Future Hall of Fame First Basemen

Future Hall of Fame Baseball Player Series:

  1. First Basemen
  2. Second Basemen
  3. Shortstops
  4. Third Basemen
  5. Outfielders – American League
  6. Outfielders – National League
  7. Catchers
  8. Starting Pitchers
  9. Closers

When it comes to statistics and Hall of Fame speculation, baseball is king. It seems that baseball, more than any other sport, generates the most talk and buzz when it comes time to announce who made it into the Hall of Fame, and who missed it and by what margin. This is the first of several blog posts that will look at current major leaguers and examine their chances at some day reaching the Hall. For a look at my introduction to this series of blogs, click here.

Let’s get started. I’m starting with first basemen, for no other reason than their position contains the word first. Here’s my take on who should get in, won’t get in and why.

No Doubters

  • Frank Thomas

During the prime of his career, he was probably the 1st or 2nd best first baseman in baseball, with Jeff Bagwell being the other great one over that span. He won 2 MVP awards (1993 & 1994), and finished in the top 5 of the MVP voting 4 other times. Thomas ranks in the top 25 of a number of categories:

  • On-base % of .423 – 16th all-time (Bonds and Helton are the only active players ahead of him)
  • Slugging Percentage of .563: 18th all-time
  • 492 career homers place him 23rd all-time. He should become the 21st player to reach 500 career homers later this season.
  • 1,597 RBI’s – 28th all-time
  • 1,570 Walks – 12th all-time

Really good chance

  • Albert Pujols

This beast of a man has a chance to go down as one of the best to ever play the game. He’s only 27 years old, but he’s already got 6 full seasons under his belt and has some impressive numbers:

  • Hits – 1,159
  • RBI – 758
  • Runs – 748
  • Home Runs – 256

If we assume he can stay healthy for ten more years and performs at 90% of where he has been, his career numbers would look like this:

  • Hits – 2,897

  • RBI – 1,895

  • Runs – 1,870

  • Home Runs – 625

Maybe most impressively, in each of his six seasons in the big leagues, he managed to finish in the top 5 of the MVP voting. He won the MVP in 2005 and the Rookie of the Year award in 2001.

  • Jim Thome

Thome is one of those guys who seems to have fairly quietly put together a very impressive career. If he retired today, I don’t think he’d get in. He’s got some good numbers:

  • 477 Home Runs

  • 1,312 RBI

  • 1,271 Runs

  • .566 Slugging %

These are very good, but when it comes to other Hall of Fame first basemen, he isn’t quite as good. He’s 36 years old, so he can probably play for at least a couple more years, maybe even four or five more if his body can hold up. With two more good years, he would probably have around 550 home runs, and around 1,500 RBI’s and runs scored. If he does that, it would be tough to deny him HOF status.

50/50 Chance

  • Todd Helton

Todd Helton is fairly unique when it comes to potential Hall of Fame first basemen. He’s the rare top-tier first baseman that has a very high batting average, but not a lot of power. Right now he’s got just over 1,000 runs and RBI’s, 290 home runs, and a career batting average of .334. He’s 33 years old right now, so five more years is not unreasonable. His numbers have declined a little bit the last couple of years, but if he can keep his batting average up, he should be able to get over 1,400 RBI’s and runs and maybe 350-400 home runs. The batting average will be his best bullet point. The one thing that could go against him in the mind of HOF voters is that he’s played his whole career in Colorado, which is a hitters park. It’ll be interesting to see what effect, if any, this will have on him.

  • Carlos Delgado

Here is an example of a guy who has had a very solid career, but has not necessarily been a transcendent type of player. Right now he’s got 410 home runs and 1,305 RBI’s, which for a first baseman, won’t quite get it done. I think he’s actually got a better chance than Helton to get in because of the power numbers and he’s probably got 3 or 4 good years left in him (he’s 34 right now). If he can average 30 homers and close to 100 RBI’s for the next 3 years, he would end his career with over 500 homers and 1,600 RBI’s.

Iffy at best

  • Nomar Garciaparra

Nomar is a classic example of player that looked like he was on his way to greatness, but then the injury bug starting making numerous appearances. The four year span from 1997 to 2000 was one of the best four years a shortstop had ever strung together. Over that span he had a batting average of .337, and averaged 28 homers, 110 runs, and 105 RBI’s, which is incredible for a shortstop. But, because of the injuries, he’s been forced to play at first base for the last couple of years, and his production isn’t quite what it used to be. Right now, he’s got 1,581 hits, 212 home runs, 859 runs scored, and 858 RBI. At 33 years old, it will probably be tough for him to put together enough good seasons to seriously be considered for a place in Cooperstown.

  • Jason Giambi

Giambi’s numbers are quite similar to Delgado’s. Their just a little less impressive. He was an absolute stud in the early 2000’s, but three years of greatness won’t get it done. He’s currently at 355 home runs, 1,162 RBI’s, 1,031 runs and 1,671 hits. He would have to have at least 3 or 4 very good years to get into the conversation. Even with that, the fact that he all but admitted to using steroids will hurt his chances.

