Last weekend, Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran hit his 400th career home run, becoming just the fourth switch-hitter to reach that mark. Beltran, who was originally drafted by the Royals in the second round of the 1995 draft, has been a player with the unique power/speed combo, joining Willie Mays, Andre Dawson, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez as member of the 400 home run club to also steal 300 bases. As Beltran wraps up his illustrious career, the question is being asked - is Carlos Beltran a Hall of Famer?
Four players enshrined in Cooperstown have worn Royals blue. Slugger Harmon Killebrew, first baseman Orlando Cepeda, and junkballer Gaylord Perry all played in Kansas City for a brief period near the end of their career. George Brett is the only Hall of Famer to begin his career with the Royals, and of course, he was a Royals lifer, ending his career with the club in 1993, six years before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Carlos Beltran has a chance to become the second player developed by the Royals to have a bust in Cooperstown. But how does he stack up?
‘When I’m retired from baseball, I will sit down, I will take a look at the numbers and compare myself with players that are there.’
The 39-year old Beltran is in the last year of his contract with the Yankees, so he may decide to hang up the cleats at the end of the season. However, he is still a fairly productive hitter this year, so it is conceivable he could continue playing next season if he so wishes. Let's look at where at his career numbers going into last night's games:
If Beltran is healthy the rest of this year, he will reach about 2,600 hits for his career. That is far short of the prestigious 3,000 hit mark, but only 29 men have ever reached that milestone. At 2,600 hits, he would be in the neighborhood of Hall of Famers like Harry Heilman, Nellie Fox, Ernie Banks, and Ted Williams (although he had about 1,200 fewer at bats). By rWAR, Beltran is around Hall of Famers like Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandberg, and Eddie Murray, but also around non-Hall of Famers like Bobby Grich, Kenny Lofton, and Alan Trammell.
His 400 home runs are nearly a hundred more than Royals slugger George Brett (317), and more than Hall of Fame sluggers Jim Rice, Al Kaline, and Tony Perez. Beltran also combined tremendous speed, stealing over 300 bases, with an 86% success rate, the highest rate since 1951, according to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal.
But the combination of power and speed may work against Beltran, according to author Craig Wright.
"He's a very well-rounded player, and well-rounded players who don't dominate in a specific category tend to be downplayed in people's minds," Wright said. "They don't realize that if you're very good in a lot of things, you can have immense value without being a superstar in any one. He's not Rickey Henderson. He's not Tony Gwynn. He's not a 50-homer guy. But what doesn't he do well?"
Beltran never led the league in any offensive category. He only hit 40 home runs once, and only had four .300 seasons. He was also never part of an iconic championship club. The only World Series he has ever played in was for the 2013 runner-up St. Louis Cardinals. He was a beast in the post-season, with a career OPS of 1.115 in 52 games, but his most memorable post-season moment was taking a called strike three to end the 2006 NLCS against Adam Wainwright. Also hurting Beltran was his vagabond career. He never spent more than seven seasons with any one team, and played with six different clubs (so far) in his career.
Beltran's similarity score puts him with Hall of Famers like Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, and Jim Rice, but also non-Hall of Famers like Dwight Evans, Joe Carter, and Dave Parker. The Hall of Fame Monitor number, devised by Bill James to estimate likelihood of Hall of Fame selection, has Beltran at 112, when the average Hall of Famer would be at 100.
Carlos Beltran has been named an All-Star eight times. The players eligible for the Hall of Fame but not selected with more appearances are Steve Garvey, Bill Freehan, Elston Howard, Dave Concepcion, Fred Lynn, Frank McCormick, and PED suspects like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, and Mark McGwire. He was the 1999 Rookie of the Year with the Royals, won three Gold Gloves, and two Silver Slugger Awards. On the other hand, he has never been close at winning an MVP. He only has two top-ten finishes in voting - 2003, when he finished ninth with the Royals, and 2006 , when he finished fourth with the Mets.
Carlos Beltran played 795 games with the Royals, 44 fewer than he played with the New York Mets, the team he signed with in 2005. Maybe he wears a Mets cap into the Hall. But maybe he aligns himself with the first team that ever gave him a chance, the fans that first embraced him, the organization that caused him to "cry like a baby" when they traded him away. For many years, Carlos Beltran was one of the only reasons to come out to Kauffman Stadium. Let's hope one day he gives Royals fans a reason to make the trek to Cooperstown.