time), 1,887 RBI (11th), 1,820 runs scored (16th), and 2,769 hits (50th). The only thing that could possibly keep him out is the fact that he admitted to using steroids. But even if the steroid backlash prevents his election by the writers, steroid outrage will diminish enough that at a minimum, a future Veteran's Committee will elect the Yankees' third baseman.
Derek Jeter, Yankees
It's surprising that Jeter is such an apparently polarizing player, since he's certainly one of the five greatest shortstops in history. His offense has fallen off in recent years, but Jeter was one of the best hitting shortstops for 14 seasons from 1996 through 2009. Critics say not all of his six Gold Gloves were deserved, but he probably lost out on at least one MVP award he deserved (2007). If Jeter's enshrinement wasn't already certain, all doubt was removed when he got his 3000th hit this season.
Chipper Jones, Braves
Chipper achieved the rare combination of greatness and longevity - he was one of baseball's best players in almost every season for a 14 year period from 1995 through 2008 and is no slouch even now. He's hit over .300 for his career, gotten on base at above a .400 clip, and compiled eight 100-run seasons and nine 100-RBI seasons to go with 453 home runs.
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
Even if voters don't credit his stellar Japanese statistics, Ichiro has done enough since entering the major leagues to make himself a lock for the Hlal. Though he lacks power and doesn't walk much, he makes up for that with outstanding skills at hitting for average, baserunning, and fielding. Ichirro averaged an incredible 224 hits a season for his first ten years and already has 422 steals. He hit at least .350 five times and scored over 100 runs in his first eight seasons. He won Gold Gloves in his first ten seasons, the 2001 MVP, and furthermore carried the superstar mystique.
Ivan Rodriguez, Nationals (Rangers)Pudge probably deserves to be mentioned as a lock but drops down a category because he probably isn't as iconic in fans' minds as the first five players mentioned. He's caught an all-time record 2,424 games, winning 13 Gold Gloves while throwing out 46 percent of base stealers in his career. His 2,842 hits lead all catchers as do his 572 doubles. Though Rodriguez stuck around long enough to drag his career batting average below .300, he was an elite offensive catcher in his prime who won seven Silver Slugger awards and one MVP in 1999. All that adds up to make Pudge a no-brainer for the Hall.
Jim Thome, Twins
I would have considered Thome a stone cold lock until many writers opined that he actually didn't deserve enshrinement after he hit his 600th home run this year. It's ironic, because one would think being one of eight men in the 600 home run club would guarantee the honor. The argument that Thome is a "stat compiler" is ludicrous. Players who attempted to hang around to reach 600 home runs, and failed, include Frank Robinson, who hit .232 with 12 home runs his final two seasons, Harmon Killebrew, .219 with 32 homers in his final three years, and Reggie Jackson, who stuck around as a DH for five years in which he hit his final 99 home runs despite hitting .227. Thome had his second best slugging percentage of his career (.627) last year at age 39. In addition to his prodigious power, he compiled a .403 on base percentage and played for nine playoff teams. He averaged 102 runs scored, 39 homers, 107 RBI, and 112 walks in his prime from 1995-2004. Thome also ranks 26th all time with 1,667 RBI and eighth with 1,719 walks. If Thome isn't inducted, then virtually no hitter in his era is a credible candidate.
SHOULD BE IN THE HALL
This group will cause more debate, primarily because they stuck around for a while when they were merely good rather than great. They've done enough to deserve enshrinement.
Vladimir Guerrero, Orioles (Angels)
Guerrero has hit .318 and slugged .554 in a 16-year career with 448 home runs and 2,568 hits. Injuries and age limited him to a plodding DH role in recent years, but Vlad possessed a cannon arm, good range, and base stealing skills in his prime. His candidacy is hurt by playing for six of his great seasons for the Expos. Witness the fact that he won one MVP and had three top 3 finishes in MVP voting, winning once, in the four years after leaving Montreal, even though those seasons (2004-2007) are virtual carbon copies of his 1998-2002 seasons for Les Expos. Vlad was one of baseball's ten greatest players from 1998 through 2007 and deserves enshrinement. He probably had better seasons for the Expos but is likely to enter the Hall as an Angel since Anaheim is the team he helped to five playoff appearances.
