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 club?
Future 3,000 hit club members – Methodology
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 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 club is, well, 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 club (3,287). The goal is to get to 3,000. Secondly, 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 eclipsed 3,000 hits. 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 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. Shortly, 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 the 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 that 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 is already in the 3,000 hit club.
Age-20: Hits Needed: 69
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – 126 hits
Guerrero benefits greatly from playing 123 games in his age-20 season. He only batted .272, but his youth and inclusion in the lineup should keep him on pace for a while. He may never be a 200-hit threat, but he should be a great pro for a long time. Guerrero needs 42 hits to stay on pace and he should be able to do so in the shortened season.
Juan Soto – 274 hits
Soto has two full seasons of MLB experience under his belt before beginning his age-21 season. Hitting for contact is not the most impressive part of Soto’s game, but he does sport a .287 average. He has averaged over a hit per game in both of his seasons, and he should be a perennial threat for 150 hits and 100 walks for the next decade. He has surpassed the next age marker, so the 2020 shortened season is not a cataclysmic blow to the World Series champion.
Fernando Tatis Jr. – 106 hits
Tatis only played 84 games with the Padres in 2019, but he racked up an impressive 106 hits with a .317 batting average. Over a full 162 games, he would have likely recorded 200 hits. Youth helps Tatis out as he is already an everyday player. To reach the next age milestone, he needs 62 hits. In a normal season, he might triple that, but with only 60 games on the docket, it is not a sure thing that Tatis gets the necessary hits. He should, but an injury or cold spell could put him behind pace.
Age-21: Hits Needed: 168
Ronald Acuna Jr. – 302 hits
The 2019 All-Star racked up 175 hits in his sophomore campaign. Acuna has the benefit of generally batting lead-off, giving him extra at-bats. With a career .285 average, Acuna should be able to rack up 160 hits or more a season for a while. Assuming Acuna is kept in his lead-off role and continues to have a solid batting average, he could be in play for 3,000 hits later in his career. Acuna is ahead of the next age milestone, so 2020 is not a massive disruption.
Juan Soto* – 274 hits
Soto needs 23 hits to get to the age-22 milestone. Even in a shortened season, he is a shoo-in to maintain his advantage.
Age-22: Hits Needed: 297
Ronald Acuna Jr.* – 302 hits
Acuna needs 146 hits to get to the age-23 milestone. In a full season, he likely eclipses the total, but it will be quite impossible in just a 60-game stretch.
Ozzie Albies – 418 hits
Albies has played 375 games across three seasons with the Braves. He has back-to-back 160-hit seasons including an NL-leading 189 in 2019. Albies raised his average from a .261 in 2018 to a .295 in 2019. He needs 30 hits to reach the age-23 pace, a number that is well in play despite the 60-game season. Albies will likely be among the leaders in at-bats every season, so his hit total will continue to rise even if he is never a .300 hitter.
Rafael Devers – 372 hits
Devers had quite the breakout season in 2019. He had 201 hits in 2019. He is one of only 27 hitters in MLB history with a 200-hit season by the age of 23. After being a below-average hitter in 2018, Devers raised his average by 71 points and his OPS by 185 points. Consistency might be an issue, but if the 2019 version of Devers shows up in 2020, he could get to 76 hits in 60 games. For reference, he had 72 hits in Boston’s first 60 games in 2019. However, I did find a 60-game stretch in which Devers racked up 95 hits.
Age-25: Hits Needed: 778
Francisco Lindor – 835 hits
The four-time All-Star has been the model of consistency since 2016. He has four seasons with at least 170 hits. He is the only non-rookie to reach it in all four seasons. Lindor is a career .288 hitter, but he has batted over .300 twice in his career. He is likely to sacrifice to the new era of hitting home runs as his average has dipped from .306 in 2015-2016 to .278 since 2017. In contrast, his slugging percentage has risen by 60 points. Lindor is 121 hits shy of the age-26 mark, a number that is practically impossible in 60 games. In MLB history, only one man (Ichiro Suzuki, 2004) was able to squeeze out 121 hits from a 60-game stretch.
