As we near the announcement of the National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2024, speculation continues to grow about who will earn the necessary 75% of the vote. In his second year of eligibility, Carlos Beltrán is making a strong push for election this year.
Ballots were due on December 31, but the full results will not be announced until January 23. Until then, more and more ballots will be made public, which will give us some kind of an idea as to who will make the Hall of Fame.
Beltrán finished his career as not only one of the best power hitting center fielders of all time but also as one of the best switch-hitters of all time.
Despite those accomplishments, there is still some question as to whether or not Beltrán will get into the Hall. He faces an uphill battle from now through January 23 when the results are announced. Most view him as a borderline Hall of Famer. He is a guy who probably deserves to get in, but if he doesn’t, I don’t expect a lot of backlash.
I, for one, expect Beltrán to get in and would vote for him myself if I had a vote. Let me tell you why.
Production as a Center Fielder
Center field is not a position populated with middle-of-the-order sluggers. More often than not, when people think of a center fielder, they think of a speedy, contact-oriented hitter who sits at the top or bottom of a lineup card.
As with anything, there are exceptions to a generalization like this. Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mickey Mantle were formidable power hitters while also manning center field.
Over the course of his career, Carlos Beltrán established himself as one of the best power hitting center fielders ever. He ranks fifth all-time in home runs (435) among center fielders (at least 1,000 games played in center). He trails only Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, and Andre Dawson, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
Using the same criteria, Beltrán also ranks fifth in runs batted in, fourth in doubles, 13th in slugging percentage, 17th in OPS, and 13th in isolated power. If one thing is for certain, Beltrán could swing it. He provided great power production from a position that typically does not. It is also worth noting that he posted an OPS over .850 nine different times in a 20-year career.
Beltrán currently sits ninth among center fielders in Baseball Reference WAR with 70.1. That puts him right between Robin Yount and Kenny Lofton. Yount is in the Hall of Fame, yet Lofton only received 3% of the vote in 2013 before falling off the ballot.
At the end of the day, you can make the argument that Beltrán is one of the 15 best offensive center fielders of all time. That alone may not be enough to get him in, but he has more on his resume.
One thing that may get lost in the shuffle of the Hall of Fame talk is the fact that Carlos Beltrán was a switch-hitter. Of the 270 players currently in the Hall of Fame, only 25 were switch-hitters. Of those 25, only 15 were position players (the other 10 were primarily pitchers). In other words, only a little over five percent of the players in the Hall of Fame are switch-hitting position players.
It feels as if the fact that Beltrán is one of the greatest switch-hitters in the history of baseball gets swept under the rug. He ranks sixth among all switch-hitters in hits, second in doubles, fourth in home runs, third in RBIs, and eighth in slugging (min. 1,500 PA).
One of the more remarkable things about Beltrán as a switch hitter was his consistency. His splits from either side of the plate are almost a mirror image of one another. His slash line from the left side when facing righties was .279/.354/.482, while his slash line from the right side when facing lefties was .280/.342/.500. This gave him an OPS of .835 and .843, respectively.
So often with switch-hitting players, you see a large discrepancy between their numbers on their strong side and their weak side. Recently, the names Ozzie Albies and Cedric Mullins come to mind. Albies is regularly ridiculed because he is so much better as a right-handed hitter than a lefty. Conversely, in the early years of his career, Mullins struggled to bat right-handed so much that he gave it up and only hits left-handed now.
Beltrán’s case to be one of the ten, maybe even five best switch-hitters ever is incredibly strong and important in his overall Hall of Fame case.
Carlos Beltrán: All-Time Ranks
When looking at a player’s Hall of Fame case, it always helps to look at their career stats. Where do they impress you? What did they accomplish in their career to set themselves apart?
It is clear what Carlos Beltrán has done compared to his peers in center field. Now, let’s look at what he has done in comparison to some of the best in the game. Before doing so, it is important to remember how many players have come and gone in this game. There have been over 20,000 players to play professional baseball in the major leagues, keep that in mind.
Of those 20,000-plus players, only 58 managed to hit 400 home runs over the course of their careers. Beltrán ranks 47th all-time with 435 home runs.
He also ranks 62nd all-time in hits, with 2,725. He is sandwiched in between two Hall of Famers, Chipper Jones and Roberto Alomar. When it comes to doubles, he ranks 29th all-time with 565. He is just ahead of Hall of Famer Eddie Murray in that category.
Beltrán ranks 41st all-time in runs batted in with 1,587. Once again, he finds himself in the company of Hall of Famers on that list. This time he falls in between Andre Dawson and Rogers Hornsby.
Counting stats aren’t always sexy, but they matter.
As for rate stats, Beltrán’s .837 career OPS may not jump off the page and scream Hall of Famer. However, you’d be crazy to think that someone who posted an .837 career OPS over 20 seasons was not an amazing player.
I have talked a lot about the players ranked next to Beltrán. Well, his OPS ranks 217th all-time (min. 4,000 PA) and sits tied with Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. Beltran also ranks ahead of notable Hall of Famers such as Eddie Murray, Yogi Berra, and Ernie Banks.
