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Considered the most difficult hall of fame (HOF) to be voted into, it is an incredible accomplishment when a player does make it into Cooperstown.
Unlike other sports, there are countless major award winners including MVPs who couldn’t even come close to gaining entrance.
In the world of baseball card collecting, the HOF is important because players who are inducted are usually valued more by collectors as we reported in our series on the Hall of Fame.
When discussing active players who have a shot at the HOF, Josh Donaldson is one of the more intriguing names that comes up.
He is coming off a stellar four-year run where he finished in the top 5 in American Leagure MVP voting three times (including winning the award in 2015), belted 131 HRs, played solid defense at third base, and accumulated a 31.2 WAR.
It can be argued that no position player other than Mike Trout has produced more value during this time than Donaldson. That is really, really good.
But there is a problem, Josh Donaldson had a late start, playing his first full season at the age of 27. Even though we haven’t seen too much of Donaldson, he is already 30 years old and will be entering into the decline phase.
Entrance into the Hall of Fame requires a player to register exceptional peak seasons (which Donaldson has done from 2012-2016), but it also requires a player to produce over a long career as well.
If you are an owner of a Josh Donaldson rookie card, or interested in investing in one, the question becomes, what does he need to do to have a shot at the HOF.
For an indepth statistical answer I would recommend a very well done article on Bluebird Banter.
The short answer is that Donaldson by conventional metrics would need to add another 30 WAR to reach bubble territory, which is something that Donaldson could do in maybe 7 seasons provided that he stays healthy and ages gracefully. Seven seasons would also probably give him close to enough plate appearances that most HOF players are expected to have.
Once Donaldson reaches the bubble territory for career stats, his peak performance should help give him a very good shot at getting in.
As we learned with David Wright, health cannot be guaranteed so it is worthwhile to show some caution. The good news when it comes to older players, their card valuations tend to fluctuate less than younger players.
Unless it’s a great deal I would rather wait until the end of this year on Donaldson. If he puts up another 7+ WAR season this season, his long-term prospects will begin to look much better and I doubt his card value will go up by too much. But if his aggressive style introduces health problems, or a decrease in production then you will be glad to have held your ground.