Age-26: Hits Needed: 956
Xander Bogaerts – 1,022 hits
Bogaerts has had his ebbs and flows in the Majors. In 2015, he raked for a .320 average and 196 hits. By 2017, he was batting .273. Then, 2019 was a massive bounce-back year for Bogaerts as he got to 190 hits for the third time of his career, batting .309. Bogaerts stands 109 hits away from the next age milestone. It seems highly unlikely that the shortstop could rattle off 109 hits in just 60 games.
Mookie Betts – 965 hits
Betts may very well be the best hitter in the NL. The 2018 AL MVP has a career .301 average, and he has five seasons with 160 or more hits. Betts had a mammoth 214 hits in 2016 and posted a .346 average in 136 games in 2018. Moving forward, Betts will continue to be a 170-hit player each season if he wants to sniff the 3,000 hit club. He sits 166 hits away from the next age marker. In a full season, Betts likely gets to it. However, Betts may be as many as 100 hits behind the average 3,000 hit club member heading into his age-28 season.
Bryce Harper – 1,071 hits
Harper has one of the earliest starts of any player in MLB history. He has played 1,084 games through his age-26 season. Only 17 players played in more by that mark. However, Harper has run into an issue with an oddly low batting average. Among the 83 players to get to 1,000 hits by age-27, Harper is 74th in batting average at .276. Of the nine players behind Harper, only one (Adrian Beltre) made it to the 3,000 hit club, and only one other player is on pace (stay tuned). Youth is in Harper’s favor, but he only has one season with more than 150 hits. Alarmingly, he only has three seasons in which he has more hits than games played. Harper is likely too good of a hitter to make it to the 3,000 hit club as he routinely flirts with 100 walks, reducing his yearly totals.
Harper would need 60 hits in 60 games to keep up the pace, and he is unlikely to reach that tally in 2020.
Manny Machado – 1,200 hits
Machado has played the 19th most games of any player heading into their age-27 season. Machado has six seasons with at least 150 hits including each of the last five. He has four career seasons with 180 hits. Machado has also been exceptionally healthy, playing in at least 156 games in the last five seasons. All told, Machado is a prime hit accumulator. He is a good enough hitter to warrant 600 at-bats a season while not being as feared as Harper. Machado is 69 hits ahead of the age-27 pace, so 2020 is not quite a detriment. However, a .256 batting average in San Diego might hurt if Machado cannot fix it.
Age-27: Hits Needed: 1,131
Manny Machado* – 1,200 hits
For as consistent as Machado was with the Orioles, his batting average in 2019 was 26 points lower than his 2012-2018 career average. A low batting average will not hurt in 2020, but in the future, Machado could miss future milestones. He is 108 hits away from the age-28 milestone, a number he is unlikely to get to in 2020. However, age is still on Machado’s side, and he should be a perennial 630 at-bat player into his 30s.
Mike Trout – 1,324 hits
Trout is pretty good at baseball. He has eight-straight seasons with 120 or more hits, and he has never batted below .287 in a full season. Trout is a career .305 hitter, and he has a high enough average for the fear factor (mentioned with Harper) to not debilitate his potential to rack up hits. Health has been a concern in the last three seasons as Trout has missed 98 games. Trout averages over a hit per game for his career, but if he has health issues in his thirties, he may quickly fall off the 3,000 hit pace. He is 16 ahead of the age-28 pace, but as his power numbers continue to expand, fear could prevent Trout from being a perennial 170-hit machine.
Age-28: Hits Needed: 1,308
Mike Trout* – 1,324 hits
Trout needs an absurd 159 hits in 2020 to get to the age-29 pace. He hasn’t had 159 in a season since 2016, and averaging 2.65 hits per game will never happen. Trout is one of the best hitters in baseball history, but he may run into a lack of at-bats as he racks up seasons with 100 walks. He has four seasons with at least 110 walks. He averages 131 walks per 162 games since 2016. For comparison, Barry Bonds averaged 131 walks per 162 games between 1986 and 2003. Bonds fell 65 hits shy of 3,000 despite playing past his 43rd birthday. Frankly, Trout may end up walking too much to get to 3,000 hits.
