Miami Marlins Hall of Famer No. 4 - Luis Arraez
Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez is a hitting machine, pure and simple.
Now, as to whether or not that's enough to get into the Hall of Fame...that remains to be seen. Arraez is very much a one trick pony. He does not hit for power, he's not a fast runner. He's a competent fielder, but for how long? As a slow middle infielder without a strong arm that doesn't hit for power, how long can Arraez stick in the starting lineup?
Obviously, none of that is a 2024 problem. Right now, Arraez is arguably the Miami Marlins' best offensive weapon. It's not even a 2028 problem, which is why the Marlins should waste no time extending him. As a two-time batting champion, he's one of the more unique hitters in MLB.
However, it really is just that hit tool that gives him any chance of ever making a case for Cooperstown. Which means he needs to keep doing it. Keep accumulating. A lot. For a long time. The Tony Gwynn comp was made often last season, as their career pace through their age-26 seasons was actually pretty similar. Gwynn played until he was 41, though, and was a five-time Gold Glove winner in the outfield. Granted his last two seasons did very little to aid his Hall of Fame case, but he did hit .338 as a 39-year old in 1999. Over twenty MLB seasons, he hit below .300 once.
Considering how much harder the act of hitting over .300 has gotten, Arraez wouldn't necessarily have to match Gwynn. Then again, once you adjust for the lack of elite defense, he probably has to come pretty close. That's an extremely daunting task. After all, there's a reason someone who retired 18 seasons before Arraez started playing was the only real comparison for what he was doing at the plate last year. Hitting that well, that consistently is hard. It must also be stressed that, even with last year's rule changes, hitting that well is way harder than it was when Gwynn was playing. Just to offer the simplest means of comparison, in that same aforementioned 1999 season, the average MLB batter hit .270 at the plate. In 2023? A mere .248 average. So Arraez is more of a unicorn right now, but holds that status just entering his prime. Once he loses a step at the plate, though? Today's pitching might bring regression about much more sharply.
What if he does keep going though, a perrennial .300 hitter? At least for the next ... call it, five seasons (not coincidentally, a number that would make him Hall of Fame eligible and get him to 10). Already, Arraez has two batting titles in his career. One in each league no less, a feat that is already getting his name on a sign somewhere in a certain baseball museum. What if gets a third, though? Just a third, repeating as batting champion one more time at some point during his Miami Marlins tenure?
In that event, history would suggest he has a very good chance at making it into the Hall.
Thus far in baseball history, there are twenty-nine players who have won three or more batting titles in their careers. If you assume election for Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera, then twenty-five of those players are Hall of Famers. That leaves just four elite hitters on the outside looking in.
The odds are even a bit better than that, though. Of those four, two are ineligible for Hall of Fame consideration. Ross Barnes of the National Association only played for nine seasons, not the required 10. The other ineligible? Pete Rose, famously banned for betting on baseball. Down to two then.
That leaves just Pete Browning and Bill Madlock as multiple time batting champs that aren't in the Hall of Fame. Browning debuted in 1882, and played mostly for teams that don't exist anymore. However, Madlock on the other hand...that's actually a fair comp. An infielder without a ton of pop that played in the modern era that wasn't great at much else beyond hitting? Sounds a lot like Arraez outside of the fact he still hit 163 HR in his career, which might be 100 more than Arraez will end up with. Madlock won four batting titles, and still isn't in.
That's a thought that should keep Marlins fans up at night, assuming of course the team extends him. All evidence so far is that one of those is not forthcoming, and there have been more trade rumors attached to his name than rumors mentioning extension talks. He's only under team control for two more seasons, which unfortunately means that he has less than two seasons left with the Marlins before he's dealt. If he's not extended...the circumstances where he enters the Hall of Fame sporting a Marlins cap involve another batting title in 2024. Oh, and also a championship parade.
Sign me up! In all seriousness though, it's not a very realistic prospect. As opposed to this next player, who you could argue has the best Hall chance (for some team) of any player on the list.