There are a few numbers in baseball that are special. Players that reach 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 pitching wins, or 3,000 strikeouts are immortalized in baseball history. But what about the future? What active players are on pace to join the 500 home run club?
Click here for the first part of the series: 3,000 Hit Club In the Future.
Future 500 Home Run Club members – Methodology
There are 27 members of the 500 home run club. I took their home run totals through every year of their careers and averaged the numbers. For example, through their age-22 season, the average member of the 500 home run club had 45 home runs. The methodology stayed the same through the age-30 season.
In the age-31 average and beyond, players who surpassed 500 home runs were kept at 500. For example, every year of Alex Rodriguez’s career after age-31 was noted at 500 home runs. This was done for two main reasons. First, the baseline for the 500 home run club is 500 home runs. It would be unfair for the average to be skewed by the likes of Jimmie Foxx and Rodriguez. The goal is not to be better than the average member of the 500 home run club (584). The goal is to get to 500. Secondly, the average number of home runs eclipses 500 in the age-35 season.
Theoretically, a player could have 500 home runs (accomplishing the goal) while being off pace. For example, Gary Sheffield and Eddie Murray did not reach 500 home runs until their age-40 seasons. Ted Williams hit his 500th homer in his age-41 season.
What this list is not:
This group of players is not a projection for the 500 home run club in 20 years. It is just a collection of players who are on pace for 500 home runs. Baseball is changing drastically, and the importance of a home run has increased in recent seasons. There could be a spike in members of the 500 home run club as more and more players hit 30 and 40 home runs at young ages. Odds are, the 500 home run club might overtake the 3,000 hit club in terms of members by the end of this generation.
As with other kinds of projections, being on pace is irrelevant if a player suddenly drops off the pace. The 500 home run club is full of young hotshots and late bloomers alike. Every member of the 500 home run club has a unique trajectory.
With all of the mess out of the way, let’s get into the first player.
An asterisk (*) indicates a player is a year ahead. This means a player has enough hits to be included in the next age level.
A double asterisk (**) indicates a player is two years ahead. This means a player has enough hits to be included at a level two years ahead of schedule.
Also, Albert Pujols will not be included because he is already in the 500 home run club.
All home run totals are from the end of the 2019 season.
Age-20: Home Runs Needed: 12
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 15 home runs
Guerrero is off to a solid pace. In his rookie season, he had a healthy 15 home runs in 123 games. He will need to start hitting more homers in the shortened 2020 season, but he only needs 12 to reach the age-21 milestone. Hitting 12 home runs in 60 games would be the equivalent to 32 home runs in 162 games, so Guerrero will need to tighten up his 30.9 AB/HR ratio. However, Guerrero has untapped potential that could be unlocked in the future. Guerrero’s father, Vladimir Guerrero, fell 51 home runs shy of the 500 home run club, but he retired after his age-36 season.
Juan Soto – 56 home runs
Soto has yet to play in 2020, so his stats will likely not resemble some of his peers, but in a full season, Soto is a menace. He might already be the best position player in the NL East. At 19, Soto mashed 22 home runs. Only Tony Conigliaro had hit more as a teenager. Similarly, Soto’s 56 home runs through his age-20 season are the second-most in MLB history, trailing Mel Ott’s 61. He improved his AB/HR rate from 18.8 as a rookie to 15.9 in 2019. Soto could be in play for 40 home runs in 2021. He cleared the age-21 milestone early in his age-20 season, so the shortened season will not deter Soto’s progress.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – 22 home runs
Tatis displayed impressive power as a rookie, hitting 22 home runs in 84 games. He hit a home run every 15.2 at-bats. Extrapolated out to a full season, Tatis would have mashed 42 home runs, an impressive tally for any position, let alone shortstop. Tatis should be a deadly power hitter for years to come if his .590 slugging percentage is any indication. Traditionally, shortstop has not been a source of power, as only four primary shortstops have hit even 300 home runs. The only two shortstops to get to 500 home runs (Alex Rodriguez and Ernie Banks) had long switched to corner infield spots before their 500th career home runs. It is way too early to speculate for Tatis, but he could be a trendsetter as a power-hitting shortstop. He is five home runs away from the age-21 mark.
