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?
There are 28 members of the 500 home run club with Miguel Cabrera joining last season. 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 46 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 dropped. For example, every year of Alex Rodriguez’s career after age-31 was excluded.
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. The same applies to Cabrera. Both players are “on pace” and already past the milestone.
All home run totals are from the end of the 2021 season.
Age-22: Home Runs Needed: 46
After two relatively slow seasons, Guerrero entered an absurd power surge for the entire 2021 season. He had 24 home runs in his first 757 plate appearances before launching a Major League-leading 48 across 698 plate appearances in 2021. If Guerrero maintains his 6.9% home run rate, he will have more than enough home runs to jump ahead of the necessary pace.
Guerrero needs just four home runs in 2022 to hit the next milestone. He would need 35 to hit the age-24 milestone, an achievable tally if he plays more than 150 games.
Soto found his power stroke late in 2021, but he would have cleared this milestone even in his age-20 season. Soto may not have the ridiculous power profile of the rest of the group, but he has youth on his side. His career home run rate of 4.9% is nothing spectacular, but Soto’s remarkable consistency at the plate should keep him on track. He hit 29 home runs in 2021, and he had 34 home runs in 2019.
Soto has already hit the age-23 milestone.
Tatis was on a solid pace in his first two seasons, whacking 39 home runs in 143 games, but he turned up the heat in 2021. He blasted an NL-leading 42 home runs. Like Guerrero, Tatis has a career 6.9% home run rate, maxing out with 7.7% last season. With 81 home runs through his age-22 season, Tatis is well on his way to even greater milestones.
Tatis has already hit the age-23 milestone.
Age-23: Home Runs Needed: 76
Other than a certain three-time MVP in an older bracket, no player has lost more pace in the last two years than Acuna. He still hit 24 home runs in 2021, but he missed half of the season with a torn ACL. Coupled with the 60-game 2020 season, Acuna has missed out on approximately 50 home runs. Still, Acuna is on track for future milestones even if he has a shorter 2022 season.
Acuna needs just two home runs to hit the age-24 milestone. He would need 35 to hit the age-25 mark. Acuna averages 43 home runs per 162 games, so he would need approximately 130 games in 2022 if his pace held up.
Soto may not have reached his full power potential, but it would be difficult to remain a year ahead of schedule if his max is only 34 home runs. With that said, Soto needs just nine home runs in 2022 to stay a year ahead. With 42 home runs, he would jump to two seasons ahead.
Fernando Tatis Jr.*
Tatis is averaging 48 home runs per 162 games, a stellar pace. He is 26 home runs away from the age-24 milestone, and he is 59 away from the age-25 pace. He will likely land somewhere between, but he needs to play more than 130 games to make even more progress.
Age-24: Home Runs Needed: 107
Devers is close to Soto in the idea that he is not a prototypical power hitter. Either way, Devers has 112 home runs in five seasons, twice eclipsing 30. He blasted 38 in 2021, and he averages 33 per 162 games. He has a modest 4.8% home run rate, but he posted a 5.7% rate in 2021. If Devers turns a handful of his doubles into home runs, he could be a perennial 40-homer player.
Devers needs 28 home runs in 2022 to reach the age-25 milestone. According to his career so far, he should achieve that in approximately 135 games.
Age-28: Home Runs Needed: 249
Harper mashed 35 home runs en route to the 2021 NL MVP. It was the third time Harper surpassed 35 home runs, maxing out with 42 in 2015. While he has a career home run rate of 4.9%, he has been whacking home runs at a 5.4% clip with the Phillies. Like Devers, if he can turn his ML-leading 42 doubles into a handful of extra home runs, Harper could make a huge dent in future age brackets.
Harper is 20 home runs away from the age-29 milestone. He is 56 home runs away from the age-30 milestone. To reach these, Harper needs approximately 95 and 265 games respectively based on his career averages.
Machado narrowly cleared the age-28 milestone, sitting just two home runs ahead. He launched 174 home runs between his age-22 and age-26 seasons, but the last two years have slimmed Machado’s margin for error. He had a healthy 16 home runs in 2020 (162-game pace of 43), but he only hit 28 home runs across 153 games in 2021. He needs another big season to stay ahead of the pace.
Machado needs 36 home runs to reach the age-29 milestone. He has hit that mark in just one season (2016).
Age-29: Home Runs Needed: 287
Over the last five seasons, Trout has missed 48, 22, 28, 109*, and 126 games in each respective season. While he is averaging 48 home runs per 162 games, he has averaged just 28 home runs per season (95 games per season) in that span. If Trout plays a healthy season, he could flirt with 50 home runs, but his health has been a massive concern when pandemics are not robbing the world of his prime.
Despite missing all of that time, Trout needs just 13 home runs to reach the age-30 milestone. It is conceivable that he hits 47 home runs and hits the age-31 milestone if health permits. Trout has never hit that many, but he did hit 45 in 134 games in 2019.
*102 games were lost because of the 60-game season.
The 500 home run club will likely be open for the foreseeable future. 2022 marks the 109th 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 12 players that appeared in 2021 have reached 6,000 at-bats. Robinson Cano makes 13. 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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