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?
Future 500 Home Run Club Members
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. Second, 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 will 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 home runs to be included in the next age level.
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 2020 season.
Age-21: Home Runs Needed: 27
Juan Soto – Washington Nationals – 69 Home Runs
Soto whacked 13 home runs in 47 games in 2020. He finished second in the NL with a home run every 11.8 at-bats. He had a sensational 2020 season, leading the NL in all four aspects of the slashline and posting a 212 OPS+. If Soto keeps this pace up, he will be a 40 home run player as soon as the 162-game season returns.
Soto has already achieved the next level.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – San Diego Padres – 39 Home Runs
Tatis mashed 17 home runs across 59 games in 2020. He was ninth in the NL with a home run every 13.2 at-bats. Through two seasons, Tatis is on pace to hit 44 home runs per 162 games. He has yet to play more than 84 games in a season, but he should play a full season in 2022 (if 2021 is compromised).
Tatis is six home runs away from the next tier. Tatis will likely reach it within 20 games.
Age-22: Home Runs Needed: 45
Ronald Acuna Jr. – Atlanta Braves – 81 Home Runs
Acuna hammered 14 home runs in 46 games in 2020. He led the NL with a stellar 11.4 at-bats per home run. Acuna had his best power season by far even in limited games. Moving forward, Acuna should rack up the home runs as the leadoff hitter for a strong Atlanta lineup.
Acuna has already achieved the next level.
Juan Soto* – Washington Nationals – 69 Home Runs
Soto is six home runs away from the next tier. He should easily reach it in 2021.
Age-23: Home Runs Needed: 75
Ronald Acuna Jr.* – Atlanta Braves – 81 Home Runs
Acuna is 31 home runs away from the next tier. Assuming Acuna does not miss a quarter of the season, he should clear the milestone and stay ahead of pace.
Age-24: Home Runs Needed: 106
Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers – 123 Home Runs
Bellinger hit 12 home runs in 56 games in 2020. He was in a slump for much of the season, but he has been in the top 10 in the NL in at-bats per home run in 2017 and 2019. For Bellinger’s career, he averages 39 home runs per 162 games, giving him good potential moving forward.
Bellinger is 16 home runs away from the next tier. In a close to a full season, Bellinger should easily get there.
Age-27: Home Runs Needed: 211
Bryce Harper – Philadelphia Phillies – 232 Home Runs
Harper hit 13 home runs in 58 games in 2020. Harper has finished in the top 10 in the NL in at-bats per home run three times in his career. Among active players, he is 10th in the stat. In his Phillies career, Harper averages 37 home runs per 162 games. This pace will help him as he moves deeper into his career.
Harper needs 16 home runs to reach the next tier. He will likely only need about 70 games to hit the milestone.
Manny Machado – San Diego Padres – 223 Home Runs
Machado hit 16 home runs in 60 games in 2020. Machado has never finished in the top 10 of either league in at-bats per home run, but he did hit a home run every 14 at-bats in 2020. In his two years in San Diego, he has averaged 36 home runs per 162 games, and his home run rate increased in 2020.
Machado needs 25 home runs to reach the next tier. While not a guarantee, Machado has had 32 home runs at a minimum in his last five full seasons.
Age-28: Home Runs Needed: 248
Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels – 302 Home Runs
Trout tattooed 17 home runs in 2020. He finished third in the AL in at-bats per home run with 11.7. He has finished in the top three in the stat in the last four years. His career average of 15 at-bats per home run is 13th all-time.
Trout has already achieved the next level.
Age-29: Home Runs Needed: 285
Mike Trout* – Los Angeles Angels – 302 Home Runs
Trout needs 19 home runs to reach the next tier. He should get to the milestone in approximately 75 games.
Age-37: Home Runs Needed: 484
Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers – 487 Home Runs
Cabrera hit 10 home runs in 57 games in 2020. His home run rate was better than it had been in 2017-2019, but it is no guarantee that Cabrera will match the production in 2021.
Cabrera is five home runs away from the next tier. At a certain point, it is more important for Cabrera to rack up as many home runs as possible as he stands just 13 from 500.
Unlike the 3,000 hit club, the 500 home run club will likely be open for the foreseeable future. 2021 marks the 108th consecutive season that featured a future member of the 500 home run club. With MLB emphasizing launch angle, bat speed, 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 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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