Having heard a debate last week about whether Edwin Encarnacion had a chance to be in the Hall of Fame, it felt like a huge stretch. However, a deeper look into the numbers and it is a whole lot more compelling.
Encarnacion recently made headlines when he hit his 30th home run of the season on Thursday night. This marked the eighth straight season that he reached the milestone, the longest active streak. Additionally, Encarnacion has the second most home runs since 2014, just behind Nelson Cruz. However, he tops Cruz for the decade overall.
He was also the sixth Dominican player to slug at least 30 home runs in eight straight seasons, according to a Tweet from Bleacher Report. He joins Sammy Sosa, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Vlad Guerrero.
Now that we have cleared all of the 30-home run season details, let’s look into the numbers that really matter. Encarnacion is one of 56 players who have hit at least 400 home runs, as he sits at 410 through Thursday night. Additionally, he sits at 1,786 hits and is a .262 career hitter. His .850 career OPS mark is good for 182nd all-time. His 34.3 WAR ranks 684th, which really hurts his case. This ties him with such names as George Burns, Tommy Holmes, Dan McGann, and Howie Pollet. However, the three-time All-Star Encarnacion is ahead of Nick Markakis’ 32.9, and many look at his Hall candidacy as strong.
Another home run related stat for the slugger, he has the second most grand slams among active players, according to Andrew Simon of MLB.com. He falls just two behind Pujols.
The most interesting aspect with Encarnacion’s standing is that his power came late in his career. Before 2012, when he broke out in a huge way with 42 bombs, Encarnacion never had a season of more than 26 homers. He also never had a season of over 100 RBI before that season. Six of his following seven seasons were over though.
It seems very unlikely that Encarnacion makes it to 500 home runs, as he will need to play for nearly three more seasons at the same pace that he is now. That is a huge ask for a player who is already 36 years old. The Dominican slugger has been on a huge tear late in his career, but that is likely the only thing that would push him into Cooperstown. Fred McGriff and his 493 career home runs being left out is proof enough that Encarnacion needs to top the milestone to get in.
The best hope for Encarnacion is to follow the same path as David Ortiz, as that is the player his career most mirrors. The difference is that Ortiz won World Series titles and is not nearly as underrated as Encarnacion in the power department. Also, Ortiz posted a career WAR of 55.3, but those three more seasons of production that Encarnacion needs would push him to a WAR over 40. Ortiz also saw his power boom in a season before Encarnacion, but their home run totals were about at the same pace. In fact, Encarnacion is actually going to have the advantage through his age 36 campaign, as Ortiz had 401.
It is just a shame that the elite power developed so late, or Encarnacion would be picking the team on his bust. Regardless, his status is much closer than seems fathomable.