As we close in on pitchers and catchers reporting, it seems like as good of time as any to ask, who on the current Reds roster will one day have a plaque in Cooperstown?
There is the obvious answer, Joey Votto. Votto better be in the Hall of Fame, and I am not trying to sound like an entitled fan, but if Votto is not in the Hall of Fame, there is a good chance his quarter of a billion dollar contract is a disaster (or he ends up being caught up in steroids or gambling, which seems unlikely).
Brandon Phillips? If he retired today, Phillips would need a ticket for the Hall of Fame, or maybe goes to hang out with Joey Votto when Votto gets in. But, lets say Phillips plays the next five seasons without a major drop off? He will than have been one of the best second baseman in the game for about a decade, and really is a well rounded player, and while his bat is nice (while nothing real special), he is one of the best defensive second baseman in the game today. I think you could make a case for Phillips, if he holds up for 4 or 5 more years.
Aroldis Chapman? He has done nothing yet to put him in the Hall of Fame, but having one of the best fastballs the game has ever seen gives him an obvious leg up.
Johnny Cueto? One of the best pitchers in the game today, but I don't think he will have the longevity. I don't see him being one of the best pitchers in the game in 2018.
Mat Latos? Maybe, he is doing great stuff at a young age and just looks like a horse out there. I could see him winning a few Cy Youngs, and putting up a Roy Halladay type of stretch, where he is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game, and he consistently pitches deep into games. Latos is one of the few pitchers I would take a gamble on and give a big contract.
Jay Bruce? He is going to have to take another step up, but it is possible. He is very good right now, and I think most agree that Bruce has not reached his potential.
Homer Bailey? The darkest of dark horses, right now, but Curt Schilling didn't do much before he turned 28, and I think he should be in the Hall of Fame. I don't know if Homer Bailey will quite turn that corner and become a late blooming ace or if he will simply become a decent number two or three who has flashes of greatness. If I had to bet, I would bet he remains and number two or three starter, but puts up a Cy Young caliber season as an outlier.
Billy Hamilton? I am nervous about a guy who is all speed, but he is doing things in the minors that really haven't been done before. Is he the next Ricky Henderson? It also isn't fair to put those expectations on anyone who has not played above AA.
Dusty Baker? If Dusty retired today, I don't see him making the Hall of Fame as a manager, but lets say the Reds go to the World Series three times in the next four seasons and win two of them. I think that is highly possible, given that most of the Reds players are young and/or under long term contract. His first year with the Reds was right around most of the Reds current greats MLB debut. He has watched Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman turn into very good to great MLB players. He has to get some credit for that.
Walt Jockety? He had a great run in St. Louis, a World Series ring, a winning record, many trips to the playoffs, in 2004 the Cardinals were the best team in baseball (even though the Red Sox buzz sawed them in the World Series), and he left the foundation in place for the Cards to continue to be a good team after he left. While, he did not lay the foundation for the Reds and owes a great debt to what he inherited from Dan O'Brien and Wayne Krivksy, he has made all the correct moves. There is nothing flashy about Walt, he is no Billy Beane, he did not revolutionize the game in any way, he just quietly makes good moves, and really limits crippling moves. His only embarrassing trade has been Mulder for Haren. He also has balls of steal, and is not afraid of the big moves and the big contracts (Votto, Latos, Chapman, Pujols contract, McGwire trade). I would put Walt in the Hall of Fame if he retired today, if the Reds win a World Series or two under his watch, he will be a no brainer. I worry about what happens after Walt retires, I hope somebody is being groomed in the organization to take over, because I would not be the least bit surprised if he retires after his contract ends in 2014.