Six MLB Stars Who Have Hall of Fame Doppelgängers

The overwhelming election of Adrián Beltré reminds us that you don’t always see a Hall of Famer coming, even a first-ballot one like Beltré.

Through age 30, Beltré slashed .271/.325/.454, had yet to make an All-Star team and received MVP votes just one time in 12 years. His closest comp was Rubén Sierra. Nobody thought he was on the Hall of Fame Highway.

Beginning with his famous “pillow contract” season with Boston at age 31, Beltré slashed .307/.358/.514, made four All-Star teams and received MVP support seven straight years out of those nine seasons.

From age 31, Beltré hit 227 homers and batted .307. Only six other players did that: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Edgar Martínez, Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez.

Related: Baseball HOF Voting Takeaways: Joe Mauer Carves Unique Place in History

Contrast Beltré’s career arc to that of Andruw Jones, who was trending toward a shot at Cooperstown through age 30 but fell off a cliff (.210/.316/.424, OPS+ 92). Forecasting the Hall can be difficult. I remember hearing how Steve Sax supposedly was headed toward 3,000 hits and Adam Dunn toward 600 homers.

The fact is most Hall of Famers elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America are not first-ballot choices: 57%, in fact. Most are not obvious, even through their first 12 seasons in the big leagues.

Among active players, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper are among the few well down the road toward Cooperstown. But what about others who might not be so obvious?

Here are selected current players who are on the road to the Hall because of one measurement: They have a Hall of Fame doppelgänger through the same number of career games. There’s no telling how their careers will play out, as evidenced by Beltré and Jones, but for now they are on the Hall of Fame Highway.

Yankees slugger Aaron Judge hits a two-run home run against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports

1. Aaron Judge is tracking Ralph Kiner.

It’s a comp that likely won’t hold up. Kiner was 28 when he reached 835 games and was done at age 32. Judge turns 32 in April and is signed through age 39. Kiner finished with 369 homers and needed 15 ballots for election. Judge should blow past Kiner’s numbers. The comp, though, makes the point that Judge’s peak already puts him in range of the Hall.

Judge’s stats through 835 games

Player Avg. SLG OPS HR TB

Judge

.282

.586

.982

257

1,762

Kilner

.285 

.578

.982

238

1,743

2. Paul Goldschmidt resembles Mike Schmidt.

Goldschmidt is 36 and a veteran of 13 seasons. He is far down the road. Schmidt remained a dominant hitter past this age (135 OPS+), so the bar here remains high. Schmidt finished with a 148 OPS+ and Goldschmidt is at 143. That tells you Goldschmidt is not Schmidt’s equal but compares closely enough to a first-ballot Hall of Famer to bear close watching.

Goldschmidt’s stats through 1,774 games

Player OPS OBP RBI SB TB

Goldschmidt

.907

.388

1,122

158

3,386

Schmidt

.917

.384

1,169

166

3,277

3. José Ramírez is comparable to Beltré.

The offensive numbers and joy in which they play the game are similar. Because Beltré had a rocket-booster of a second stage to his career, it will be challenging for Ramírez to keep pace.

Ramírez’s stats through 1,293 games

Player Avg. H TB HR OPS

Ramírez

.279

1,293

2,376

216

.854

Beltré

.270

1,283

2,164

194

.784

4. Rafael Devers slugs like Reggie Jackson.

Here are two left-handed sluggers with power and some swing and miss. Jackson reached 842 games during his MVP season in 1973, when he was 27. He retired with 563 homers. Devers played last season at 26.

Devers’ stats through 842 games

Player HR RBI SLG OPS SO

Devers

172

490

.510

.853

747

Jackson

170

475

.496

.852

829

5. Gerrit Cole is a combination of Randy Johnson and Roy Halladay.

The wins and winning percentages of the three pitchers are similar. Cole more resembles Johnson with his ERA and strikeouts but more resembles Halladay with his command.

Cole’s stats through 300 games

Player W-L Pct. ERA IP BB SO

Cole

145-75

.659

3.17

1,859

471

2,152

Johnson

145-80

.644

3.37

2,008.1

957

2,343

Halladay

142-69

.673

3.45

1,948.2

440

1,410

6. Shohei Ohtani is a combination of Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer.

This is just bonkers. Ohtani hits like Frank Robinson, a first-ballot Hall of Fame hitter, and pitches like Jim Palmer, a first-ballot Hall of Fame pitcher.

Ohtani has more homers, the same RBIs and virtually the same extra-base hits and OPS as Robinson at this stage. On the mound, he has virtually the same start to his career as Palmer, who had 24 relief appearances in his first 86 games.

Of course, strikeouts are far more prevalent in today’s game than they were when Palmer began in the 1960s. Still, only seven pitchers ever struck out more batters in their first 86 games than Ohtani: Yu Darvish, Shane Bieber, Dwight Gooden, Tim Lincecum, Hideo Nomo, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

Technically, Ohtani is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. He will not be eligible until he plays one game in 2027, when he reaches the Hall’s minimum of playing 10 seasons.

But, come on … only 13 players hit more homers in their first 701 games hitting and only seven pitchers struck out more batters in their first 86 times on the mound? A combination of Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer? Ohtani is heading down the Hall of Fame Highway at twice the speed of anybody else.

Ohtani’s stats through 701 games

Player HR RBI 2B 3B XBH SLG OPS

Ohtani

169

427

123

28

320

.556

.920

Robinson

157

427

136

24

317

.547

.923

Ohtani’s stats through 86 games

Player W-L Pct. ERA IP BB SO

Ohtani

38-19

.667

3.01

481.2

173

608

Palmer

37-17

.685

3.00

492

220

346

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