Next, we’ll shift our focus to three-time All-Star Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist is the oldest player on the Cubs 40-man roster, so his chances at making the Hall of Fame are the easiest to project.
During his first thirteen years in the majors, Zobrist was voted to three All-Star games, won two World Series, was named 2016 World Series MVP, and delivered the most important base hit in Cubs history.
On top of that, he’s managed to slash .266/.357/.429 during his time in MLB. That’s good for a 114 OPS+, the 40th best mark of any second basemen in history. Although, simply characterizing Zobrist as a second baseman is a disservice to his skill in the field.
Zobrist has played seven positions throughout his career – everywhere but pitcher and catcher. He’s played at least 200 games as a second baseman, right fielder, shortstop, and left fielder.
He’s such a versatile player that even though second base is his “primary” position, Zobrist has played less than half of his games there.
Most utility players with the skills of Zobrist aren’t able to start every day because they’re not up to snuff at the plate. Zobrist is a rare, high-quality bat with extreme positional versatility. His career 117 wRC+ means he’s produced runs at a rate 17 percentage points above league average.
Without a doubt, Zobrist has had a phenomenal big league career, but it likely still won’t be enough to garner support on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Zobrist has compiled 45.3 WAR over his 13 years in the majors, but that’s still about 24 WAR shy of the average career mark for Hall of Fame second basemen. Similarly, Zobrist’s JAWS score falls short. At 42.9, he’s still a ways off from the average of 57.
The one area that Zobrist does measure up with the likes of those in Cooperstown is his WAR7. Zobrist’s seven-year peak WAR comes in at 40.4. The average for those in the Hall is 44.5.
All but one of those peak years came in Tampa Bay, where Zobrist topped out at 8.6 WAR in 2009. He finished eighth in AL MVP voting that year, although he had a higher WAR than every player that finished above him.
With his 38th birthday in May, Zobrist’s chances at enshrinement in Cooperstown are quite low. He has a shot if the writers value his positional versatility enough, but it seems unlikely. He’d also have a chance at the Hall through the era committees, especially considering the lackluster resumes of some of the players they’ve inducted in years past.
Zobrist has had a great career, but he didn’t become an everyday player until it was almost too late to even have a chance at enshrinement. He debuted at 25 years old in 2006, but he didn’t play in more than 62 games until his age-28 season in 2009.
He shined on the game’s biggest stage for the Cubs in 2016, posting a .919 OPS in the World Series, but delivering a championship to Wrigleyville won’t be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame.