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Baseball Hall of Fame: A way-too-early look at the crowded Class of 2025 ballot and beyond

The 2024 Hall of Fame voting cycle is over, and three new former players (plus manager Jim Leyland, who was elected by the veterans committee late last year) will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.

This cycle might've ended less than 24 hours ago, but it's never too early to peer into the future and see what awaits. With 12 players moving off the ballot in 2025 (three due to election, one due to ballot limits and eight due to low support), let's take a look at the next few years of eligible players and who could get their call to the Hall.

2025 ballot

Eligible first-year candidates:

  • Melky Cabrera

  • David Freese

  • Carlos Gomez

  • Carlos Gonzalez

  • Curtis Granderson

  • Felix Hernandez

  • Edwin Jackson

  • Adam Jones

  • Ian Kinsler

  • Francisco Liriano

  • Russell Martin

  • Brian McCann

  • Kendrys Morales

  • Dustin Pedroia

  • Martin Prado

  • Hanley Ramirez

  • Mark Reynolds

  • Fernando Rodney

  • CC Sabathia

  • Ichiro Suzuki

  • Troy Tulowitzki

  • Ben Zobrist

Ichiro Suzuki is a lock for the Hall of Fame when he appears on the ballot in 2025. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
Ichiro Suzuki is a lock for the Hall of Fame when he appears on the ballot in 2025. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Final year on the ballot:

  • Billy Wagner

Next year's class is massive. The Baseball Hall of Fame website lists 22 eligible candidates for the Class of 2025, nearly double the number of first-year candidates on this year's ballot. That's due to the COVID season in 2020, which pushed many older players into retirement for one reason or another. If 22 is how many actually make it onto the 2025 ballot, voters will have to make their choices carefully, as numerous candidates would be in danger of falling below the key 5% threshold and being eliminated from the ballot.

Sabathia and Suzuki shouldn't have to worry about that, though. Suzuki is all but guaranteed to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and possibly the second unanimous selection in baseball history. Sabathia will also garner plenty of votes and could get in on his first ballot.

As for candidates already on the ballot, it's Wagner's last year of eligibility. But considering that he was just five votes short in 2024, he has a good chance of getting over the line in 2025. Andruw Jones (61.6% in 2024) will also have the opportunity to build strong support as he approaches his 10-year limit.

2026 ballot

Eligible first-year candidates:

  • Ryan Braun

  • Shin-Soo Choo

  • Edwin Encarnacion

  • Gio Gonzalez

  • Alex Gordon

  • Cole Hamels

  • Matt Kemp

  • Howie Kendrick

  • Nick Markakis

  • Daniel Murphy

  • Hunter Pence

  • Rick Porcello

  • Neil Walker

Final year on the ballot:

  • Manny Ramirez

There will be just 13 new candidates in 2026, which will be a relief after the absolute flood that was 2025. But unlike 2025, there aren't any obvious Hall of Famers in this group. Braun's a fascinating candidate, but his more-than-casual flirtation with PEDs and comparatively short career (15 years, three years shorter than the average) make him unlikely to earn induction. Hamels has a stronger case than you might think, even with just one top-five Cy Young finish in a 15-year career, but he might be a Hall of Very Good player more so than a Hall of Fame player.

A ballot with a weak first-year class is good for existing candidates. With the decks cleared of obvious Hall of Famers, players such as Carlos Beltran and Andruw Jones (if he isn't already in) can build support. Looking ahead, they'll have a few years to do so.

2027 ballot

Eligible first-year candidates:

  • Jake Arrieta

  • Jay Bruce

  • Wade Davis

  • Dexter Fowler

  • Todd Frazier

  • J.A. Happ

  • Jon Lester

  • Andrew Miller

  • Mitch Moreland

  • Buster Posey

  • Kyle Seager

  • Ryan Zimmerman

  • Jordan Zimmermann

Final year on the ballot:

  • Andruw Jones

Buster Posey might want to send a bouquet of flowers to Joe Mauer after this Hall of Fame cycle. Mauer set a new induction standard for catchers with short careers and high, intense peaks. Posey, like Mauer, is an MVP-winner, and despite just a 12-year career, he won three World Series rings. He also caught three no-hitters and won Rookie of the Year. It'll be interesting to see how the voters handle Posey.

2028 ballot

Eligible first-year candidates:

  • Zack Britton

  • Lorenzo Cain

  • Brock Holt

  • Darren O'Day

  • Yadier Molina

  • Albert Pujols

  • Kurt Suzuki

  • Stephen Vogt

Final year on the ballot:

  • Andy Pettitte

Pujols as a first-ballot Hall of Famer is pretty much a sure thing, but Molina should be a more interesting case. Unlike fellow catchers Mauer and Posey, he wasn't a heavy hitter. He had a few high-average/high-OBP years but was largely league-average or below, and he hit more than 20 homers in a season just once in his 19-year career. That said, the voters love a defensive catcher, and Molina was a very good one. He won nine Gold Gloves, including eight straight from 2008 to 2015. That could be enough for him to overcome questions about his hitting.

2029 ballot

First-year candidates known so far:

  • Michael Brantley

  • Miguel Cabrera

  • Nelson Cruz

  • Adam Wainwright

The cupboard is a little bare five years into the future. The 2024 season hasn't started yet, so unless a player has officially retired, we don't quite know who played their final game in 2023 and therefore is eligible for the 2029 ballot.

But of the four who officially ended their careers in 2023, Cabrera is by far the standout. He's a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer. Just like Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera and Chipper Jones did when they retired, Cabrera essentially went on a yearlong retirement tour during which many teams held pregame ceremonies and gave him special gifts. That's not the reason he's going to be a Hall of Famer, of course, but average players don't get farewell tours.