Pittsburgh Pirates: Potential Future Hall of Fame Players


The Pittsburgh Pirates have many players in Cooperstown, but who could be the next player to wear a Pirate cap on their plaque in the Hall of Fame?

The National Baseball Hall of Fame is the highest honor any player can receive. Whether they were a titan of the game like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays or Nolan Ryan, or simply just played at a high level for a long period of time like Derek Jeter, Greg Maddux or Joe Morgan, making it to Cooperstown immortalizes a player in history. When it comes to Cooperstown, the Pittsburgh Pirates are well represented.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have 42 players, managers or executives in Cooperstown. Among them are greats like Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, and managers like Connie Mack and Ned Harlon. But who will be the next player to wear a Pittsburgh Pirate cap on their Hall of Fame Plaque?

On Monday, the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot was released. While this includes a trio of former Pirate players, it appears unlikely any of them will be voted into the Hall of Fame. Even though one of these three is arguably the greatest player in baseball history.

Among active players, Andrew McCutchen is the most likely. For nine years McCutchen established himself as one of the best players in Pirate history. In those nine years Cutch collected 5829 plate appearances and hit .291/.379/.487 with a 136 OPS+ and 137 wRC+. McCutchen showed both power and speed, swiping 171 bases and hitting 203 long balls. Overall, his 45.7 fWAR with the Bucs ranks as the 9th most by a Pirate of all time.

Plus, we can’t go over Cutch without looking at his prime. From 2012 to 2015, McCutchen was a monster at the plate. He hit .313/.404/.523 with 100 home runs, a 157 wRC+ and 28.8 fWAR. Only Buster Posey and Mike Trout put up more fWAR and only Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto had a higher wRC+. Posey, Trout, Cabrera, and Votto are all future Hall of Famers.

Since being traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates, he hasn’t been the MVP batter he was for most of his Pirate tenure. Since 2018, Cutch has a solid .255/.361/.433 line, 117 wRC+ and 4 fWAR. Still, McCutchen should be on pace to make the Hall of Fame.

Currently, Cutch has a career .285/.376/.478 line, 134 wRC+, .369 wOBA and 49.7 fWAR. If 60 WAR is the baseline to make the Hall, then Cutch, if healthy for a handful of more seasons, could make it. The move to left field has significantly helped his defense. In the final three years he was primarily a center fielder, Cutch had -46 DRS, -7.9 UZR/150 and -22.9 range runs above average. Though Cutch wasn’t a great defender in 2020, we are taking a very small sample size of 302 innings in left field. Still, in 2018-2019 where he was primarily a corner outfielder, Cutch had +5 DRS, 0.7 UZR/150 and 0.8 range runs above average.

Hitting wise, McCutchen was having a really good 2019 season before tearing his ACL. In 262 plate appearances, McCutchen was batting .257/.378/.457 with 10 long balls, a 120 wRC+ and 1.5 fWAR. Had he kept up this kind of production across about 600 plate appearances, he would have had a 3.5 fWAR and 23 long balls. If Cutch can stay healthy and put up numbers like he did in 2019 for 3-5 more seasons, then he should have enough on his stats to make the Hall.

Right now, Cutch has an MVP award, five All-Star Game appearances, four Silver Slugger Awards and a Gold Glove Award. JAWS, which is a good measure for looking at the Hall of Fame candidacy of a player, is, according to Baseball Reference “A player’s career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR”. McCutchen has a 41.3 career JAWS, which isn’t far off from other centerfield Hall Of Famers like Kirby Puckett (44.4) and Larry Doby (44.3).

Though Andrew McCutchen might have the best chance of making the Hall of Fame that is active, I think there is at least two other former Pirates who could make it into the Hall through the Veteran’s Committee. The first of which is Brian Giles, who is arguably the best pure hitter in Pirate history.

Giles may not have been the biggest name when he was active, but he did put up a fine career. Through 7836 career plate appearances, Giles hit .291/.400/.502 with a 137 OPS+ and 136 wRC+. His career wOBA sits at a remarkable .388 which ranks within the top 30 of left fielders of all time (min. 5000 plate appearances). It’s even higher than Carl Yastremzeski and Willie Stargell.

Impressively, Giles walked way more than he struck out. He walked 15.1% of the time and went down on strike three just 10.7% of all of his plate appearances, coming to a 1.42 walk per strikeout ratio. He’s one of just 34 outfielders to have both 5000+ plate appearances and a career OPS above .900. He was just .009 batting average points away from reaching the .300/.400/.500 club, a group of 18 players where most are in the Hall of Fame already. Giles wasn’t much of a defender with a career -77 total zone runs across 15172.2 innings in the grass, averaging -5.1 total zone runs per 1000 innings.

However, it’s his stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates that was extremely good. Through 3114 plate appearances with the Bucs, he hit .308/.436/.591 with a 156 wRC+ and .426 wOBA. He also crushed 165 home runs. He was more productive at the plate than Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell and Barry Bonds were in all four of their Pirate tenures.

While he did play more of his career with the San Diego Padres, I wouldn’t rule out Giles wearing a Pirate cap if he were to make it. The thing is, Giles didn’t play all that long. He was in the Majors for 15 seasons but only had 500+ plate appearances in a single season 10 times. But despite not playing 20+ years like some Hall of Famers do, Giles still reached the 50 bWAR mark at 51.1. That still outdoes a handful of notable names in Cooperstown like Orlando Cepeda, Nellie Fox and Ralph Kiner (who had a shorter career himself).

The other is The Cobra, Dave Parker. Parker was a five-tool player in his early years with Pittsburgh. He spent 11 years in a Bucco uniform hitting .305/.353/.494 with 166 home runs, 123 stolen bases and a 131 wRC+. Parker won his one and only National League Most Valuable Player award with the Bucs, coming in 1978 when he led the league in OPS, OPS+, wRC+ and batting average. To be honest, it is a travesty that Parker is not already in the Hall of Fame.

Even after his Pirate tenure, he had some effective years with the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers. All told, the seven-time All-Star hit .290/.339/.471 throughout his career with a 120 wRC+ and .354 wOBA. Parker also hit 339 home runs and stole 154 bags along the way. Including his seven All-Star Game appearances and 1978 MVP, Parker finished top-5 in MVP voting five total times in his career, won two World Series rings, and has three Silver Sluggers Awards and Gold Glove Awards.

Next. Free Agent Target: Freddy Galvis. dark

Parker has -19 career total zone runs saved in the outfield, but much of that came in the later potion of his career. He had +14 with the Bucs. While Dave Parker’s bWAR sits at just 40.1, his overall batting numbers are similar to that of Harold Baines who has a career 119 wRC+ and .358 wOBA, but Parker was a much better fielder while Baines was mainly a designated hitter. Plus, it’s not like there isn’t a handful of players already in the Hall of Fame with a lower bWAR total than Parker. His JAWS, which sits at 38.7, also sits among a handful of players in the Hall.

It might be a while until we see another player enter the Hall of Fame with a Pittsburgh Pirate cap, but they do have a handful of players who have a real case to be in Cooperstown.