Hall of Fame 2018: This year's locks for Cooperstown

Big League Stew

Editor’s Note: Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting results are coming Wednesday. To get you ready, we’re breaking down this year’s ballot in a five-part series. The final part focuses on which players are expected to get elected.

As the minutes tick closer to Wednesday’s reveal of this year’s Hall of Fame voting results at 6 p.m. ET, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about the controversial players on the ballot, the newcomers and who has an urgent case.

There’s another important group, the most important group, actually: Who’s getting in?

We’re looking at a potentially huge Hall of Fame class for 2018, as Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were voted in by a veterans committee. We also have a couple first-timers who are expected to walk in to Cooperstown no problem and a second-year guy whose hiccups from last year appear to be behind him. That’s three more players we’re confident enough to call “sure things.”

But things could get interesting if a couple of the on-the-fence guys make a big surge toward the magic 75 percent mark, which is what players need to get a plaque at the Hall of Fame. And it’s entirely possible. Let’s have a look.

Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Chipper Jones are the sure-things on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, but could another player or two get in? (Amber Matsumoto / Yahoo Sports)
Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Chipper Jones are the sure-things on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, but could another player or two get in? (Amber Matsumoto / Yahoo Sports)

THE SURE THINGS
Chipper Jones: Jones will continue the trend of Atlanta Braves icons heading to Cooperstown, where we’ve seen Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in recent years. Jones is the next generation, manning third base over an incredibly consistent 19-year career, entirely in Atlanta. He was an MVP, a World Series champ, an eight-time All-Star. He passes the number test, the eye test and the legacy test. And he seems to be acing the Cooperstown test too. According to the Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, which adds up all the ballots made public by baseball writers, Jones stands as this year’s leading vote-getter with 98.3 percent. That’s based on an estimated 53.3 percent of ballots. His total might go down a bit, but not by too much.

Vladimir Guerrero: Voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America seem likely to correct their call in 2017 to keep the always entertaining Vladimir Guerrero out of Cooperstown. He finished at 71.7 percent last year, but is polling at 94.7 percent at the moment. Vlad was an MVP, nine-time All-Star and eight-time Silver Slugger. He fell short of a few Hall of Fame benchmarks (2,590 hits and 449 homers), so perhaps that’s why he didn’t get first-ballot status. Nonetheless, his dangerous bat — he finished with a .318 career average — and his infectious style of play will be headed to the Hall.

Jim Thome: If you want big numbers, Thome has them. Five hundred homers? Naw, try 612. He wasn’t close to 3,000 hits, but he hit 40+ homers in five of six seasons between 2001 and 2006 — that’ll do.  Thome might be the least famous member of the 600-homer club, but that’s only becuase it’s quite a club. Nine players are in. All of them who are retired and not named Bonds, Sosa or A-Rod are in Cooperstown. Thome will rightly join Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays as 600-homer guys in the Hall. (Albert Pujols is the ninth guy, if you’re wondering). Thome is at 92.9 percent right now, his first and only year on the ballot.

THIS MIGHT BE THE YEAR
Trevor Hoffman: He’s one of the men who redefined the closer position, holding the all-time saves record before Mariano Rivera took it over. His 612 saves stand, still, as a monumental achievement. The question with Hoffman isn’t really whether he’s one of the best closers of all time (he is), it’s more about whether closers belong in the Hall of Fame given their limited role. Hoffman has already come close, so if it’s not this year, he’ll be in eventually. He finished at 74 percent last year, just five votes short. According to the Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, he’s currently +11 votes from returning voters, which means he has a shot, but it’ll still be close.

Edgar Martinez: Martinez’s Hall of Fame argument is largely similar to Hoffman’s, just at a different position. The question is whether a DH belongs in the Hall of Fame? Martinez was a great one, but not exactly transcendent in the way David Ortiz was. Get this, some value-based stats like Wins Above Replacement actually say Martinez was better. Nonetheless, the Hall of Fame isn’t about WAR or besting Big Papi, it’s about votes. Martinez finished at 58.6 last year but is at 77 percent of public ballots, which could mean he’s getting much closer. If it’s not this year, however, he’s only got one year left on the ballot.

If five players are voted in by the BBWAA, it would be the first time that happened since 1936, the very first Hall of Fame class, which featured legends such as Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb.

Previously in this series
Part 1: Players who will drop off the ballot
Part 2: Players who need a lot of help 
Part 3: Players who are running out of time
Part 4: The controversial players on the ballot

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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