Jose Tabata is one of the most exciting players in the league today. Tabata burst onto the scene in 2010, and surprised a lot of people. I thought they were bringing him up too early, at just the age of 21, and didn't expect this much offense.
Nonetheless, Tabata displayed a very advanced bat right from the start, and hit .299 with a .746 OPS. How many players have come into the league at age 21, and hit so well right out of the gate?
I researched all the players who hit .295 or better in 400 plate appearances at the age of 21, and the results will be in the table below. After that, I'll look at Tabata's future, and just for fun, if he can possibly get to the Hall of Fame like most of the people in this table:
|1||Shoeless Joe Jackson||.408||641||1911||CLE||AL|
|13||Ken Griffey Jr.||.327||633||1991||SEA||AL|
|^^^ = Hall of Famer|
Many of the names that came up in this research were Hall of Famers. 60 players hit more than .295 at this age, and 30 are already Hall of Famers. That doesn't include Shoeless Joe Jackson, who easily had the numbers but isn't eligible for induction.
Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey Jr. will probably be Hall of Famers on the first ballot. Two others, Justin Upton and Tabata, are very, very early in the process of building a case on the field.
So, just for fun, what would Tabata have to do to be one of these elite players that potentially gets into Cooperstown? Tabata doesn't have much power now, and even if he adds some, I don't think he'll be getting in on home runs, RBIs, or even OPS. I think the only way he can get in is longevity, and getting either 3000 hits, or multiple batting titles and a lot of hits
30 of the 60 players with a .295 average at age 21 made the HOF, but Tabata has a whole lot of career left. A lot of things can go wrong from now to then. A career nosedive and/or injury could happen. At this point, he could follow the Francoeur/Milledge or Mike Caruso path and be a fringe bench player by 25. Tabata could end up a solid player, which would still be fantastic (since we only gave Nady and Marte).
Personally, I would give Tabata around a 10% chance of being a HOF when it's all said and done. He's got the tools, and as this table shows, guys who started this well ended up in the Hall more often than not. That said, he has some things working against that. There are a lot of years to play, and Tabata obviously would have to get in through huge quantities of hits. You could argue up to 20% and I wouldn't argue, but I feel better around 10 for this.
Andrew McCutchen is getting most of the accolades, but Tabata could be very good as well, and my research indicates his advanced bat is not something that comes around too often.