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, Jason Heyward
Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

Jason Heyward

The next player we’ll discuss has seen their Hall of Fame odds fall perhaps the most of any player over the course of the last three years – Jason Heyward.

Heyward plays the position with the highest threshold for Hall of Fame entrance, so his last three miserable seasons in Chicago have hurt his chances at induction into the Hall considerably more than if he played somewhere else on the diamond.

Enshrined right fielders may be the most impressive group of Hall of Fame position players. With the likes of Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Hank Aaron in the Hall and Barry Bonds knocking on the door, it’s no surprise that the average WAR among Hall of Famers at the position is higher than anywhere but starting pitcher.

Cubs fans know Heyward most for his disappointing tenure in the Windy City, but his career before heading to Chicago was quite impressive.

In five seasons in Atlanta and one in St. Louis, Heyward played his way to 29.8 WAR – just under 5 per season. In his three seasons as a Cub, he’s only increased that total by 5.2. Just to show how shocking his sudden decline is, he topped 5.2 WAR in four of his six seasons before coming to Chicago.

Heyward will turn 30 years old in August, and if he wants any chance at making the Hall of Fame, he’ll have to turn his career back into what it was before he was a Cub.

His career 34.9 WAR is just under halfway to the 72.7 career mark of the average Hall of Fame right fielder, so he has his work cut out for him.

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Typically, right fielders are big bats who also have cannons for arms, but outside of his rookie season, Heyward’s bat never been a huge threat. He had a 114 career OPS+ in his first six seasons, but his three years in Chicago have taken that number down to 103. Performing three percent better than league average at the plate definitely won’t get him into the Hall of Fame.

Heyward’s only real shot at induction is turning back into the .268/.353/.431 career hitter he was before his time in Chicago, in addition to continuing to play excellent defense in right field. His fielding metrics have declined recently, but he’s still won five Gold Gloves. He’ll likely win at least a few more before all is said and done.

He’s still not even 30 years old, so Heyward’s chances at a trip to Cooperstown aren’t zero, but it does seem highly unlikely.

He could still rebound and turn back into the good hitter he was before coming to the North Side, but he’d have to hit well above average for the rest of his career to land himself anywhere near the illustrious benchmarks of a Hall of Fame right fielder.

The good news for Heyward is that although he’s taken a huge step back at the plate during his time in Wrigleyville, he’s gotten better every single year. His year-by-year OPS+ as a Cub is 68 in 2016, 84 in 2017, and 92 in 2018.

Those may be marginal increases, but it’s a step in the right direction for a player scuffling to get his career back on a Hall of Fame track before it’s too late.