Chicago Cubs: Which current Cubs could be Hall of Famers?

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Kris Bryant

After two veterans in their mid-30s with well-established track records, we’ll turn our attention to the Cubs’ best player: 27-year-old Kris Bryant.

Right off the bat, without even analyzing Bryant’s career thus far, we know it’s going to be harder for him to make the Hall of Fame than most of his teammates simply because of his position.

There are only 14 third basemen enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame – the least of any position other than relief pitcher. By the time Bryant is up for election that number could increase, with guys like Edgar Martinez, Scott Rolen, and Adrian Beltre all on the ballot.

Despite facing a higher than usual threshold for entry, Bryant’s early career looks promising.

After only four seasons at the MLB level, Bryant’s made quite the name for himself, delivering on all the prospect hype and putting up a .285/.385/.515 slash line. His wRC+ since debuting in 2015 is 140, meaning he’s created runs at a rate 40 percent above league average.

Bryant’s career got off to a fast start, as he totaled 19.7 WAR through his first three seasons. He was on pace for the best season of his career in 2018 before being derailed by an injured shoulder.

He was hitting .305/.427/.583 through May 19th, but he never got back to form after the injury and missed quite a bit of time throughout the rest of the year. Bryant ended up with just 1.9 WAR in 2018, a far cry from his 6.6 average through his first three seasons.

If Bryant gets back on track in 2019, he’d need seven more seasons averaging the same amount of WAR as he did in his first three years to hit 68.4 – the average of Hall of Fame third basemen.

On the plus side for Bryant, if we extrapolate his average WAR over his first three seasons to a seven-year career high, it would put him above the average WAR7 among Hall of Famers.

Related Story. Why Kris Bryant will be an All-Star in 2019. light

There’s a lot of hypothetical when analyzing the Hall of Fame chances for someone as young as Bryant, but his early career has certainly gotten him off on the right foot.

Aside from his great stats in his first few years in MLB, he’s already won Rookie of the Year, NL MVP, a World Series, and has been an All-Star twice. That puts his Hall of Fame Monitor score at 35, already higher than a handful of Hall of Famers, including fellow Cub Frank Chance.

Bryant’s odds of reaching significant milestones in counting stats don’t look great, especially after combining to hit just 42 home runs the last two years. He’d need to get back to his 2016 pace of 39 long balls per season if he wants any chance at reaching 500 career home runs.

To clarify how out of reach it is, he’d need to average 40 home runs per year for 10 straight years to hit that milestone. When he’s never hit 40 in a single season, it seems doubtful that he’d be able to ramp up his power numbers that much without selling out the rest of his plate skills.

One stat in his favor is OPS+, a statistic like the previously mentioned ERA+. It takes a player’s OPS and normalizes the number across the entire league to account for external factors like ballparks. It’s on a scale where 100 is average and every point above or below 100 represents one percentage point better or worse than league average.

Through his first four seasons, Bryant has posted a 140 OPS+. That’s the 12th best OPS+ by any third basemen ever, and only three Hall of Famers have a mark higher than Bryant’s – Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Chipper Jones.

While it may be hard to give any concrete opinion on whether Bryant will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown, it’s quite clear that he’s gotten himself off to a great start. Assuming he bounces back from his injury-plagued 2018 season, Bryant should be an All-Star and MVP threat every year for the foreseeable future. That would put him on a path to Hall of Fame consideration at the very least.