Miguel Cabrera
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Miguel Cabrera reaching 500 career home runs puts him in elite company — and should make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

Tab Bamford

On Sept. 8 the National Baseball Hall of Fame will honor the Class of 2020 with its annual induction ceremony; nobody was voted into the Hall in 2021.

Among those being honored is Yankees’ icon Derek Jeter, who everyone on the planet knew was headed to Cooperstown once he decided to hang up his glove.

On Sunday afternoon we watched Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers hit his 500th career regular season home run, a benchmark that used to mean automatic induction. But the steroid era has put a cloud of suspicion on so many that 500 isn’t a lock for the Hall any longer.

Cabrera is a lock for Cooperstown. But how many other currently active (meaning not retired) players are absolute, sure-fire locks to be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame five years after their final game?

First, the elephant in the room on both sides of New York: there’s no way Robinson Cano gets into the Hall. His PED issues will keep him out, though his 69.5 career WAR is better than Cabrera’s and ranks sixth among all active players. Sorry, Robbie. No dice.

Let’s name names. Tell us who we missed or where we’re wrong.

Albert Pujols

If you’re unfamiliar with Pujols’ career, welcome to baseball! When he hangs em up, a case can — and will — be made that he is the greatest right-handed hitter in the history of baseball.

Pujols leads all active players with 100.0 career WAR (per Baseball Reference), 26 more than any other active player. To put that into perspective, last year’s AL MVP, Jose Abreu, has a career WAR of 24.6.

His personal accolades include: Rookie of the Year, 3-time MVP, a batting title, 10-time All-Star, 2 Gold Glove Awards, 10 Silver Slugger awards, 2 World Series rings and 3-time Major League Player of the Year.

Miguel Cabrera

Behind Pujols, no batter (especially right-handed) has been as dominant over the past 20 years as Cabrera. His 69.3 career WAR ranks seventh among active players and fourth among batters.

His personal accolades include: 2-time MVP, 1 World Series ring, 4 batting titles, 7 Silver Slugger awards, 11-time All-Star and he is the last player to win a Triple Crown (2012).

Cabrera needs two more runs scored to reach 1,500 in his career. He’s 15 RBI away from 1,800. And he’s 45 hits away from 3,000.

Mike Trout

Yes, Mike Trout is a lock for Cooperstown. He reached 10 years of service time this season, making him eligible for the ballot. And his resume is already worthy of a spot in the Hall.

Trout’s career WAR of 74.0 is already better than Cabrera’s. He has been touted as the best player of his generation and, when healthy, has lived up to that billing.

Trout’s personal accolades include: Rookie of the Year, 3-time MVP, 9-time All-Star, 8 Silver Slugger awards and 1 Major League Player of the Year.

If anyone can be considered in the conversation with Pujols and Cabrera for the best right-handed hitter of the past 30 years, it’s Trout.

Max Scherzer

Scherzer has enjoyed a remarkable career that includes more logos than one might expect considering how dominant he has been. His career WAR is 65.1. It’s crazy to think Scherzer and Justin Verlander were in the same rotation in Detroit at one time.

Scherzer’s personal accolades include: 3-time Cy Young winner, 8-time All-Star and one World Series championship.

If Scherzer’s resume is impressive, our next lock is ridiculous.

Justin Verlander

Verlander has a resume that is on par with that Cabrera. He’s been one of the best pitchers of his generation, though the last couple seasons have been lost to injury. His career WAR is 71.8.

His personal accolades include: Rookie of the Year, 1 MVP, 2-time Cy Young winner, a pitching Triple Crown, 8-time All-Star, 1 World Series championship, an ALCS MVP and a Major League Player of the Year.

Clayton Kershaw

Like Verlander, Kershaw has a rare Most Valuable Player trophy at home; as a pitcher, that’s a rare achievement. He has been the best left-handed pitcher of his generation and has the resume to support swift induction into Cooperstown.

His personal accolades include: 1 MVP, 3-time Cy Young winner, a pitching Triple Crown, 8-time All-Star, 5-time ERA champion and 1 World Series championship.

He could add a second World Series ring to his resume this year… which would add a second ring to the resume of his new teammate, Scherzer, as well.

Yadier Molina

So… here’s the thing. Some people have made the case that Molina’s offensive numbers don’t make him a Hall of Famer. His career WAR is 40.4, which is behind Giancarlo Stanton (who is not a Hall of Famer). Among active catchers, he’s also behind Buster Posey in that regard.

Some have made a comparison to Omar Vizquel when making a case against Molina. And, honestly, I buy that. I wouldn’t vote for Molina on his first ballot.

But most writers will — because he’s Yadier Molina.

Had Molina played somewhere other than St. Louis the narrative might not be as strong in favor of his induction, but a strong personality on winning teams in a market where anyone who succeeds is crowned means Molina will likely get in at some point.

His personal accolades include: 10-time All-Star, 9-time Gold Glove Award, 2 World Series championships, one Silver Slugger award and four Platinum Gloves.

Jacob deGrom New York Mets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On the Fence

Here are a few guys we’re not sure will get in. Some have more surprising numbers than you might expect, and some still have work to do to prove their place in Cooperstown. But, at this point, we’re not sold on these guys being a lock to get into the Hall.

We have them listed in order of the likelihood the players have of getting into the National Baseball Hall of Fame someday.

Buster Posey – 41.4 WAR, Rookie of the Year, 1 MVP, 7-time All-Star, 3-time World Series champion, 1 Gold Glove Award, 1 batting title, 4 Silver Slugger awards

Zack Greinke – 74.2 WAR, 1 Cy Young, 6-time All-Star, 6 Gold Glove Awards

Mookie Betts – 45.9 WAR, 1 MVP, 5-time All-Star, 5 Gold Glove Awards, 1 batting title, 4 Silver Slugger awards, 2 World Series championships

Jacob deGrom – 43.2 WAR, Rookie of the Year, 2-time Cy Young winner, 4-time All-Star

Nolan Arenado – 40.2 WAR, 8 Gold Glove Awards, 6-time All-Star, 4 Silver Slugger awards, 4 Platinum Glove Awards

Jon Lester – 43.2 WAR, 5-time All-Star, 1 NLCS co-MVP, 3-time World Series champion

Joey Votto – 60.9 WAR, 1 MVP, 6-time All-Star