Are Torii Hunter and Josh Donaldson Future Hall of Famers?
Image courtesy of © Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsTorii Hunter:
Hunter’s case is decent. He won nine Gold Glove awards, two Silver Sluggers, and was a five time All-Star over his career. The good news for Hunter is that there are only six outfielders who have more career GG’s (Clemente, Mays, Griffey Jr., Jones, Kaline, Suzuki). Four of those players are already in the Hall while Suzuki will certainly make it once he’s eligible. Much of Torii’s case rests on the strength of those GG awards and how much voters weigh that when deciding who to vote for.
The bad news for Hunter is that those four outfielders already in the hall were much better hitters over the course of their careers than Hunter. Hunter aligns almost perfectly offensively with Andruw Jones, the other outfielder with more GGs than Hunter who snagged just 19.4% of the vote in his third year on the ballot. Hunter’s career OPS+ sits at 110 while Jones is at 111.
Beyond the fact that Hunter wasn’t quite an elite hitter, he never was unquestionably one of the best players in baseball at any point in his career. The highest he ever placed in MVP voting was when he came in sixth in 2002, and even then he was only the 25th best position player in the AL by fWAR. Both Corey Koskie and Jacque Jones were more valuable by that stat. Hunter never finished higher than 15th beyond that year.
Hunter will have an advantage as he will be eligible for the ballot next year and there aren’t many players joining him who have slam-dunk cases. Curt Schilling could make it but no one else seems like an obvious case unless the voters suddenly get real cool about steroids real quickly. Hunter could garner some back-ballot votes as he only has to fight Mark Buehrle and Tim Hudson as other strong newcomers.
As is, Donaldson faces a similar uphill battle but he has reached his own point in a starkly different way than Hunter.
While Hunter started playing consistently at the age of 24, Donaldson didn’t see his first full season until 2013 during his age-27 season. That has yet to be a negative for the Bringer of Rain. Every season that Donaldson has seen at least 400 at-bats has resulted in him getting MVP votes including his 2015 season that won him the award outright. Since 2013, the only position player with more fWAR would be the one and only, Mike Trout.
Let’s put it this way; Donaldson certainly has the peak play needed to gain entry into the Hall. After another great 2019 season with the Braves, his peak might not even be behind him quite yet.
The major difference between Hunter and Donaldson is that Donaldson can still alter his career and improve his case for the Hall. A strong four years in Minnesota would likely cement Donaldson’s case for the Hall, especially if he leads the team to a title. Anything less is where his case starts to get a bit murky as he may fall into the Dale Murphy pit of “great peak but not enough longevity”. These next few seasons will be crucial for Donaldson’s case and he’s certainly not being helped by these lost games.
Both players present different yet similar cases for the Hall. One has to leave it all up to the voters while the other can still influence his career and build onto an already impressive resume. What do you think? Do either of these players belong in the Hall of Fame?
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