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 3,000-hit plateau?
There are 32 members of the 3,000-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 3,000 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 dropped. For example, every year of Ty Cobb’s career after age-33 was dropped.
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.
What This List Is Not
This group of players is not a projection for the 3,000-hit club 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. Soon, 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 3,000-hit club is full of young hotshots and late bloomers alike. Every member of the 3,000-hit 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.
Also, Albert Pujols will not be included because he has already reached the 3000 hit club plateau.
Age-20: Hits Needed: 69
Many of the 190 players in MLB history to hit this milestone took a full season (or several) to rack up 69 hits. Franco hopped into Major League Baseball and immediately batted .288. Despite playing in just 70 games, Franco posted 81 hits. Over 162 games, that is a pace of 187 hits. While most of baseball is trending away from the 200-hit season, Franco could get to that milestone with just a slight improvement in Year 2.
Franco needs 87 hits in 2022 to reach the age-21 milestone. The age-22 milestone would require an efficient season, but 216 hits in a season could be in Franco’s future.
Age-22: Hits Needed: 297
Guerrero has laced 372 hits in 344 games, sporting a .289 career average. However, that buries the lede as he batted .311 in a breakout 2021 season. He racked up 188 hits in 161 games. Through three seasons, Guerrero is averaging 175 hits per 162 games, so he should have a steady pace in the coming years. He could be a casualty of the launch angle revolution, but Guerrero did hit 48 home runs with his .311 average.
Guerrero is 76 hits away from the age-23 milestone. Even if 2022 was a 60-game season, Guerrero would have a reasonable shot at it.
Soto passed this milestone in 2020, and he lapped the field in 2021. He has a career .301 average, but he has a .322 average over the last two seasons. If there is a problem with Soto, he might walk too much for him to get to 3,000 hits. He has already had two 100-walk seasons through age-22. If there is any player who is too good for the 3,000-hit club (in the same vein as Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, and Babe Ruth), it would be Soto.
Soto has already cleared the age-23 milestone.
Tatis has missed time in two of three seasons, but his .292 average has led to 303 hits in 273 games. He will have to solve some of his strikeout issues (27.6% rate through three seasons), but the talent is there. Tatis’ walk rate is slowly rising, but it is unlikely that he gets to Soto’s level that it becomes detrimental to accumulating hits. If he can maintain an average above .280, he will make significant progress.
Tatis needs 145 hits to reach the age-23 milestone. It is not a guarantee, but if Tatis plays 140 games, he should be good to go.
Age-23: Hits Needed: 448
Soto’s incredible plate discipline could cost his longevity in the quest for 3,000 hits, but he is essentially a lock to hit the age-24 milestone next season barring injury. He needs 119 hits to remain ahead of pace by a full season.
Age-24: Hits Needed: 604
With Ronald Acuna Jr.‘s missed time knocking him off the pace, Albies is the current hit king for the reigning World Series champions. However, Albies’ pace has slowed over the last two seasons. He missed 31 games in 2020 in addition to the 102 games from the season being just 60 games. In 2021, Albies had a .259 batting average, but he did average more than a hit per game for the fifth year in a row. Albies needs to post a batting average closer to .300 to have a realistic shot at the age-25 milestone and beyond.
Albies needs 165 hits in 2022 to maintain pace. He has hit that mark twice, and he had 163 hits in 2021. It is not a lock, but a healthy Albies should end 2022 in striking distance.
Age-28: Hits Needed: 1,308
Machado posted his seventh season with at least 150 hits in 2021, keeping him a healthy distance ahead of schedule. While Machado only has a career average of .280, he has been healthy enough to play 150 games seven times, giving him ample opportunities to rack up hits. Being in San Diego might depress his overall counting stats, but hitting in the same lineup as Tatis will increase his available plate appearances.
Machado needs 58 hits to reach the age-29 milestone. He had 68 hits in 60 games in 2020, so Machado would convert even in a worst-case scenario. If Machado wants a challenge, he is 231 hits away from the age-30 mark. Only two players (Darin Erstad in 2000 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001, 2004, and 2007) have had that many hits in a season in Machado’s life.
Age-38: Hits Needed: 2,867
Cabrera is technically past the age-39 and age-40 milestones, but when you have 2,987 hits, the focus is 3,000, not some arbitrary pace. Assuming a normal start time for baseball, Cabrera will get to 3,000 hits in April. He has back-to-back seasons under a one-hit-per-game rate, but 2022 would have to go seriously wrong for Cabrera to not get to 3,000 hits. However, Cabrera could be the final member of the 3,000-hit club for a decade.
In MLB history, every season has had at least one future member of the 3,000-hit club. For many seasons, it has been just one player, and baseball without a future 3,000-hit member could be on the horizon. Assuming Pujols and Cabrera retire at some point, they could be the last of the 3,000-hit club.
Players such as Soto 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 3,000-hit club plateau has 13 players who have a career batting average below .300. Lou Brock and 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. 2022 will be the 162nd consecutive season with an active or future member of the 3,000 hit plateau, and it might be the last.
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