The 5 Most Intriguing Candidates on 2020 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Jordan Cohn
January 16, 2020 - 9:11 am
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The 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame vote marked a few significant moments in baseball history. Roy Halladay’s untimely death made his induction all the more emotional, as his wife Brandy gave a moving speech in his honor. Edgar Martinez’s induction marked the first time that a prominent DH received the nod (alongside Harold Baines). And Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous entrant ever, bringing massive crowds to Cooperstown for the subsequent ceremony in August. Over 50,000 fans flooded the small village of Cooperstown, the second largest total only to the 2007 ceremony in which Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken were honored.

But 2020 has the potential to bring a crowd that could shatter previous records, with several of baseball history’s most beloved and/or controversial figures appearing on the ballot. Who will get in and who will not is heavily debated among the baseball community, and a few especially polarizing candidates could completely rewrite history with their induction into the Hall of Fame.

All figures and statistics from Baseball Reference and the Hall of Fame Tracker, courtesy of Ryan Thibodaux.

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter is expected to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Photo credit (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Lock

Derek Jeter

The only real debate about Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame candidacy is whether or not the vote will be unanimous. It certainly seems to be leaning in that direction, and his induction will be a large reason as to why the loyal (and local) New York natives will flock to Cooperstown for his ceremony. It’s with good reason, too, that The Captain will be remembered alongside baseball’s greatest.

Jeter’s resume is extremely impressive without the newly emphasized analytical slant with which many players are evaluated. He’s the only player since 1930 with 3,400 hits, 300 steals and a .300 average, and the only players before that cutoff to achieve these numbers are Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Tris Speaker: not bad company!

Analytically, his case is weakened slightly. His offensive numbers need not be explained any further, but to reinforce his potency from the plate, it’s worth mentioning that his offensive bWAR of 96.3 puts him behind only 19 other players in baseball history. His defensive WAR, however, sits at -8.3, making his total WAR lower than players like Lou Whitaker and Larry Walker (more on him below).

A WAR that high would certainly indicate a strong argument for Hall of Fame status, but wouldn’t seem to point to a unanimous vote. But Jeter’s presence throughout the Steroid Era as the leader of the most important team in baseball combined with teammate Mariano Rivera’s unanimous vote means that he should receive the same adoration from the BBWAA, as well.

So far, so good for Mr. November: he has been voted in by all 140-plus ballots that have been released so far.

Larry Walker
Larry Walker is in his final year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Photo credit (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Other Likely Entrants

None.

I really don’t think you can frame any of the other names that appear on the ballot as “likely” in their chances of being inducted. But who of the remaining players have the highest chance of being eternally recognized for their contributions to the game?

Larry Walker

In recent years, players in the final year of eligibility have received a generous boost in support. There’s a reason that they were included on the ballot and maintained a level of support for so long, and knowing that they become ineligible the following year has often helped their cases.

Edgar Martinez, after receiving less than a 50% share of the vote for seven years, saw his share of votes go up to 70% in his penultimate year on the ballot, followed by a convincing 85.4% in the final year, enough to get him in by a significant margin. Tim Raines, similarly, saw a 16% boost in votes in his last year as a candidate, which pushed him over the top and allowed his entry into the class of 2017.

Walker seems to be trending along a comparable -- but perhaps slightly less-promising -- path, collecting a 54% positive vote last year. So far, he’s at 85.1% in the publicly-released ballots. Every first-time voter has given him the nod so far, and he has received high praise from many baseball writers. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan called him “truly one of the greatest all-around players in baseball history,” and the stats back up this statement: