Scott Rolen was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the BBWAA Tuesday, meaning he will join Fred McGriff in the class of 2023.
While Rolen was the only candidate to receive the necessary 75% of votes on ballots, four others topped 50%:
- Todd Helton: 72.2%
- Billy Wagner: 68.1%
- Andruw Jones: 58.1%
- Gary Sheffield: 55%
With all that in mind, we took a look at upcoming ballots and tried to decide who has the most likely path to election in the coming years. These are not necessarily the five players we believe should be the next elected to Cooperstown, but the ones we think are the most likely:
Todd Helton - Colorado Rockies (1997-2013)
As the ballot has cleared up, Helton has finally begun to receive the recognition that he deserves. The five-time All-Star got votes on 72.2% of ballots in 2022, his fifth year of eligibility. The three-time Gold Glove Award winner got just 16.5% of the vote when he debuted on the ballot in 2019, so he has some serious traction. If elected, Helton would become the second player to wear a Rockies cap in the Hall of Fame, joining his long-time teammate Larry Walker. If Helton was elected as a first basemen who never led the league in home runs but was a tremendous all-around hitter (.316 batting average, 2,519 hits, .953 career OPS), it would bode well for the future Hall of Fame prospects of Joey Votto and Freddie Freeman.
Billy Wagner - Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox & Atlanta Braves (1995-2010)
Wagner once appeared destined to hang around on the ballot for all 10 years, but not get elected. However, as the sport has begun to appreciate shutdown relievers even more, it has helped the case of Wagner. In 2023, he received votes on 68.1% of ballots, quite the jump from just 51% the year before. He only has two years left on the ballot, but Wagner -- who is sixth in MLB history with 422 career saves -- is close enough to the 75% needed to think he'll close the gap in one of the next two cycles.
Joe Mauer - Minnesota Twins (2004-2018)
At his peak, Mauer was one of the greatest catchers in MLB history. While he did spend a sizable chunk of his career either at first base or DH, Mauer won the 2009 American League MVP as a catcher, won five Silver Slugger Awards as a catcher and made six All-Star teams as a catcher. A .306 career hitter, Mauer will make his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2024.
Adrián Beltré - Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox & Texas Rangers (1998-2018)
One of the greatest third basemen in MLB history, Beltré is also slated to first appear on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2024. Beltré finished his 21-year career with 3,166 hits, while winning five Gold Glove Awards and two Platinum Glove Awards, setting him up to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As one of the greatest players in Rangers history, Beltré would join Pudge Rodriguez and Nolan Ryan as players to wear a Texas hat in Cooperstown.
Ichiro Suzuki - Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees & Miami Marlins (2001-2019)
Suzuki didn't come to MLB until his age-27 season, but he made up for lost time by winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award and MVP in the same season in 2001. In parts of 19 seasons, Suzuki was a 10-time All-Star, won 10 Gold Glove Awards and racked up 3,089 hits. There are players on the ballot currently (Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltrán) and ones that will debut in 2024 (Chase Utley) that may very well get in at some point. But Suzuki, who will debut in 2025, will unquestionably be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And while some of the names may eventually join him in Cooperstown, they're going to have a more winding path.