Age-29: Hits Needed: 1,483
Jose Altuve – 1,568 hits
Trash can banging aside, Altuve is a historically efficient hitter. He led the AL in hits four straight seasons from 2014 to 2017, eclipsing 200 hits in each season. He has eight seasons with at least 149 hits and seven with at least 167. Altuve has a career .315 average, and he has batted over .338 thrice. His batting average has dipped nearly 50 points since 2017, but he was still able to rack up 149 hits in 124 games in 2019. If Altuve can stay healthy for 150 games a season, he should have plenty of 175-hit campaigns left. At the moment, he sits 88 hits away from the age-30 milestone. He can record 88 hits in 60 games, but it seems unlikely.
Starlin Castro – 1,617 hits
Castro will be playing for his fourth team since 2015, but he rakes for everyone. He was the only player to have 130 hits in every season of the 2010s. Hit total of 1,617 hits ranked fourth in the decade. The main adversary of Castro’s attempt to get to 3,000 hits is batting average. Castro has never batted higher than .307, and he only has three seasons of batting .300. He has a .273 average since 2013. Castro is a slightly below-average hitter for his career (OPS+ of 98), and his career might be over soon if he has a season as bad as his 2013 or 2015 (OPS+ of 73 and 84 respectively). However, he is likely to enter his age-31 season on pace for 3,000 hits as he only needs 39 hits in 2020 to maintain his pace. Only three players have played in more games in the 2010s than Castro.
Age-30: Hits Needed: 1,656
Elvis Andrus – 1,723 hits
Andrus is the player mentioned in Bryce Harper’s blurb. He has played 11 full seasons, recording 145 games in 10 of them. He only has two seasons with over 170 hits, but he had seven extra seasons with at least 150 hits. Health and consistency have put Andrus on a good pace, but it seems unlikely he will be an everyday player deep into his thirties. A lifetime Ranger, Andrus only has one season batting over .300 and only two seasons with an OPS+ above 94. For his career, he has an OPS+ of 87. Of the 445 players with at least 1,723 hits, Andrus ranks tied for 423rd in terms of OPS+. Could he have better seasons in his thirties? Perhaps. A shortened 2020 season is likely the final nail in the coffin for Andrus’ hopes of 3,000 hits as he would need 111 hits to stay on pace.
Age-36: Hits Needed: 2,661
Miguel Cabrera – 2,815 hits
The 17-year veteran is on the outside looking in, in terms of getting to 3,000 hits. While he turned 37 in April, Cabrera has slipped significantly since his peak. He sits 185 hits away from 3,000. He should get there in the 2021 season, but with only 222 available games and a shaky history of injuries, Cabrera might retire without getting to 3,000 hits or 500 home runs. Cabrera is a titan of the time in many aspects. He has made 11 All-Star teams. He has four batting titles. Cabrera won back-to-back MVP Awards, and even captured a Triple Crown. From 2005 to 2016, he was 59 percent better than the average hitter. Cabrera is 36 hits ahead of the age-37 milestone, but at his age, the only number that matters now is 3,000 hits.
Age-37: Hits Needed: 2,779
Miguel Cabrera* – 2,815
For the sake of consistency, Cabrera is 52 hits away from the age-38 pace. A prime Cabrera is almost a lock for 52 hits in 60 games, but it is far from a sure thing with a relatively washed Cabrera. While he has 179 hits in his last 174 games, the Tigers could always go in a different direction. If Cabrera was guaranteed to start 60 games in 2020, he would probably accrue 52 hits, but his health is no longer a guarantee. Cabrera is due to be paid $30M in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, so he might eventually get to 3,000 hits, but the grace of his younger days is long gone.
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 club member could be on the horizon. Assuming Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera retire at some point, they could be the last of the 3,000 hit club. Players such as Trout and 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 has 12 players who have a career batting average below .300 (13 if Pujols slips from .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. In 2020 and beyond, it is unlikely to see these sorts of hitters approach 3,000 hits.
If the 3,000 hit club 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. MLB 2020 will provide the 160th consecutive season with an active or future member of the 3,000 hit club, and it might be the last.
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