Every year, the Baseball Hall of Fame welcomes a new class of players onto their ballot. While some players become first-ballot Hall of Famers, there have been a number of great players who immediately fell off the ballot, falling below the five-percent threshold. There are enough “one and done” players to make a formidable roster with plenty of star power.
Catcher: Jorge Posada
Posada spent all 17 seasons of his career in Pinstripes, which makes it hard to believe he didn’t get much love from the Hall of Fame voters. The switch-hitting backstop had a career batting line of .273/.374/.474 (121 OPS+) with 275 homers, 379 doubles, 1,094 RBIs, and 42.7 rWAR. According to JAWS (the average of a player’s career WAR and seven-year peak WAR), Posada ranks as the 19th-best catcher in MLB history.
Posada was a five-time All-Star and Silver Slugger, as well as a four-time World Series champion. Posada eclipsed 20 homers in eight seasons, hitting as many 30 in 2003, the same year in which he finished third in MVP voting. In 2007, Posada finished sixth in MVP voting, registering a career-best .338/.426/.543 (153 OPS+) batting line. That season, he became the only catcher in MLB history to record a season with at least a .330 batting average with 40 doubles, 20 homers, and 90 RBIs. Posada also leads all switch-hitting catchers in homers.
Defensively, Posada had a slightly-below average throwing arm and was a subpar pitch framer. Even with his defensive shortcomings, it shocked many fans when Posada received just 3.8 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2017. He ranks ahead of Hall-of-Fame catchers Ernie Lombardi, Ray Schalk, and Rick Farrell on the JAWS leaderboard.
Honorable Mentions: Jason Kendall, Gene Tenace, Bill Freehan
First Base: John Olerud
First base had the most competition for any position in this lineup, with Olerud narrowly beating out the field. In his 17-year career, Olerud had a .295/.398/.465 (129 OPS+) batting line with 255 homers, 500 doubles, 1,230 RBIs, and 58.2 rWAR.
Olerud was a two-time All-Star and World Series champion and also racked up three Gold Glove awards. In 1993, Olerud won the AL Batting Title while also leading the league in doubles (54), OBP (.473), OPS (1.072), and OPS+ (186). After getting traded to the Mets, Olerud set a few franchise records despite only spending three seasons in Flushing. In 1998, he set the team’s single-season records for batting average (.354) and OBP (.447), and he set the club mark for walks in a season in 1999 with 125.
Olerud ranks 23rd among first basemen in JAWS, ahead of Hall of Famers Joe Torre, Frank Chance, Tony Perez, and Orlando Cepeda. Olerud even has an award named after him in college baseball for two-way players. Unfortunately, Olerud received just 0.7 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2011.
HM: Will Clark, Carlos Delgado, Norm Cash
Second Base: Bobby Grich
Bobby Grich had a very strong career that spanned 17 years. He hit .266/.371/.424 (125 OPS+) with 225 homers, 320 doubles, 864 RBIs, and 71.0 rWAR. He was a six-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glover, and picked up a Silver Slugger in 1981. Grich finished as high eighth in MVP voting and led the AL in homers and OPS in 1981.
JAWS ranks Grich as the eight-best second baseman of all time. The only second baseman ranked ahead of him who isn’t currently in the Hall of Fame is Robinson Cano. Grich also ranks ahead of numerous Hall of Famers including Craig Biggio, Ryne Sandberg, and Roberto Alomar. Grich only received 11 votes though in 1992, likely because his traditional counting stats aren’t as outstanding.
HM: Willie Randolph
Third Base: Buddy Bell
Bell wasn’t a slugger, but he was a solid hitter and a very good fielder. He had a .279/.341/.406 (109 OPS+) batting line with 2,514 hits, 201 homers, 425 doubles, 1,106 RBIs, and 66.3 rWAR.
Bell was a five-time All-Star and a six-time Gold Glover while also picking up a Silver Slugger in 1984. He received MVP votes five times, finishing as high as 10th in 1979. Bell also struck out in just 7.8 percent of his at-bats and never struck out more than 72 times in a season. Defensively, Bell’s 23.8 dWAR ranks third all-time at the hot corner, behind only Brooks Robinson and Adrian Beltre. He’s 15th on the JAWS leaderboard for third basemen, but he received just 1.7 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 1995.
HM: Sal Bando, Robin Ventura, Darrell Evans, Ron Cey
Shortstop: Jim Fregosi
While he’s mainly known for being part of the infamous Nolan Ryan trade, Fregosi had a pretty successful MLB career. He hit .265/.338/.398 (113 OPS+) with 151 homers, 706 RBIs, and 48.8 rWAR. Fregosi was a six-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove in 1967, the same year in which he finished seventh in MVP voting.
Through his age-28 season, Fregosi had 45.2 rWAR, but his numbers took a nosedive after that season. He would accumulate just 3.6 rWAR over the next eight seasons, which likely tanked any shot he had at getting into Cooperstown. He ranks 21st among shortstops in JAWS, ahead of some Hall of Famers including Luis Aparicio, Phil Rizzuto, and Willie Wells.