Age-21: Home Runs Needed: 27
Ronald Acuna Jr. – 67 home runs
Acuna had 26 home runs in an NL Rookie of the Year-winning campaign in 2018. He had a healthy 16.7 AB/HR, and a mid-season switch to batting leadoff gave Acuna extra at-bats. In 2019, Acuna slugged 41 home runs in 626 at-bats, one every 15.3 at-bats. He still bats leadoff for a potent Braves offense, adding extra at-bats throughout the season. Acuna has struggled to connect with pitches so far during the 2020 season, but he is likely to solve his power shortage at some point in August. Acuna satisfied the age-22 requirement halfway through the 2019 season. Therefore, the shortened 2020 season is not a serious detriment.
Juan Soto* – 56 home runs
Soto is likely to stay well ahead of the necessary pace even if his 2020 season is 10 percent shorter than the already shortened 60-game season. Soto improved his slugging percentage and OPS in 2019, and those factors should keep him batting high in the Washington batting order for a decade. He may never become a 50-homer kind of slugger, but there is plenty of room in the 500 home run club for relentless consistency. Soto’s 34 home runs in 2019 are more home runs than Eddie Murray ever hit in a season. As mentioned earlier, Murray is in the 500 home run club. Soto surpassed the age-22 mark during his age-20 season.
Age-22: Home Runs Needed: 45
Ronald Acuna Jr.* – 67 home runs
Acuna is a year ahead of pace, so even if his power shortage continues in 2020, he will still have plenty of leeway moving forward. He is eight home runs away from the age-23 milestone, and he has approximately 210 games over the next two seasons to get there. However, eight home runs are well within reach, even in a shortened season. Eight home runs in 60 games are the equivalent of about 21 home runs in a 162-game season. By the numbers, Acuna has the youth and the power potential to make a solid dent in the future.
Ozzie Albies – 54 home runs
A teammate of Acuna’s, Albies has been a mere accumulator of home runs compared to Acuna. After six home runs in his age-20 season, Albies has posted 24 in each of the last two seasons. In that stretch, Albies has hit a home run every 26.6 at-bats. Unless Albies plays 20 years, he will need to improve his home run clip. 2020 has not helped matters as he has just one home run in 31 at-bats at the time of writing. For Albies to reach the age-23 milestone, he would need 20 home runs in the final 53 games of 2020, a pace of 61 home runs in a normal season. A massive 2021 would put Albies back on pace, but he is likely to fall off the list heading into the 2021 season.
Rafael Devers – 63 home runs
Devers has hit home runs at a slightly better clip each season of his career. As a rookie, he hit home runs every 22.2 at-bats (10 in 222 at-bats). In his second season, he hit 21 home runs in 450 at-bats, a 21.4 ratio. In 2019, Devers improved his ratio to 20.2, 32 homers in 647 at-bats. There is room to improve his AB/HR ratio, but it is a good start for the 23-year-old. Devers needs 12 home runs in 2020 to maintain the pace. While he has zero in his first seven games for Boston, 12 home runs in 53 games expand out to 37 in a full season. It might be a stretch, but a hot month could propel Devers to the age-23 milestone.
Juan Soto** – 56 home runs
After gliding through two age barriers, Soto has likely hit a wall that prevents him from progressing in 2020. Soto would need 19 home runs in the final 53 games. He has not yet returned from a COVID-19 designation, but the best-case scenario for Soto would be mashing the equivalent of 58 home runs in 162 games. Each missed game hurts Soto’s chances more and more, but he is still only 21.
