MLB.com Columnist

Alyson Footer

How will Hall's Class of 2016 shape up?

Poll of media members would send Griffey, Bagwell, Piazza to Cooperstown

How will Hall's Class of 2016 shape up?

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Spirited debates about the Hall of Fame are as much a part of our everyday baseball-loving lives as 7:05 starts and rain delays. So we figure, with the recent conclusion of induction weekend, why not keep the conversation going?

Let's take a look ahead to next year's Hall of Fame class, which will consist of one first-ballot no-doubter and several others who may gain enough traction for entry in 2016. We polled dozen of reporters, experts and analysts from MLB.com and MLB Network -- some of whom do have voting privileges through the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and others who are non-voters but nonetheless experts -- to give us their hypothetical 2016 HOF class.

Last year's poll showed four getting into the Hall of Fame in 2015: Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. Short of patting ourselves on the back, while we do recognize that not everyone on our panel of experts is a Hall of Fame voter, well, we still like our track record.

Complete 2015 Hall of Fame inductions coverage

This is not a formal poll or scientific study. And no one can deduce if, and how, the voting winds will shift next winter when it's time to crank up the balloting. But debates are fun and the Hall means a lot to a whole bunch of us. With that in mind, it's never too late to slip in one more conversation about the Hall of Fame.

Making the cut (more than 75 percent of vote)

Ken Griffey, Jr., 97 percent
As we are well aware, no one has ever received 100 percent of the votes, and it's unlikely that trend will end next year. However, Griffey Jr. is likely going to be one of those special players who get reeeeeeally close to a unanimous nod. Our poll shows Junior receiving 97.06 percent, which is right around what Randy Johnson received this time last year among our voting panel (97.5). That's close to Tom Seaver's record from 1992, when he garnered support from 98.84 percent of the voting body.

Hall of Fame candidacy is a fun topic to argue about, but in Griffey's case, there is no debate. With 630 home runs, 1,836 RBIs and a .907 OPS, Junior is a slam-dunk first-ballot selection.

Jeff Bagwell, 82.35 percent
Bagwell has been on the ballot five years, which means that with the new rules implemented last year dictating players have 10 years, not 15, to be elected, Bagwell is halfway through his candidacy. And our poll shows he's in.

Bagwell's candidacy has been a polarizing topic, and his jump in this poll is not in line with how the BBWAA voted. On those ballots, he's not really come close: 41.7 percent in '11, 56 in '12, 59.6 in '13, 54.3 in '14 and 55.7 in '15. A crowded ballot has hurt Bagwell and others, but according to our poll, he'll jump nearly 30 percentage points to slide into election in '16.

That may be a stretch, but his credentials suggest that Bagwell merits the jump: a .297/.408/.540 slash line with 449 homers, 488 doubles, 1,314 hits and 1,529 RBIs. His career OPS+ of 149 ranks 37th all-time.

Mike Piazza, 82.35 percent
Piazza fell fewer than 30 votes short in 2015 of reaching the 75 percent needed to get in, which strongly suggests he'll be getting in next year. There is little doubt that he's one of the greatest offensive catchers in history and, historically, a player who gets as close as 70 percent of the votes one year (Piazza garnered 69.9 percent) is pretty much a guarantee on the next ballot. Piazza's 427 home runs, .308 batting average and .922 OPS say plenty about where he fits into history. 

Wait 'til next year? (50-74.9 percent of vote)

Tim Raines (73.33 percent), Barry Bonds (70.59), Roger Clemens (64.71), Curt Schilling (61.76), Mike Mussina (55.88) and Trevor Hoffman (52.94)

Raines supporters have been, and will continue to be, outraged until he is put in the Hall. Our poll shows that he missed it by this much. Raines has not gotten anywhere close to this kind of support from the BBWAA, but given his perfect blend of offensive production and blazing speed, maybe he should.

Bonds and Clemens, as controversial in retirement as they were dominant as active players, are receiving much more support here than they are by BBWAA standards. Bonds' total would tell us that he's a lock for 2017, and Clemens' improvement suggests he may be in line for eventual election. Judging from the official vote totals, we know neither of these to be true.

Looking ahead to the Class of '16

Don't be surprised, however, to see Schilling to gain some momentum in the next few years. Though far short of the magic number of 300 wins, Schilling's postseason performances are still in the forefront of plenty of voters' memories.

Two others who came in surprisingly low: Mussina and Hoffman. Perhaps a crowded ballot that is slowly becoming more tenable will help these two in the next year or two.

Missing the cut (5-49.9 percent of vote)

Edgar Martinez (35.29), Alan Trammell (32.35), Lee Smith (29.41), Gary Sheffield (26.47), Jeff Kent (23.53), Mark McGwire (17.65), Fred McGriff (17.65), Billy Wagner (11.76) and Sammy Sosa (8.82)

With four players -- now Hall of Famers -- coming off the ballot this year, Martinez could see more support soon. Trammell's name will appear on the ballot for the final time in '16, and he'll need to jump several dozens of percentage points to be elected.

Leaving the ballot (Less than five percent)

Brad Ausmus, Garret Anderson, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Jose Guillen, Cristian Guzman, Mike Hampton, Bob Howry, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Gary Matthews, Bengie Molina, Russ Ortiz, Chan Ho Park, Russ Springer, Mike Sweeney, Fernando Tatis, Jeff Weaver and Randy Winn

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.