Cardlines Guide to the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame First-Time Candidates

Baseball Hall of Fame season is right around the corner. Here at Cardlines, we love the Hall of Fame election. It gives us some real hot stove fodder for those cold, baseball-free winter months.

The chance to argue about the relative merits of some of the greatest players of their eras, the whims of the writers who get to vote, and the effects of the dark clouds hanging over several of the players make for a fascinating way to pass the cold, baseball-free winter months.

We already talked about the Hall of Fame in our Early Preview Of The 2023 Baseball Hall Of Fame Election and our Guide Of The 2023 Baseball Hall Of Fame Returning Candidates.

Today, we’ll look at those players likely to appear on the 2023 Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

This will include the players likely to appear on the ballot, their chances of election, and their rookie cards.

The path to the Hall of Fame Ballot

Of the roughly 22,000 players to step foot on a major league diamond in the long history of the game, only 268 have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, roughly 1%.

Just appearing on a Hall of Fame ballot is an achievement in its own right. In order to qualify, a player must appear in 10 major league seasons, be retired for five years, and then be selected by the nominating committee.

Once on the ballot, a player will remain there until they are elected (by garnering 75% of the vote), fall off the ballot (receiving less than 5% of the vote), or be on the ballot for ten seasons.

The ballots will be mailed to voters in late November, and are due back by December 31st. The results will be announced on January 25th, 2023. While not every player on the ballot will make the Hall of Fame, fans and collectors should never forget that they still represent some of the best to play the game.

The new candidates

While the final ballot won’t be made public until November, these players are likely to be included. If the final ballot contains anyone we don’t feature here, we’ll update you with more info.

We’ll look at the players in order of career WAR, from most to fewest.

Carlos Beltran – 70.1 WAR

Carlos Beltran was a 9-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove award winner, and two-time Silver Slugger winner, and was the 1999 American League Rookie of the Year. Beltran finished his career with a .279/.350/.486, good for an OPS of .837 and OPS+ of 119. He hit 435 home runs during his playing days and stole 312 bases.

Beltran racked up 70.1 WAR in his career. That ranks 8th among center fielders all time. And while that’s a hair below the Hall of Fame average for that position, that average is skewed by icons Willie Mays (156.1), Ty Cobb (151.4), Tris Speaker (134.8), and Mickey Mantle (110.2).

Beltran’s chances, at least in the short term, will be somewhat crimped by his involvement in the Astros sign-stealing controversy. In addition, he was somewhat of a compiler, being very, very good for a long time, as opposed to having a soaring “peak.”

Beltran had a lot of above-average skills, instead of one amazing one. He was not the one-dimensional home run slugger. Beltran had power, speed, and plus defense at a premium defensive position.

Shop for Carlos Beltran rookie cards prices on eBay

1995 Topps Traded Carlos Beltran

Beltran’s Rookie Cards

Carlos Beltran’s rookie cards appear in 1995. He appears on two cards that year, although technically only one is his rookie card.

His sole rookie card is the 1995 Topps Traded #18T. Topps famously made an error with that card, swapping the photos of Beltran Juan LeBron on their respective cards. So, if Beltran gets elected, he’ll be a rarity…a player who debuted in the last 40 years who only appeared on one rookie card. ALSO, he doesn’t actually appear on his rookie card!

Beltran also appears on the 1995 SP Top Prospects #111, which is a tough card to find in high grade due to the foil finish. Because it features him in a minor-league uniform, it’s technically a draft pick/prospect card, not a rookie card. That being said, it remains popular with collectors.

1995 SP Top Prospects Carlos Beltran

John Lackey – 37.3 WAR

Lackey played on three World Championship teams during his 15-year career. In those 15 years, he won double-digit games 14 straight years. He won 9 in his rookie year before starting that impressive streak.

Lackey finished his career with a 188-147 record and a 3.93 ERA (110 ERA+). He made one All-Star team and won one ERA title. Lackey was a very good pitcher for a long time.

Shop for John Lackey rookie cards on eBay

Lackey’s Rookie Card

2000 Bowman Chrome is Lackey’s rookie card. With a PSA population under 100, graded copies don’t come up very often. Raw copies sell for $5 or less.

2000 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks John Lackey

Jered Weaver – 34.6 WAR

Weaver finished his career with a record of 150-98 with a 3.63 ERA (111 ERA+). He was an All-Star three times and twice led his league in wins. He had three top-5 Cy Young award finishes and racked up 34.6 WAR in his career.

Shop for Jered Weaver rookie cards on eBay

Weaver’s Rookie Cards

The rookie cards for Jered Weaver appear in 2005 products, including 2005 Topps Updates & Highlights. A PSA 10 comps at a very affordable $20. Finding other graded cards of his can be a challenge, due to low pops and low demand means they don’t show up on eBay very often.

