On Wednesday afternoon, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its inductees for the 2014 class. Unlike last year, when no candidates were voted in by the writers, the presence of Greg Maddux on the ballot practically guarantees an inductee will make a speech at Cooperstown next summer. Based on public ballots released, Tom Glavine looks to be a shoo-in and Frank Thomas and Craig Biggio also have received strong support.
But instead of looking two days ahead, let's instead fast-forward two decades and guess which of today's young players are most likely to put together Hall of Fame-worthy careers.
Predicting the distant future isn't exactly an easy task, but it is a fun one, so long as we're not imagining our future waistlines or hairlines. It's inevitable that some future Hall of Famers are in the early parts of their careers right now. Given that players tend to peak in their mid-to-late 20s, even some of the greatest players in history, many future inductees are likely filling out some of the most important parts of their Hall resumés.
To be a little more objective about the best candidates, I asked the ZiPS projection system to project the rest of the careers of today's young players. There's obviously a great deal of uncertainty in any look at the the future, but one of the nice things about having a projection system hanging around is that it can do things, like calculate long-term risk (age-related decline, injury rates, etc), that are difficult to estimate.
For this exercise I used only players who will be age 30 or younger as of July 1, 2014 -- you wouldn't need projections to know that Derek Jeter is a future Hall of Famer. Here are the top 10 based on projected career WAR. (All historical WAR numbers are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.)
1. Mike Trout (92.4 WAR)
Projected career stats: .283/.385/.474, 138 OPS+, 307 homers, 2,400 hits, 420 stolen bases
What's scary about this figure is that based on Mike Trout's first two seasons, projecting him merely to finish with the 29th-best positional WAR in baseball history almost seems like a disappointment. But being only 22 with a lot of years left in front of him, the issues of long-term uncertainty require us to be a little cautious.