Voting for the Hall of Fame is over for the next 11 months, now that the 2023 class was finalized with Scott Rolen’s election on Tuesday. But the 2024 ballot will likely be headlined by a pair of former Dodgers.
Adrián Beltré began his career with the Dodgers, but will almost certainly wear a Rangers cap when he sails into Cooperstown on next year’s ballot, representing the team he played for in his final eight seasons. But his first seven years came in Los Angeles, beginning at 19 years old and ending by finishing second in National League MVP voting before leaving in free agency.
Beltré’s bonafides are crystal clear, combining excellent defense with power, finishing his career with 477 home runs and 636 doubles. His 93.5 career Baseball Reference WAR by far leads the way among first-timers on the 2024 ballot.
No. 2 in WAR among debuts on next year’s ballot is someone who ended his career with the Dodgers. Chase Utley during his time in Los Angeles was at the end of his career, transitioning from regular to part-timer during his final four seasons. He was beloved in the clubhouse, and even took on a fatherly role for some.
But in his prime, Utley was one of the very best players in baseball. He was in the top three in the National League in WAR for five straight years (2005-09), helping fuel two World Series trips and one championship with the Phillies. Utley was overshadowed by teammates, surpassing Ryan Howard (2006) and Jimmy Rollins (2007) in WAR in their MVP seasons.
Utley played 16 seasons, but qualified for the batting title only three times over the last half of his career, and played more than 138 games only once over his final nine seasons. His career numbers aren’t gaudy, as he didn’t reach 2,000 hits, and his only black ink comes from leading the league in runs once and hit by pitches three times.
His Hall of Fame case, however, is bolstered by a tremendous peak. He hit .293/.383/.513 with a 134 wRC+ and a 131 wRC+, averaging 34 doubles, 25 home runs, and 15 stolen bases over his best seven-year stretch (2005-2011), second in the majors in both bWAR (49.3) and fWAR (47.6), trailing only Albert Pujols.
The only player on next year’s potential ballot with a higher seven-year peak than Utley is Alex Rodriguez.
Whether Utley gets in on the first ballot or has to wait a while to gain support from voters, his Hall of Fame case is worthy. If he happens to get inducted in the same year as Beltré, that would give the Dodgers two player inductees in the same year for the first time since 2003, with Eddie Murray and Gary Carter.
After Gil Hodges was elected last year and Fred McGriff set for 2023 — both by the Era Committees — if any Dodger gets inducted in the 2024 class, that will make three straight years of former Dodgers players going into the Hall of Fame for the first time since 2014-2016 with Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and Mike Piazza.