Todd Helton, Rockies
Injuries have limited Todd in recent years but during his ten-year peak from 1998-2007, Helton hit .332 with a .432 OBP and .585 slugging, averaging 109 runs scored, 35 homers, 108 RBI, and 97 walks a season. His .421 OBP ranks 17th all time. Combined with defense which earned him three Gold Gloves, there's really no argument not to induct Helton other than the fact he played at Coors Field. Not inducting Rockies hitters is as defensible not inducting Dodgers pitchers, and Hall voters enshrined a couple borderline candidates of the latter group in Don Sutton and Don Drysdale. Helton excelled in the stadium he played in and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
Jason Giambi, Rockies (A's)
Giambi has compiled a .404 OBP and slugged .526 in his career with 428 home runs. Those numbers would have made him a Hall of Famer in the 1970s, but now, not so much. As an admitted steroid user, Giambi is a similar player to Mark McGwire but is 165 homers short of McGwire's total - and McGwire hasn't come close to getting elected. Future Veterans' Committees, however, may look kindly on his outstanding peak from 1999-2006.
Jorge Posada, Yankees
Jorge has outstanding hitting stats for a catcher, .273 with a .374 OBP and .475 slugging percentage, and of course was behind the plate for four championship teams. But injuries prevented him from compiling enough offensive stats to really merit inclusion in the Hall of Fame, as he has only 1,660 hits and 274 home runs. He also never had a great defensive reputation or an iconic season. The reason Posada could make it is that he played his entire career with the Yankees and so achieved a more iconic status than he would have otherwise. However, his candidacy looks similar to another Yankees catcher, Thurman Munson, who fell well short of enshrinement.
Bobby Abreu, Angels (Phillies)
Abreu is the Hall of Famer next door, a player who everyone thought was decent but who no one thought might have a .398 career OBP, 283 homers, and 2,374 hits. During his 1999-2009 peak he averaged 107 runs, 40 doubles, 21 homers, 99 RBI, 29 steals, and 104 walks. Abreu is already 25th career in doubles and walks. Phillies fans laughed at his 2005 Gold Glove, but a future Veterans' Committee may take that as evidence of a good defensive reputation which could combine with the offensive proficiency to put Abreu over the top.
NEED TO DO MORE WORK
Carlos Beltran, Giants (Mets)
Beltran was a brilliant baserunner, a fine hitter and an outstanding center fielder, and if he played all his career in New York would probably have a better chance at the Hall. But he has not yet reached 2,000 hits or 300 home runs, and his bat doesn't have enough power left to make him an elite player after injuries ruined his great speed.
Scott Rolen, Reds (Cardinals)
Rolen's eight Gold Gloves and his rate stats, .282 with a .366 OBP and .494 slugging, would be good enough for Hall honors if he had compiled more hits and home runs. But he just got to 2,000 hits and has 308 home runs, both in the Hall of Very Good range. It's also likely that it's been long enough since his last great season, 2006, that fewer writers really remember his peak.
Andruw Jones, Yankees (Braves)
Through his age 29 season, Jones looked like a lock for the Hall as he already had 342 home runs, 1,023 RBI, and nine Gold Gloves while slugging .505 for his career. But inexplicably, he simply stopped being able to hit for any contact at all as he has only a .215 average since. Jones was a brilliant fielder and a power bat, but his first ten seasons simply fell short of the Pujols level at which nothing more needed to be done.
Johnny Damon, Rays (Red Sox)
Like Beltran, Damon loses points for playing some of his best years with the Royals. He wasn't considered a great player by many, making only two All-Star teams while never finishing higher than 13th in MVP voting. His career rate stats, .286 with a .353 OBP and .435 slugging, look pedestrian in this era. He has 2,708 hits and will make the Hall if he can get 292 more.
Omar Vizquel, White Sox (Indians)
Vizquel was unquestionably a great defender, but falls short of 300 hits and the Hall by 161 hits to date. At age 44, it doesn't look like he'll get them. Omar won 11 Gold Gloves but falls short of the Ozzie Smith level because he was only an above average offensive player for two seasons. It's actually shocking that some people are saying Thome falls short and Vizquel should get in; few fans who saw them play together on the 1994-2002 Indians as I did felt that way at the time.
Miguel Tejada, Giants (A's)
Tejada was one of the best hitting shortstops of all time for a few years, but a steroid admission combined with a lack of longevity doom his candidacy. Miguel was only above average offensively for nine seasons, 2000-2007 and 2009, which is admirable but short of Hall standards. His 2,362 hits and 304 home runs still might be enough if not for his below average reputation as a fielder. Unlike the likes of Beltran and Damon, Tejada is adding nothing to his candidacy at this point as he really no longer appears to even belong on a major league roster.