2005 Topps Updates & Highlights Jered Weaver

Jacoby Ellsbury – 31.2 WAR

Ellsbury burst onto the scene in 2007, hitting .353 in limited time and helping the Red Sox win the World Series. He even won the whole country a taco from Taco Bell when he stole a base in the World Series.

Ellsbury went on to play parts of 11 seasons, making an All-Star team, winning a Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove. He fell off hard after signing a big free-agent contract with the New York Yankees. Outside his 343 career stolen bases and his monster 2011 year, nothing suggests Ellsbury is a Hall of Famer.

Ellsbury’s Rookie Cards

 Ellsbury’s rookie cards appear in 2005, mostly in Bowman and Topps update products. The sheer affordability of these cards now, including their relatively low PSA populations, tell you all you need to know about Ellsbury’s Hall of Fame chances.

Shop for Jacoby Ellsbury rookie cards on eBay

2005 Topps Updates & Highlights Jacoby Ellsbury

Jhonny Peralta – 30.2 WAR

Peralta played shortstop for parts of fifteen seasons, making three All-Star teams. He finished his career with 202 career home runs and 30.2 WAR.

Peralta’s Rookie Cards

2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects contains Peralta’s rookie card. A recent PSA 10 copy sold for less than $5 despite a fairly low pop.

Jhonny Peralta rookie cards on eBay

2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks Jhonny Peralta

Jayson Werth – 29.2 WAR

Werth played parts of 15 seasons in the big leagues, making one All Star team. He hit .268/.361/.456 career line, good for a .818 OPS and an OPS+ of 117 and hit 229 home runs and stole 132 bases during his career. Werth was…err…worth 29.2 WAR in his career.

Werth’s Rookie Cards

Werth’s first cards appear in 1997, including 1997 Bowman. It’s a very low pop card in terms of PSA grading. Meanwhile, raw copies go for a dollar or two.

Shop for Jayson Werth rookie cards on eBay

1997 Bowman Chrome Jayson Werth

Matt Cain – 29.1 WAR

Cain pitched thirteen seasons in the big leagues, making 3 All-Star teams and pitching for three World Championship San Francisco Giants teams. He had a nice run from 2009-2012, going 55-35 with a 2.93 ERA. He fell off pretty quickly after that finishing his career with a 104-118 record and a 3.68 ERA.

Nowhere near the Hall of Fame standard for a starting pitcher, but another example of just how high that standard is. Cain had a career to be proud of and remains a San Francisco Giants legend.

Cain’s Rookie Cards

Matt Cain has his rookie cards in the 2002 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects product, appearing in both the paper and Chrome versions. Even in a PSA 10, the Chrome sells for a very reasonable price. The paper version has only been graded 21 times by PSA with only one PSA 10.

Shop for Matt Cain rookie cards on eBay

2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks Matt Cain

Mike Napoli – 26.3 WAR

Napoli topped 20 home runs eight times in his 12-year career. He made an All-Star team and hit 267 home runs in his career. He’ll also never pay for a beer in Boston again after his role on their 2013 World Championship team.

Napoli’s Rookie Cards

Napoli’s rookie card appears in the 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects set, and is very low pop with fewer than 20 PSA-graded copies. Even in a 10, it’s very affordable, if you can find one.

Find Mike Napoli rookie cards on eBay

2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Mike Napoli

Francisco Rodriguez – 24.2 WAR

Relief pitchers are represented by the fewest players of any position in the Hall of Fame. What exactly is a modern Hall of Fame closer has not yet become clear. Billy Wagner is on the current ballot and trending well. Joe Nathan made his debut on the 2022 ballot, but only garnered 4.3% of the vote and dropped off.

Rodriguez played 16 seasons in the big leagues, making six All-Star teams and winning the Rolaids Relief Award twice. He finished his career with 437 Saves (4th all-time), leading his league 3 times, including a single-season record 62 saves in 2008. He racked up 24.2 WAR in his career and finished with a 2.86 ERA.

Other than the general confusion around what a Hall of Fame closer looks like, some will ding K-rod for playing fewer than 1,000 games (948) and pitching less than 1,000 IP (976).

Shop for Francisco Rodriguez rookie cards on eBay

Rodriguez’s rookie cards

Rodriguez has rookie cards in the 2000 Bowman and 2000 Topps Update, with the Chrome versions being the more expensive (in relative terms, anyway) options. In PSA 9, these both sell for very reasonable prices, although a PSA 10 copy of the 2000 Topps Chrome Traded & Rookies did recently sell for a very respectable $95.