Gleyber Torres – 62 home runs
If Torres only played the Orioles, he would likely get into the 500 home run club by Christmas. Almost a quarter of his home runs have come against the Orioles. When Torres is not playing the Orioles, he becomes a reliable power-hitting middle infielder. In his age-21 season, Torres hit a homer every 18.0 at-bats. At age-22, Torres trimmed it down to a borderline elite homer per 14.4 at-bats. For context, Torres’s Yankee teammate Aaron Judge (owner of a 50-homer season) hit a home run every 14.6 at-bats between 2018 and 2019. Torres needs 13 home runs in the 2020 season to maintain pace, approximately once every five games. Through five games, he has one home run. 13 homers in 60 games would be the equivalent to 35 home runs in a normal season.
Age-23: Home Runs Needed: 75
Cody Bellinger – 111 home runs
If Bellinger had hit more than a pedestrian 25 home runs in 2018, he would have surpassed the age-23 requirement in his age-22 season. Despite the lull in his power development, Bellinger is now a premier power hitter in the NL. Only in his age-24 season, Bellinger has finished top-three in the NL in homers and AB/HR twice. In his age-21 season, Bellinger hit a home run every 12.3 at-bats. He slumped to a 22.28 AB/HR ratio in his age-22 season, but he came back even better at age-23. In one extra at-bat compared to his age-22 season, Bellinger walloped 22 extra home runs, cutting his AB/HR to 11.9. Bellinger has been ice cold in 2020, but he has already passed the necessary milestone.
Age-24: Home Runs Needed: 106
Cody Bellinger* – 111 home runs
To reach the age-25 mark, Bellinger would need 28 home runs over the next two seasons. 28 home runs in 2020 would require an otherworldly power surge, especially now that Bellinger has failed to homer in his first seven games. He should reach 139 career home runs early in the 2021 campaign, continuing his quest to become the first player to hit 500 homers in Dodger Blue. Bellinger only needs 60 home runs to breach the top-10 list of most home runs by a Dodger.
Age-26: Home Runs Needed: 175
Bryce Harper – 219 home runs
Harper has been a feared power hitter in the NL for nearly a decade. He has three seasons in the top-10 of AB/HR, including a league-leading 12.4 in 2015. He has two top-10 finishes in the home run race, pacing the league in 2015. Harper has ebbed and flowed through his career, but he has three seasons with 30 or more homers, and he has hit at least 24 in each of the last five seasons. He will have to harness his magical 2015 to continue to climb the all-time home run list, but he is still operating ahead of the usual age curve. Harper beat out the age-27 requirement near the end of the 2019 season.
Manny Machado – 207 home runs
Machado has never hit more than 37 home runs, but he has hit at least 32 in five consecutive seasons. He has never finished higher than 9th in MLB in homers, and he is not an AB/HR king. Similar to Ozzie Albies, Machado is just a home run accumulator who benefitted from playing a full season at age-20. Machado has hovered between a home run every 17 at-bats and 19 at-bats in the last five years, but he likely needs to accelerate his home run pace to keep up. If Machado misses the 500 home run club, he will look at an abysmal 47.6 AB/HR in 2013 as one of the culprits. Machado led the AL with 667 at-bats, but he floundered with 14 home runs. He needs four home runs to reach the age-27 milestone, and through the time of writing, he has two in 2020.
Age-27: Home Runs Needed: 211
Bryce Harper* – 219 home runs
Jumping back to Harper, he needs 29 home runs in 2020 to keep pace. So far in 2020, he has one in three games. Outside of a legendary power surge, Harper will likely come up short. However, he is close enough that he will almost certainly pass the mark in 2021. Harper hit 35 home runs in his first season in Philadelphia, and he is under contract until 2032, so he has plenty of time to get to 500 home runs.