There is no reason for someone to look at the stats Carlos Beltrán put up over his career and make an argument that he does not deserve Hall of Fame consideration.
Carlos Beltrán only has one World Series ring. It came in 2017 with the Houston Astros in his final season. He didn’t contribute much to that team, only amassing 21 plate appearances the entire postseason. Despite that, a sneaky bonus in Beltran’s Hall of Fame case is that he has an argument to be one of the best postseason players ever.
In baseball, you can’t hold a player’s lack of championships against them. As such a team-oriented sport, it is hard for one player to push his club over the top. In Beltrán’s case, he often did everything he could to bring his team a World Series title, but it usually wasn’t enough.
Beltrán ranks 10th all-time in postseason OPS among players with at least 100 postseason plate appearances. However, if you up the criteria to 200 plate appearances, he ranks number one in postseason OPS out of 102 hitters who meet the playing time minimum.
That OPS is higher than that of Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, and Barry Bonds.
In almost every counting stat category, the players ranked ahead of Beltrán have a plate appearance advantage. For example, he ranks 12th in postseason RBIs (42), but every player ahead of him has at least 318 plate appearances compared to his 256.
Similarly, Beltrán ranks 16th with 16 home runs, yet every player ahead of him, aside from Nelson Cruz, had more plate appearances.
Overall, Beltrán slashed an incredible .307/.412/.609 in the postseason, which is noticeably better than his .279/.350/.486 line in the regular season. If he had found himself on more successful postseason teams and won a couple more World Series rings, we might be talking about him as the best postseason player in the history of the sport.
Carlos Beltrán’s Potential Pitfalls
The case for Carlos Beltrán to make the Hall of Fame is anything but airtight. He was an incredible player, but he faces an uphill battle if he wishes to make the Hall of Fame. There are a number of reasons that I could see him falling short this year.
One of those reasons is simply the lack of flash on his resume. Beltrán only had one top-five MVP finish in his career. He was a good defender, claiming three Gold Gloves but was not a stand-out, all-world defender. Similarly, he was a very good hitter, but he won only two Silver Sluggers, leaving a bit to be desired.
The strongest accolades on Beltrán’s resume are his nine All-Star appearances and the 1999 American League Rookie of the Year.
There is nothing truly flashy about his career. He never once led the league in any major offensive statistical category. Unfortunately, that and an overall lack of accolades could result in voters viewing Beltrán as a “Hall of Very Good” kind of player instead of a Hall of Fame player.
A second reason that Beltrán could struggle to gain votes is his role in the Astros’ World Series win and cheating scandal. He spent his final MLB season with the Houston Astros in 2017.
What the Astros did that year obviously left a poor taste in some people’s mouths. However, I don’t believe it should play a role in Beltrán’s Hall of Fame election. That was his only season in Houston (outside of a short stint in 2004), and he wasn’t really a factor in that postseason. He had three hits in 20 at-bats.
I understand that some voters are going to hold this against Beltrán, but I firmly believe that is the wrong decision. If you want to hear what the man himself has to say regarding the 2017 scandal, see the video below.
One last criterion that comes up somewhat frequently regarding Hall of Fame voting is the question: “Can you tell the story of baseball without this player?” However, I think that this is a rather heavy burden to place upon each candidate.
There are a handful of players in the Hall of Fame right now that you could omit from the story of baseball. There are also players who are not in the Hall of Fame that you could not tell the story of baseball without mentioning.
How much voters truly take that standard into account is impossible to quantify. However, Beltrán is likely going to struggle to gain the votes of those who value that criterion.
Carlos Beltrán: Final Hall of Fame Evaluation
There are really three things to look at when coming to a conclusion about a player’s Hall of Fame case: the overall strength of his resume, whether he will make it this year, and if not, whether he will make it at all.
The first has been answered. To me, it is clear that Carlos Beltrán has a strong enough resume to make the Hall of Fame. One can certainly argue that he is a borderline Hall of Famer, but this piece lays out how he brought himself over the top.
The second one is the trickiest when it comes to Beltrán. He is certainly trending in the right direction. So far, he has gained the votes of 21 BBWAA members who did not vote for him last year while losing the votes of only six who did vote for him last year. His net gain of 15 voters is currently the highest among players on the ballot for at least their second year.
Beltrán currently sits at 66.9% on the ballot. Unfortunately, the closer we get to the January 23 reveal, the lower his odds get. Last year, he lost more than seven percent when the final tally came in; borderline candidates tend to get less support from anonymous ballots.
If that trend continues, it looks as though Beltrán is going to fall short of the 75% benchmark by at least 10-15%.
With that said, not all hope is lost. If the publicly available numbers as of today were the final voting tally, Beltrán would have seen more than a 20% jump in support compared to last year. Furthermore, a trend like this is likely to continue in future years. Therefore, I would be shocked if Beltrán does not enter the Hall of Fame in either 2025 or 2026.
While it appears that Carlos Beltrán is on the right track to make the Hall of Fame eventually, he most likely will not be in the 2024 Hall of Fame class.