There are a few numbers in baseball that are special. Players that reach the 3000 hit club, 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 3,000-hit plateau?
Future 3000 Hit Club Members
There are 32 members of the 3000-hit club. I took their hit totals through every year of their careers and averaged the numbers. For example, through their age-22 season, the average member of the 3000 hit club plateau had 297 hits. The methodology stayed the same through the age-33 season. In the age-34 average and beyond, players who surpassed 3,000 hits were kept at 3,000. For example, every year of Ty Cobb’s career after age-33 was noted at 3,000 hits.
This was done for two main reasons. First, the baseline for the 3,000-hit plateau is 3,000 hits. It would be unfair for the average to be skewed by the likes of Pete Rose and Cobb. The goal is not to be better than the average member of the 3,000-hit plateau (3,287). The goal is to get to 3,000. Second, the average number of hits eclipses 3,000 in the age-38 season. Theoretically, a player could have 3,000 hits (accomplishing the goal) while being off pace.
Another option was to remove players from the average when they achieved entry into the 3000 hit club. However, it was fairly pointless as no new players were added. Through the age-33 season, the number was the same as before. After the age-34 season, the “on pace” requirement only dipped by a handful of hits each season. Only four active players even have 2,000 hits, and none jumped from off-pace to on-pace with the lower standards.
What this list is not:
This group of players is not a projection for the 3000 hit club plateau in 20 years. It is just a collection of players who are on pace for 3,000 hits. Baseball is changing drastically, and the importance of a hit is decreasing in favor of extra-base hits and home runs. In the near future, a 3,000-hit career may cease to exist. This may be the final generation of hitters that have the opportunity to get to the historic milestone.
As with other kinds of projections, being on pace is irrelevant if a player suddenly drops off-pace. The 3000 hit club plateau is full of young hotshots and late bloomers alike. Every member of the 3000 hit club plateau 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.
Also, Albert Pujols will not be included because he has already reached the 3000 hit club plateau.
3000 Hit Club: Age 21
Age-21: Hits Needed: 168
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – Toronto Blue Jays – 184 hits
Guerrero racked up 58 hits in the 2020 season, maintaining pace early in his career. He played in all 60 games, posting a 115 OPS+. Moving permanently to designated hitter could help the longevity of his career, but the Blue Jays will likely want him to play the field if possible.
Guerrero is 113 hits away from the next level. Depending on the length of the season, Guerrero should make it.
Juan Soto – Washington Nationals – 328 hits
Soto pummeled 54 hits in just 47 games for the Nationals. He posted one of the most ridiculous slash lines in recent memories with a .351/.490/.695. Soto should be a superstar for the next 15 years, and something would have to go seriously wrong for him to fall short of the Hall of Fame.
Soto has already achieved the next level.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – San Diego Padres – 168 hits
Tatis rattled off 62 hits in 59 games to squeeze back into this article. His .277 batting average was 40 points lower than his rookie average. Over time, a lower batting average may sacrifice his ability to accumulate hits, but youth is on his side.
Tatis is 129 hits away from the next level. He is in the same boat as Guerrero with the season’s length determining his shot of advancing. With at least 120 games, Tatis should make it.
Age-22: Hits Needed: 297
Ronald Acuna Jr. – Atlanta Braves – 342 hits
Almost A shoo-in to hit the 3000 hit club sweepstakes, Acuna only had 40 hits in 46 games. He had a subpar .250 average. Even if he hits leadoff for a high-powered Braves lineup, a poor average could derail Acuna moving forward. However, the Braves would likely love another .406 on-base percentage or .581 slugging percentage from Acuna.
Acuna is 106 hits away from the age-23 tier. Assuming the season is at least 100 games, Acuna should make the next tier.
Juan Soto* – Washington Nationals – 328 hits
Soto is 120 hits away from the next tier. In a full season, he should cruise past the baseline.
Age-23: Hits Needed: 448
Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves – 450 hits
Albies had 32 hits in 29 games, barely keeping pace. Albies will need a healthy 2021 season, and he will have to get back to 2019 form. In 2019, Albies batted .295 and led the National League in hits.
Albies needs 154 hits to get to the age-24 level. His success depends on the length of the season (and his health).
Age-27: Hits Needed: 1,131
Manny Machado – San Diego Padres – 1,268 hits
Machado racked up 68 hits in 60 games, batting .304. If Machado continues to hit for a high average, he should continue to surpass each level. Under contract until 2028, Machado will accumulate his next 1,000 hits in the mustard and brown of San Diego.
Machado needs 40 hits to maintain pace. If he is healthy, he should triple that tally (assuming a fairly normal season).
Age-28: Hits Needed: 1,308
Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels – 1,380 hits
Trout fired off 56 hits in 53 games, hitting .281. Trout has nine consecutive seasons with at least one hit per game, a trait that should help him in his accumulation of hits to join the 3000 hit club. He is under contract with the Angels until 2030, so he has at least 10 seasons of hit accumulation left.
Trout needs 103 hits to make the next level. With a season of at least 100 games, Trout should easily pass the milestone.
Age-37: Hits Needed: 2,779
Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers – 2,866 hits
Cabrera is less concerned with the pace of other 3,000 hit club members and more concerned with accumulating 134 hits. In 2020, he had 51 hits in 57 games. His .250 average was the second-worst of his career.
Cabrera only needs one hit in 2021 to keep pace, but he just needs as many hits as possible to trim the gap between himself and the 3,000-hit plateau.
In MLB history, every season has had at least one future member of the 3000 hit club plateau. For many seasons, it has been just one player, and baseball without a future 3,000 hit plateau member could be on the horizon. Assuming Pujols and Cabrera retire at some point, they could be the last of the 30000 hit club plateau.
Players such as Trout or Machado are ahead of the pace they need to play at, but pure hits are becoming less important with each passing season. For decades, players that accumulated hits were valuable assets to a team. The 3000 hit club plateau has 13 players who have a career batting average below .300. Lou Brock and Ichiro Suzuki were just slightly above average hitters (by OPS+) who found their way to nearly 22,000 plate appearances combined.
If the 3,000 hit plateau does close with the retirement of Pujols or Cabrera, it will just be another chapter of baseball history in the books. The future of baseball seems predicated on the three true outcomes, so the 500 home run club may swell in the coming decades as strikeout tallies rise each season. 2021 will be the 161st consecutive season with an active or future member of the 3,000 hit plateau, and it might be the last.
main image credit Embed from Getty Images