The early projections for this year's induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame are promising.
There could be as many as five players enshrined by the vote of eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which would make the biggest group of BBWAA selections since five inductees were honored in the first Hall of Fame ceremony in 1936.
The idea that first-time eligible Ivan Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero along with holdovers Tim Raines, Trevor Hoffman and Jeff Bagwell could be honored July 30 in Cooperstown would emphasis that the voting members are beginning to back down from a hard-line approach that saw no players inducted in 2012, setting up a log jam of candidates.
It, however, would still leave a lengthy list of worthy candidates who have come up short of the necessary 75 percent support from the voters to be enshrined, although a strong increase in the vote total for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, victims of a boycott because of suspicions about performance-enhancing drug use, provides reason to believe in the next year or so the best hitter and pitcher of their generation will finally be honored.
With the possibility of five inductees this summer, the 10 most worthy but so far overlooked Hall of Famers include:
Current BBWAA ballot
• Bonds. The game's all-time home run leader had a career WAR of 162.4, second-highest in history to Babe Ruth according to Baseball Reference's formula. He was a seven-time NL MVP, 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove winner and 12-time Silver Slugger honoree.
• Clemens. He ranks eighth all-time in WAR, second to Bonds among eligible players not enshrined. He was an 11-time All-Star, won the AL MVP in 1986 and was a seven-time Cy Young Award winner. The top 10 pitchers on the Bill James Similarity Score system have been enshrined.
• Mike Mussina. His all-time WAR is third among eligible players not enshrined, 58th overall. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Mussina ranked among the top 10 in pitcher WAR in six seasons. He ranks 33rd all-time with 270 victories, fifth among non-Hall of Fame pitchers.
• Larry Walker. He ranks 86th in all-time WAR, trailing only Bonds, Clemens, Mussina, Curt Schilling and Bagwell among eligible non-Hall of Famers. Critics question his spending 10 years of his career calling Coors Field home, but on the road, only 35 Hall of Famers exceeded his 168 home runs, 63 had more than his 564 RBIs, 32 had more than his 109 stolen bases, 32 a higher OPS than his .865 and 56 had more than his 203 doubles. His .278 road average is higher than 31 Hall of Famers.
• Edgar Martinez. He is 10th among eligible players in terms of WAR, but he was primarily a DH, rarely appearing in the field, in his final 10 years. He did, however, perform at such a high level that MLB has named the annual award for the best DH the Edgar Martinez Award.
Off the ballot
• Jim Kaat. He pitched parts of 25 seasons in the big leagues, the final five as primarily a left-handed bullpen specialist, which seems to have overshadowed the fact that in 22 full seasons he had a losing record only three times. His 283 wins rank behind only Clemens and Tommy John among Hall of Fame-eligible pitchers in MLB history.
• John. Best known as the first recipient of the pioneering elbow surgery bearing his name, he did win 288 games in his career, and the only players among the 10 with a most similar career to him not in the Hall of Fame are Kaat and Tony Mullane, who pitched in the 1800s.
• Jack Morris. The knock is a 3.90 ERA, which would be the highest ever for a Hall of Famer. He, however, also faced 16,120 batters in his career, all in the AL, and would be the first pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame to have never pitched to a pitcher in the regular season. He is the only pitcher in history with at least 2,000 strikeouts and none against a pitcher. A member of four World Series championship teams, he started a record 14 consecutive Opening Days.
• Alan Trammell. He ranks 11th all-time among shortstops in WAR and was the foundation of those Tigers teams in the 1980s. Overshadowed by playing at the same time as Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith, he still managed six All-Star selections, three Silver Slugger Awards and four Gold Gloves. He ranks seventh in WAR among eligible players who have not been enshrined.
• Ted Simmons. One of the most cerebral players, he ran a pitching staff. An eight-time All-Star, he ranks 10th all-time in WAR among catchers. Catchers with the most similar Bill James ranking are Joe Torre, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter and Yogi Berra. From ages 22 through 31, he was most similar to Rodriguez.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.