Updated: Jan 9
Carlos Beltrán is on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. He is likely the only candidate who will get in from this group of first-time candidates. Beltrán was a five-tool player and a top-10 switch-hitter of all time. Let's take a look at his case for induction.
Carlos Ivan Beltrán was born in Puerto Rico and drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1995 out of High School. He was a September call-up in 1998 and brought some excitement to Kauffman Stadium with three triples and three stolen bases in just 14 games. In 1999, Beltrán won the Rookie of the Year easily, logging 22 home runs and 27 stolen bases with 108 RBIs and 112 runs.
After a rough 2000, the centerfielder had three seasons in a row of at least 24 home runs, 31 steals, 100 RBIs, and 100 runs. In 2004, the small-market Royals traded Beltrán to the Houston Astros. It would lead him to his first playoff appearance, and he did not disappoint, going 20-for-46 with eight homers and six swipes. Unfortunately, they were knocked out in the NLCS, but Beltrán's playoff legacy had begun.
He went on to play the next six and a half seasons with the New York Mets, slashing .280/.369/.500 and helping them to the NLCS in 2006. While he went 8-for-27 in the series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets weren't able to move on, and Beltrán was denied another chance at the World Series.
Following a brief stint with the San Francisco Giants, Beltrán joined the Cardinals whom he had lost to in 2004 and 2006. He had a couple of good years and performed again in the playoffs, finally making the World Series in 2013. He would fall short despite going 5-for-17 against the Boston Red Sox.
Beltrán followed his time in St. Louis with a couple of years in New York and a short time in Texas while finishing his career in 2017 with the Astros where he finally got his ring despite going 3-for-20 that postseason.
What Helps His Case
Beltrán was a complete player and compares well with top centerfielders in history. As a matter of fact, there are only three players to have at least 1,000 games in center with 400 HRs and 300 SBs: Beltrán, Willie Mays, and Andre Dawson. Beltrán played in 2,586 games. He is one of 11 players to have 1,500 runs, 1,500 RBIs, and 1,000 XBH in fewer than 2,600 games. Eight of them are in the Hall of Fame and the other two are Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez who aren't in yet due to PED issues.
Beltrán wasn't just a force with the bat. He got it done with his legs as well. Beltrán has the highest Stolen Base Percentage of any player in major league history at 86.43% (min. 200 attempts). He also has 104 Total Zone Runs in centerfield which ranks him seventh all-time. Defensively, he probably should have won more than three Gold Gloves, but Beltrán had some stiff competition in the AL with the likes of Ichiro Suzuki and Torii Hunter.
His postseason numbers are incredibly impressive. In 65 playoff games, Beltrán slashed .307/.412/.609 with 16 homers and 11 stolen bases. He also walked more than he struck out (37-33). Most of his damage was done in the National League, but his overall resume is worth noting. As a switch-hitter, Beltrán was proficient equally from both sides of the plate slashing .279/.353/.481 against right-handers and .280/.343/.501 versus southpaws.
What Hurts His Case
In the early voting, it seems Beltrán is not getting a lot of support. Being on the 2017 Astros is damaging his legacy even if it is guilt by association. Looking at his stats from that season and even his postseason numbers, it is hard to believe that Beltrán took part in the trash can fiasco. However, some voters may look at it as if he should have said something or called out his teammates for cheating. Whatever the specific views of the voters are, Beltrán's involvement with Houston that season is certainly hurting his case for induction.
Let's compare a Hall of Fame outfielder to Beltrán.
Their numbers are quite similar. Where Dawson has an edge is in hardware as he won the 1987 NL MVP award and had eight Gold Gloves to Beltrán's three. Beltrán has the edge as he was a playoff performer on a historic level, and he has a ring. Dawson's postseason experience was limited to 15 games where he only had 11 hits and no homers.
The Hawk had to wait until his ninth year on the ballot to get in. Beltrán should not have to wait as long. However, we know that some members of the BBWAA look upon cheating as an overwhelming black mark. How many of the writers actually withhold their vote for Beltrán due simply to the cheating scandal in 2017, will determine how long he has to wait for his induction into Cooperstown. Strictly by the numbers, Beltrán is easily a Hall of Famer.