Francisco Rodriguez 2000 Bowman and Topps Chrome RC’s

Andre Ethier – 21.5 WAR

Ethier played parts of 12 seasons, all with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made a couple of All-Star teams and won both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award. He put up a .285/.359/.463 line with an OPS of .822 during his career, but fell off quickly after age 33.

Ethier’s Rookie Cards

Either had his rookie cards in several 2005 products, including 2005 Topps & 2005 Topps Chrome. Both have very low PSA populations and no recent comps. You can buy raw copies for more dollars, including the Chrome autograph.

Shop for Andre Ethier rookie cards on eBay

2005 Topps Chrome Andre Ethier Auto

Huston Street – 14.5 WAR

Street was the 2005 AL Rookie of the Year on his way to a 13-year career that saw him save 324 games and make two All-Star Games. He was worth 14.5 WAR during his career.

Street’s Rookie Cards

Huston Street has rookie cards in 2004 products, including 2004 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Chrome. There are no recent comps for that card, but a 2004 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Paper in PSA 9 sold recently for $5.

Shop for Huston Street rookie cards on eBay

2004 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Huston Street

First-year candidates’ rookie cards & PSA counts

CardPSA PopComp PSA PopRecent Comp Price
1995 Topps Traded Carlos Beltran #18T2,255PSA 10 = 298PSA 10 = $110-200
1995 SP Top Prospects Carlos Beltran #111233PSA 10 = 23PSA 10 = NA
2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Matt Cain #BP25280PSA 10 = 124PSA 10 = $45-60
2002 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Matt Cain #BDP252002 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Matt Cain #BDP2521PSA 10 = 1NA
2005 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Auto Jacoby Ellsbury #BDP172109PSA 10 = 20NA
2005 Topps Updates And Highlights Jacoby Ellsbury #UH317281PSA 10 = 197PSA 10 = $20
2005 Topps Chrome Andre Ethier Auto #22140PSA = 14NA
2005 Topps Andre Ethier #31373PSA 10 = 68NA
2000 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects John Lackey #8091PSA 9 = 29PSA 9 = $40
2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Mike Napoli #BDP317PSA 10 = 8PSA 10 =$35
2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects Jhonny Peralta #BDP10788PSA 10 = 43PSA 10 = $5
2000 Bowman Chrome Francisco Rodriguez #321151PSA 9 = 93PSA 9 = $15
2000 Topps Chrome Traded & Rookies Francisco Rodriguez #T38161PSA 10 = 39PSA 10 = $95
2004 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects Chrome Huston Street #BDP3657PSA 10 = 26NA
2005 Topps Updates & Highlights Jered Weaver #UH3128661PSA 10 = $20
1997 Bowman Jayson Werth #43328PSA 9 = 7PSA 9 = $10

Who gets elected?

From our Early Preview Of The 2023 Baseball Hall Of Fame Election here’s my prediction:

“I think that this is the year that Scott Rolen crosses the 75% threshold and is elected to the Hall of Fame. Based on the trajectory of his candidacy to date, which has seen him go from a borderline candidate to a consensus frontrunner, I think he makes the 11.8% jump.

I think the next three vote-getters are HeltonWagner, and Beltran. I’ll go with that order. There’s a slight chance that Todd Helton also squeaks in, but that may be too big a jump to ask for.”

The first-year candidates beyond Beltran? I expect the vast majority of them to receive less than 5% of the vote and drop off the ballot. A few may just clear 5% and stay on the ballot, but it’s unlikely any ever cross the 10% threshold.

Scott Rolen

2023 Hall of Fame investment thoughts

Beyond Beltran, the Hall of Fame chances of these players is fairly slim. I think an argument could be made for Francisco Rodriguez, but if he is inducted it will likely be years from now.

So, as a straight monetary investment, the non-Beltran player’s rookie cards probably aren’t great investments. That being said, while not likely Hall of Famers, these were all very good baseball players for a long time.

Carlos Beltran

The find word on the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame First-Time Candidates

If you were a fan of these players during their careers, or the teams on which they played, their cards are affordable enough that I think a nostalgic investment is an easy call. The challenge of finding some of these rookie cards in PSA 10 could be a fun challenge. PSA 9 copies are relatively affordable although in some cases lower population than the PSA 10s. In raw condition, you could collect a pile of these players’ rookie cards.

If you do that, I think they’d look great in 9-pocket pages in a binder. An inexpensive celebration of some very good players with long careers who aren’t quite Hall of Famers, but more than worth remembering.

We hope you enjoyed this look ahead to the new candidates on the 2023 Hall of Fame ballot.

Other Cardlines 2023 Hall of Fame coverage

Mike D

Mike D

Mike D. has collected cards since he bought his first pack of Topps at the corner store in 1987. He has long been fascinated by the Baseball Hall of Fame, and of course cards of Hall of Famers, present and future.


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