The 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame Class Could Be Special

If you thought the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was interesting, just wait until next year.

With Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez officially gaining entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, we can officially start looking ahead at the 2018 class and what it could provide.

And by all indications, it could be really, really good.

On the Cusp

Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman were both tantalizingly close to being enshrined this year, finishing just 15 and 5 votes away from the 75 percent threshold, respectively.

Guerrero has quite the career resume, as he hit .318/.379/.533 with 449 home runs, a 136 wRC+ and finished with a 59.3 bWAR. And even though he built a reputation of being a free-swinger, he struck out just 10.9% of the time.

While he posted just a -25 DRS for his career (although it only dates back to 2003 and Guerrero debuted in 1996), it's hard to solely judge him on defensive metrics. After all, he did have one of the strongest arms in baseball.

However, Hoffman is a different case. Despite having 601 saves to his name, some don't believe closers belong in the Hall, and some only believe Mariano Rivera does. Still, a number of relievers have already gained entry -- hurlers such as Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage -- so denying the man with the second-most saves in MLB history is a tough sell.

Outside of the saves conversation, he was also a pretty good pitcher overall.

Trevor Hoffman 2.87 141 3.08 73 3.79 88

He produced a sub-100 ERA+ only twice: once in 1993 and not again until 2010, his final season. He also only produced a FIP- over 100 twice (1995 and 2010) and his xFIP- crept over 100 once since its inception in 2002 (that happened in 2010).

Hoffman was no Mariano Rivera, but he was an elite closer and deserves to be remembered in Cooperstown.

Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones is as big of a lock for the Hall of Fame as this generation has seen.

While spending his entire career with the Atlanta Braves, the third baseman hit .303/.401/.529 with 468 home runs, a 141 wRC+ and a 85.0 bWAR. It's also impressive to note that he drew walks more often (14.2%) during his career than he struck out (13.3%).

The lowest wRC+ he ever posted in a single season was 116, and comparing him to the below legends solidifies the fact that he belongs in Cooperstown (don't forget that he was a switch-hitter, too!).

Player OPS BB% K% HRs ISO wRC+ bWAR
Mickey Mantle .977 17.50% 17.30% 536 .259 170 109.7
Pete Rose .784 9.90% 7.20% 160 .106 121 79.1
Tim Raines .810 12.80% 16.70% 170 .131 125 69.1
Eddie Murray .836 10.40% 11.80% 504 .189 127 68.3
Chipper Jones .930 14.20% 13.30% 468 .226 141 85

This player comparison makes his already impressive career even more impressive.

Jim Thome

Jim Thome is another lock, although he is not mentioned as much as he should be. He has a career triple slash of .276/.402/.554 with 612 home runs, a .278 ISO, a 145 wRC+ and a 72.9 bWAR. Those 612 home runs rank seventh all-time, and there was never a peep about him taking any kind of performance-enhancing drugs.

His collection of dingers are currently the most among all first basemen, which is incredible considering the position's reputation for elite power.

While Thome did spend 818 games as a designated hitter, he won't join Edgar Martinez in that category on the ballot, which has been a point of contention among voters. The former Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies star spent the majority of his career out in the field (1,106 games at first base, 493 at third base).

Andruw Jones

When one thinks of Andruw Jones, they think of his countless web gems he seemingly produced on a nightly basis.

One of the best defensive center fielders in MLB history, Jones won 10 straight Gold Glove awards from 1998-2007. But what is not talked about from his 10-year run of dominance in with the glove was how good he was offensively.

Years OPS BB% K% HRs ISO wRC+
1998-2007 .847 9.80% 18.80% 345 .238 115
2008-2012 .740 12.50% 25.50% 66 .214 96

Those 345 homers were the most among center fielders during this time, while that 115 wRC+ ranked seventh. So, he was the very definition of a complete player.

The problem for him is the numbers he produced following this dominant run. He bounced from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees from 2008-12 and turned into an all-or-nothing hitter to go with sub-par defense (for his standards).

Despite starting his decline at the age of 31, he still had an elite 10-year run on both offense and defense that's unmatched. His full body of work, which includes a .254/.337/.486 line with 434 home runs, 111 wRC+ and a 62.8 bWAR to go along with unparalleled dominance in center deserves to eventually be enshrined -- even if 2018 isn't the year.

Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen has a similar case to the guy we just talked about -- his elite defense is his biggest positive. Rolen was an eight-time Gold Glove winner at third base, but unlike Jones, he was still an elite defender at the end of his career, winning his last Gold Glove at 35 years old.

The only two men at the hot corner who have more of these awards than Rolen are Brooks Robinson (16) and Mike Schmidt (10), who are both Hall of Famers.

He was also an accomplished hitter, posting a .281/.364/.490 line. The 316 homers he slugged is tied for 19th among all third baseman in MLB history, while his 122 wRC+ is tied for 36th-best with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor (although he saw time at plenty of other positions).

The 70.0 bWAR he produced during his 17-year big league career is perhaps the best measuring stick since it's above the average bWAR for a third baseman in the Hall of Fame.

Don't Forget About the Other Guys

On top of the players mentioned above, there are plenty of others who have interesting cases for being enshrined in Cooperstown, but haven't gained entry yet for one reason or another. Some of these players include Martinez, Mike Mussina, Fred McGriff, Billy Wagner, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

With the first-ballot members becoming eligible and the holdovers from 2017, the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame class has the potential to be really special -- now we'll just have to wait and see who the BBWAA writers see as being worthy of such a prestigious honor.