Adrian Beltre hit his 400th career home run Friday night. Will he trot the bases all the way to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame?
When a player begins their professional sports career, their ultimate goal is to one day end up in the Hall of Fame. The discussion about whether or not a player is worthy doesn’t usually start when they retire, but towards the end of their career. One player who is making a strong case for the Hall of Fame as his career is nearing its end is 18-year veteran Adrian Beltre.
On Friday night the Texas Rangers third baseman hit his 400th home run in the Rangers’ 8-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians. The home run moved him into 52nd place on the All-Time list, just ahead of Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Beltre is a tough player as there were times where he struggled, but he has worked through that to become one of the more dependable third basemen in today’s game.
There was one time where Beltre’s future began to be questioned and that was when he was with the Seattle Mariners. He had signed a big contract after leading the Majors with 48 home runs in 2004 and didn’t quite live up to it. During his five years there, Beltre had three seasons where he struck out more than 100 times. The power was still there as he averaged 20 home runs although his average was in the .260 range. Beltre has really found his swing since leaving the pitcher’s park in Seattle. Ever since the 2008 season, he has hit an average of .312 with 29 home runs.
Unlike some of the other hitters in the game over the past 20 years, Beltre has done a good job of staying out of the steroid talk. While many power hitters have come under fire for a lack of production at some point over their career, any talk about Beltre’s lack of production has been attributed to the ballpark he played in while in Seattle. Ever since playing in hitter friendly parks in Boston and Texas, the power has come back.
This season, Beltre has gotten off to one of his slower starts as his average is sitting at an unimpressive .250 and he only has five home runs so far. Beltre should be picking up soon as he has some better protection this season with a healthy Prince Fielder hitting in front of him. Last season without any protection, Beltre hit 19 home runs and hit an impressive .324, which was fourth in the American League.
While the power is what has made Beltre famous, he is also one of the most patient hitters in the game and that is something that is becoming a rarity in the game today. Teams are willing to accept low batting averages and strikeouts as long as players hit 30 home runs, but Beltre is a complete hitter. He is patient as he hasn’t struck out more than 100 times since 2007. Beltre takes a fair amount of walks as his BB/K ratio is close to .50 and he isn’t afraid to use all parts of the field which helps keep his average around .300.
On top of the ability to hit home runs on one knee, Beltre is a much better defensive third baseman than people give him credit for. Beltre has won four of the past eight Gold Gloves in the American League and was in the running over those other four seasons. His defensive ability will help when it comes to voters as he can do just about anything he wants to do.
At the moment, it is unknown how long Beltre will continue to play. He is 36 years so he could still play for another two or three years. Texas already exercised his 2016 options so Beltre will be a free agent after the 2017 season. If he stays in the American League, he could be a great designated hitter which should prolong his career. Assuming he can continue to hit home runs at a relatively similar pace, he could end close to 500 home runs and if he can reach that milestone, that would most likely end the discussion.
Adrian Beltre is one of the best third basemen in the game today and it will be hard for voters to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. He may not make it in on the first ballot, but the length and average productivity is what the Hall is looking for. When all is said and done, Beltre should be in the Hall because of the fact that he has been one of the best third basemen in the league for almost two decades.