We’ll close things out by taking a quick, way-too-early look at Javier Baez‘s Hall of Fame chances.
Despite the fact that Baez first arrived on the MLB scene in 2014, he’ll enter just his age-26 season this spring.
The first few years were pretty rocky for Baez, and although he had all the talent in the world, he struggled to put it together. Through his first four years at the MLB level, he was never able to perform consistently at the plate, putting up a 90 OPS+. During that time, he never even had an individual season higher than 102.
Things finally clicked in 2018. While the rest of the Cubs’ offense struggled, Baez put up more WAR in that season alone than he had in his previous four seasons combined.
He finished the year hitting .290/.326/.554 with 34 home runs and a National League-leading 111 RBI. If it wasn’t for an insane second half from division rival Christian Yelich, Baez likely would’ve taken home the NL MVP. Instead, he finished second.
It’s hard to project Baez going forward since he only has one great season under his belt, but 2019 should provide some clarity.
If we assume that Baez can continue to impress as he did last year, there’s a reasonable case for him to be a Hall of Fame threat. If he can’t repeat his strong 2018 numbers, enshrinement in the Hall will seem like a pipe dream.
The average Hall of Fame second basemen put up 69.5 career WAR. To reach that threshold, Baez would have to have 9 more seasons with the same production as he had last year. That’s unlikely, but not impossible. At just 26 years old, the sky is the limit for a player with as much raw skill as Baez.
If it seems like the default conclusion to these player analyses was that they don’t have a good chance at induction, that’s exactly how it should be. It’s the Hall of Fame, it needs to have incredibly high standards to get in.
There are some guys on the current Cubs roster with a great chance at induction, namely Lester and Hamels. The rest of the team is still so young that it’s hard to be in any way conclusive about their shot at Cooperstown.
Things change quickly when projecting young players. If this article had been written last offseason, Baez likely wouldn’t have even been mentioned, and Bryant’s chances would’ve seemed much better. By this time next year, a huge season from Ian Happ or Willson Contreras could earn them a spot on a similar article.
This Cubs’ roster is ripe with Hall of Fame potential. Right now, it may be impossible to know who will earn a trip to Cooperstown, but it will certainly be fun to watch and find out.