HM: Bert Campaneris, Miguel Tejada
Left Field: Lance Berkman
Berkman played all three outfield positions as well as first base throughout his career, but he’s only listed on the JAWS leaderboards in left field. While he wasn’t a great fielder, Berkman more than made up for it with his bat. He had a strong .293/.406/.543 (144 OPS+) batting line with 366 homers, 422 doubles, 1,234 RBIs, and 52.0 rWAR. He ranks 20th in JAWS among left fielders, ahead of Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Ralph Kiner, Jim Rice, and Heinie Manush.
Berkman was a six-time All-Star and won a World Series ring in 2011 when he was with the Cardinals. He finished as high third in MVP voting and eclipsed 20 homers in 11 of his 15 seasons, hitting as many as 45 in a year. From 2000-2009, Berkman averaged 31 homers and 103 RBIs per season while hitting a monstrous .300/.413/.559 (148 OPS+) and racking up 46.2 rWAR.
Unfortunately, Berkman battled injuries over the last few seasons of his career. His final full season came in 2011 when he won Comeback Player of the Year, but he suffered a torn meniscus in 2012 and his production never recovered. He retired after the 2013 season, and he received just five Hall of Fame votes when he hit the ballot in 2019.
HM: Luis Gonzalez, Jose Cruz, Bobby Veach
Center Field: Jim Edmonds
This was the toughest position to decide on, as both Edmonds and Kenny Lofton had very compelling cases and were equally disrespected by Hall of Fame voters. Edmonds just narrowly gets the nod here, as his offense was valued significantly higher while still having very good defense.
In his 17-year career, Edmonds hit .284/.376/.527 (132 OPS+) with 393 homers, 437 doubles, 1,199 RBIs, and 60.4 rWAR. He was a four-time All-Star, an eight-time Gold Glover, a Silver Slugger in 2004, and a World Series champion in 2006. Edmonds received MVP votes six times, finishing as high as fifth. He also contributed in the postseason with 13 homers and an .874 OPS.
Edmonds ranks 15th in JAWS among center fielders. The only players ranked ahead of him who aren’t currently in the Hall of Fame are Lofton, Carlos Beltran, Andruw Jones, and Mike Trout. Somehow though, Edmonds only received 2.5 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2016.
HM: Lofton, Jim Wynn, Cesar Cedeño
Right Field: Reggie Smith
Smith was a switch-hitting outfielder whose OPS+ never dipped below 100 over the course of a full season. He had a .287/.366/.489 (137 OPS+) batting line with 314 homers, 363 doubles, 1,092 RBIs, and 64.6 rWAR. His JAWS ranks 17th among right fielders, ahead of a few Hall of Famers including Dave Winfield and Vladimir Guerrero.
Smith was a seven-time All-Star, a Gold Glover, and a World Series champion in 1981. He led his league in doubles twice and led in total bases, OBP, and OPS+ once. Smith received MVP votes seven times, finishing as high as fourth. After the 1982 season, Smith signed with the Yomiuri Giants and put up a .952 OPS with 45 homers across two seasons in Japan. When he was on the Hall of Fame ballot though, Smith received just 0.7 percent of the vote.
HM: Brian Giles, Jack Clark
Designated Hitter: Jason Giambi
Yes, Jason Giambi is an admitted steroid user, but steroids or not, his numbers are impressive. Across his 20-year career, he hit .277/.399/.516 (139 OPS+) with 440 homers, 405 doubles, 1,441 RBIs, and 50.5 rWAR.
Giambi was a five-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger, and won AL MVP honors in 2000. Giambi also finished second in MVP voting in 2001 and fifth in 2002. He led his league in walks four times, OBP three times, OPS+ twice, slugging once, and OPS once. While Giambi never won a World Series ring, he did hit seven postseason homers with a .911 OPS. In his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Giambi received just 1.5 percent of the vote.
HM: Delgado, Will Clark
Starting Pitcher: Johan Santana
Santana only played in 12 seasons, and lost a lot of time due to injuries, but he was electric when healthy. He finished his career with a 3.20 ERA/3.44 FIP (136 ERA+), a 1.132 WHIP, and 1,988 strikeouts in 2,025.2 innings (8.8 K/9). Santana was a four-time All-Star, a three-time ERA and strikeout leader, a two-time Cy Young winner, and a Triple Crown winner. Santana was on Hall-of-Fame trajectory until he began to suffer from injuries that ultimately ended his career after the 2012 season.
HM: Kevin Brown, Rick Reuschel
Relief Pitcher: Tom Henke
Unlike a lot of closers, Henke didn’t make a single start in his career, excelling in the bullpen from the moment he was called up. He finished his career with a 2.67 ERA/2.72 FIP, a 1.092 WHIP, 311 saves, and 861 strikeouts in 789.2 innings (9.8 K/9). Henke was a two-time All-Star and World Series champion, and won Reliever of the Year in 1995. He is the Blue Jays’ franchise leader in saves, racking 217 with the club. Unfortunately, Henke received just 1.2 percent of the vote in 2001.
HM: Robb Nen
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