Mike Trout – 285 home runs
Trout had a cup of coffee in the Majors at 19, hitting five home runs. However, Trout has been the best hitter in baseball over the last eight seasons. He has been a mythically productive power hitter, hitting at least 27 home runs in each season. He has averaged 35 per season with an AB/HR of 15.1. Trout has a career average of 15.3 AB/HR, third-best in MLB. He has finished in the top 10 of AB/HR five times in the last six seasons including an otherworldly 10.4 AB/HR in 2019. Trout has not led the AL in homers, but he has finished in the top-five in four different seasons. Trout is ahead of pace, so he does not need to post a massive season in 2020.
Age-28: Home Runs Needed: 248
Mike Trout* – 285 home runs
Similar to Harper, Trout has been consistently productive from a young age, and he was rewarded with a massive contract. He will be paid 37 million dollars a season through the 2030 season. For Trout, this means he will have hundreds of at-bats per season deep into his 30s at the very least. Trout projects to be better in his 30s than teammate Albert Pujols has been, but there is a risk to the contracts. However, signing a massive contract helps Trout’s future 500 home run club legitimacy as he is under contract until his age-38 season. Trout is ahead of the age-29 milestone.
Age-29: Home Runs Needed: 285
Giancarlo Stanton – 308 home runs
Stanton mashed at least 22 home runs for the first nine seasons of his career before he hit just three in an injury-shortened 2019 season. Stanton led the NL in AB/HR three times including a practically perfect 10.1 in 2017. He is the active leader. In MLB history, only Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and Jim Thome are more efficient in translating at-bats to home runs. Stanton would need 13 home runs in 2020 to maintain the pace for his age-30 season. As of writing, he has two home runs in 2020. 11 home runs in 54 games would translate to 33 home runs in a full season. Stanton has hit 33 homers five times in his career, so 11 for the rest of the season seems reasonable.
Mike Trout** – 285 home runs
Trout would need 36 home runs to reach the age-30 mark. In a full season, Trout would be likely to clear the mark, but a 60-game season limits him. He has hit one so far in 2020, well below the Herculean rate he needed to mash home runs. He will likely hit the mark halfway through the 2021 season. Trout should stay a year ahead of pace for the next few seasons as he has flash 45-homer power in his prime. Outside of the next player on the list, Trout is the best bet to one day be in the 500 home run club. If he retired today, he probably should be inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Age-36: Home Runs Needed: 476
Miguel Cabrera – 477 home runs
Cabrera has been clobbering home runs since his age-20 season, 2003. Between 2004 and 2014, Cabrera averaged 34 homers a season, and he never hit fewer than 25. He maxed out with a Triple Crown-worthy 44 homers in 2012. He led the AL in homers twice, two of the nine times he has finished in the top 10 in league homers. Cabrera has been in the top 10 of AB/HR five times, but those days are likely behind him.
He needs 23 home runs to reach 500 home runs. In a normal season, Cabrera would likely fall short. He has hit 23 home runs just once in the last five seasons. However, Cabrera will have the opportunity to play in 222 games in the next two seasons. He will likely reach 500 home runs near the end of 2021 unless his 2020 power surge continues. He has three home runs in his first 30 at-bats of 2020. At the very least, Cabrera is under contract through 2023, so he will have many opportunities to squeeze into the 500 home run club.
Unlike the 3,000 hit club, the 500 home run club will likely be open for the foreseeable future. 2020 marks the 107th consecutive season that featured a future member of the 500 home run club. With MLB emphasizing launch angle, exit velocity, and barrel percentage in the 21st century, there will be many players that could get to 500 home runs with enough at-bats.
However, with baseball’s adherence to power efficiency, getting to the necessary number of at-bats may be difficult to get to. Even if a player matches Mark McGwire’s home run pace, they would still need over 6,000 at-bats. Only 15 players that have appeared in 2020 have reached 6,000 at-bats. The precedent has been set by generations of hitters, but today’s power hitters will have superstars breathing down their necks, serving as pressure and a potential replacement. Hitting home runs may be easier now, but the depth of talent in baseball could bottleneck potential 500 home run hitters.
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