Too early to tell

  • Lance Berkman

Current totals: 1,156 hits, 230 home runs, 774 RBI, 708 runs, .303 batting average, .561 slugging %. He would need to average about 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s for about 8 seasons to get his numbers where they need to be. At age 31, durability will be key. Can he stay healthy?

  • Paul Konerko

Konerko’s number are pretty similar to Berkman’s and they are both 31 years old. Konerko’s got 1,317 hits, 249 home runs, 824 RBI’s, 689 runs, a .281 batting average, and a slugging % of .492. His slugging % is about 70 points lower and his batting average about 20 points lower. For that reason, I like Berkman’s chances of making it more than Paul’s.

  • Derrek Lee

I may as well just copy and paste what I said for Berkman and Konerko here for Lee. He is also 31 years old and his numbers are right in line with the aforementioned Berkman and Konerko. He’s at 1,232 hits, 218 home runs, 677 RBI’s, 695 runs, a .280 batting average, and a .502 slugging %. His stats had been trending up, until he missed most of 2006 with the wrist injury, so if he can continue to trend upward and stay off the DL, he’s got a shot.

  • David Oritz

OK, this is ridiculous. Ortiz – 31 years old, 1,082 hits, 240 home runs, 796 RBI’s, 649 runs, .284 batting average, and a .552 slugging %. Like Lee, Ortiz is also trending upward, so he’s got that going for him. And more than any of the other guys, he’s got an aura about him, and that certainly can’t hurt him.

Close but no Cigar

  • Julio Franco

I think Julio Franco is the only baseball player that played alongside Joe DiMaggio and Alex Rodriguez, so I say put him in the Hall just for that accomplishment. Well, he has played 23 seasons in the majors, and since he’s been around so long, he’s got some decent numbers. 2,570 hits is nothing to sneeze at, but his body of work is just not quite good enough to consider him for enshrinement. Of course, he might play another 10 or 20 years and rack up another 1,000 hits….probably not though.

In the end, I think Thomas, Pujols, Thome, Delgado, and Ortiz will make the final cut. I’ve got a feeling the others will get lost in the current group of great hitters and will come up a little short. Next up, second basemen….

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14 Responses to “Future Hall of Fame First Basemen”

  1. bdunc1 Says:

    I agree on Pujols, Thomas and Ortiz. I think Delgado won’t make it, and Thome is iffy. Garicaparra is a sad case, but he was a SS in his glory days anyway.

  2. bw64 Says:

    Greetings…A bit off topic, but as long as we’re talking 1st basemen, is Bags a Cooperstown shoe-in?

  3. few4th Says:

    bw64,
    Nice of you to make an appearance. On the subject of Bagwell, I think he is hall worthy. I don’t think he is a shoe-in, but I’d say he’s got about a 80% chance of making it. He’s got over 1,500 RBI’s and runs, and 449 homers, plus an MVP. That should be enough.

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  7. Hank Says:

    You are on target with the Big Hurt, and Jeff Bagwell.
    They make it on the first ballot. No one else of significants
    retired at the end of 2005. That will lock a first ballot for Jeff
    in 2011. I also agree that 500 homers & 1500 RBI should get Jim & Carlos into the Hall. Tomes problom could be that he retires in a crouded class that includes Bonds.
    Because of what happened to Nomars carrier, I prefer to wait longer to judge Todd & Albert. A great barromiter will
    take place when Fred Magriff arrives on the ballot. Should he have stuck arround for 500 homers ? I would have been pleased to see it. Jullio is still handy with the bat.

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  11. Joe F Says:

    Bagwell is a hall-of-famer. First ballot is possible, but it’s far from certain. I think the sad thing about his career is that he wasn’t physically able to lift a weight or really throw a baseball after the 1999 season. Imagine if he’d stayed healthy. Only 16 seasons in the bigs and a couple of ’em he missed significant time with broken wrists or shoulder problems. Still, one of the classiest and most well-rounded players to step on the field…along with B-G-O

  12. few4th Says:

    Joe F, I hope you’re right about Bagwell. I’m not convinced that he’ll be a first ballot hall of famer, nor am I convinced that he is a shoe-in to make it at all. During this, the day of the steroid, it doesn’t seem quite as easy to get to the Hall. That being said, Bagwell did have 1,500 RBI’s and runs, 449 homers and nearly a .300 average. Should be enough to get him there.

  13. Albert Pujols Autographed Jersey Owner Says:

    G’day!
    As an Australia-based STL Cardinals fan, I found your blog on google and read a few of your other Cardinals posts.
    I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  14. Rowan Campbell Says:

    I think Derrek Lee will eventually be elected to the hall of fame.
    A great power hitter and superb defensive firstbaseman.
    He is one of the greatest Cubs firstbaseman ever.
    As a Chicago Cubs fan it is a joy to watch him play on ESPN.
    He has 3 gold gloves already and should hit more than 300 homeruns before he retires


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