Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has hit his 500th career home run. He did so Sunday against the Blue Jays, becoming the 28th player in history to reach the threshold in Major League Baseball. Long one of the most revered and storied career marks in baseball, this is an incredibly prestigious moment for the future Hall of Famer.
Cabrera was the 28th player in MLB history to accomplish the feat. Who might be the 29th? Let’s take a look at some candidates.
This could really go down to the wire. Cruz is 41 years old and 57 home runs away. He’s also not really slowing down. He had 41 in 120 games in 2019, 16 in 53 games last year and has 26 in 109 games this season. He has struggled some since joining the Rays in July, though the homers are still there. It’s a small sample and wouldn’t normally be worrisome, but when the age is 41, there’s always concern a wall has been hit. I’m torn on if he’ll make it or not. On one hand, thinking a 41-year-old still has 57 homers left in him sounds foolish. On the other, so does betting against Cruz hitting home runs, regardless of age.
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Stanton hasn’t been quite the home run hitter this season as he has in years past. He only has 20 homers in 103 games. After only hitting seven in 2019-20 combined due to injuries, he’s fallen behind what once seemed a surefire pace. He has 332 career homers and is 31 years old. Does he have 168 left in him? He hit 188 from 2014-18, a stretch that included his 59-homer 2017 season. Through his age-28 season, Stanton had 305 homers and seemed as big a lock for 500 as a player can be. Now, the odds aren’t great. Of course, another 50-plus homer season and everything changes again.
Trout is 30 and has 310 career homers. Injuries slowed his pace a bit in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but this year they have crushed him. He’s only appeared in 36 games. He hit 187 homers in the five years leading up to last year’s pandemic-affected season and he easily has more years left in the game than that. Before injury this season, Trout was hitting .333/.466/.624 with eight homers, so he’s still very much in his prime. It’s a matter of staying on the field. He’s under contract through 2030, so he’s a decent bet here. He just needs that calf injury to get better in the near term.
Freeman is aging well and plays a position that demands a high level of power to keep his job. He’s in his age-31 season and has 267 career home runs. It’s a tall order to get home here, as he’ll need a lot more of the 38-homer seasons like he had in 2019. A few 23-homer seasons (like 2018) will set him too far behind to make it.
In 10 seasons, the 28-year-old Harper has passed the halfway point. He’s at 255 and counting. He signed with the Phillies through 2031. He’s avoided injury since 2017 and is aging well, as he’s having a star-caliber season in 2021. As I alluded to in Stanton, things can turn quickly and it’s never a “good” bet to say someone will get to 500 home runs when they are this far away. Harper is definitely on pace, though. I’ll say he gets there.
Machado is a few months older than Harper and is now 29, but they are both in their age-28 seasons (it’s determined with a June 30 cutoff and Machado’s birthday is July 6). Machado is a bit behind Harper at 245 career homers, but if we include Harper here, we have to include Machado with the age and home run totals being so close. Machado is also in his 10th year and is closing in on the halfway point. He’s signed with the Padres through 2028, so it’s possible he won’t have quite as much time.
The next generation?
Will we have to wait for someone from the next wave of kids to be the next 500-homer hitter? Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is just 22 and has 60. Fernando Tatis, Jr, is 22 and has 73. Juan Soto is 22 and has 89. Ronald Acuña, Jr. is 23 and in triple digits at 105. Being so far away, there’s little chance in accurately predicting where they end up, but each of the four has the talent and has built a good foundation. If forced to mount a guess, Soto is my man here.