Boston Red Sox icon David Ortiz was elected as a first-ballot Hall of Famer Tuesday, following a career that saw him hit 541 home runs and win three World Series titles.
While Ortiz is headed for Cooperstown, the controversial quartet of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa all failed to receive votes on 75% of ballots in 2022. Given that it was their 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot, all four -- who unquestionably have numbers worthy of election -- fell off the ballot. If they are ever to be elected to baseball's most prestigious museum, it will have to come from one of the Era Committees.
For years, the Hall of Fame ballot was overcrowded with players certain to receive over 5% of the vote, but unlikely to ever actually be elected. With Ortiz being elected and the aforementioned four no longer on the ballot, the 2023 Hall of Fame ballot projects to be as wide open a ballot as any in recent memory.
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:
Scott Rolen - Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays & Cincinnati Reds (1996-2012)
Rolen received votes from 63.2% of voters in 2022, putting him within striking distance of the 75% needed for election. He's seen a meteoric rise from the 10.2% of votes garnered in 2018, his first year of eligibility on the ballot. Rolen was the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner, and went on to make seven All-Star teams and win eight Gold Gloves. We recently ranked him as the ninth best third basemen in MLB history. The biggest question remaining for Rolen is whether his Hall of Fame plaque will feature him wearing a Phillies or Cardinals cap, with the possibility of a blank cap also in play.
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 52% of ballots in 2022, his fourth 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 didn't hit 400 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.
Carlos Beltrán - Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees & Texas Rangers (1998-2017)
Beltrán may be the most difficult to figure out on this list. A nine-time All-Star with over 2,700 hits and the ninth-highest bWAR of all center fielders in MLB history, there's little doubt from here about his worthiness from a statistical sense. The only thing that could keep Beltrán out of the Hall of Fame is if he's penalized for his role in the 2017 Astros' sign-stealing scandal, which did cause him a chance to be the manager of the Mets. The guess here is that the further we get removed away from the scandal, the more voters will be willing to look past Beltrán's involvement in the scheme. Right or wrong, Beltrán -- who will make his debut on the ballot in 2023 -- will probably be elected in one of the next two classes. If Beltrán is elected, that probably is a good sign that other 2017 Astros -- mainly, José Altuve -- could be in the future.
Joe Mauer - Minnesota Twins (2004-2018)
Don't tell any former SportsCenter anchors who spend their days unsuccessfully trying to dunk on people on Twitter, but Mauer is 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.