By: Eric Cain / @_Cainer
Albert Pujols added to his Hall of Fame resume Friday night when he slapped a bloop single to right field and recorded career-hit No. 3,000. Only 32 players in the history of baseball have ever accomplished the feat – truly a pinnacle in the game. Five players have reached the milestone this decade after long-lasting careers, but who could be next in line to reach the elite company?
To put things into perspective, it would take a player nearly 18 complete seasons of injury-free play with 170 hits a year to accomplish the feat. That’s a gradual pace, however, as Pujols tallied more than 170 hits in each of his first 10 seasons. Players who record 200 hits a campaign would reach the milestone after year 15 in the bigs—but Ender Inciarte led all the National League with 201 hits a season ago.
Bottom line, its tough to be that productive for that long. Thus, the 3,000-hit club is truly one of the toughest ventures in all of sports.
Realistically, there are only two active players over the age of 30-years-old who have a shot at 3,000 hits. Entering the week, Miguel Cabrera (35) and Robinson Cano (35) have tallied 2,666 and 2,410 hits in their careers, respectively, to this point. If both sluggers manage at least 120 hits over the course of the next few seasons, Cabrera will reach the milestone by age 39 and Cano would be there by age 40. Both players are still competing at a high level, so I expect them to be the 33rd and 34th members of this club in the future.
As of Tuesday, May 8, Jose Reyes (39) is sixth in active hits with 2,100, Victor Martinez (39) is eighth with 2,063 hits, Adrian Gonzalez (36) is ninth with 2,031 hits and Joe Mauer (35) is 10th with 2,016 hits. Time is not on the side of these players. However, Nick Markakis (34) has an outside shot as the Braves right fielder currently sits at 2,097 career hits. If the outfielder continues his pace of 181 hits per season, Markakis could reach 3,000 hits by age 38.
As fans and those who cover the sport, outside of Cabrera and Cano, we should look at players under the age of 30 to get a good feel of who could be the next wave of 3,000-hit players. Here is a list of younger players who are on the pace and who are worth keeping an eye on as their careers unfold.
Bryce Harper (25) — 813 career hits
The guy we love to hate symbolizes everything about this age in baseball. He’s flashy and plays the game with a passion rivaled by few. Harper is in the final year of his rookie contract with the Nationals and will likely tally career hits No. 2,000 and 3,000 in another uniform if he keeps his pace of 164 hits per season.
Mike Trout (26) — 907 hits
Arguably the best player in baseball, the five-tool outfielder will likely be etched in the record books for various accounts before it’s all said and done. Trout’s pace of 183 hits a season is impressive. What’s even more impressive is the fact he pounded out 123 hits in only 114 games during an injury-plagued season in 2017.
Jose Altuve (28) — 1,296 career hits
The reigning American League MVP is well on his way after producing four-straight seasons of over 200 hits. In fact, the second baseman averages 206 hits a campaign in six full-seasons thus far. As long as he stays atop a high-powered offensive lineup, Altuve should be in the conversation before his career nears its end.
Manny Machado (25) — 907 career hits
You may not know if he’s playing third base or short stop on the left side of the infield, but what you do know is that he is hitting consistently atop the Orioles lineup. At Machado’s current pace, he would need to play into his 17th season in order to track down the milestone. A move back to the American League (if he crosses over) would likely be smart later in his career.
Nolan Arenado (27) — 834 career hits
Here’s another who will have to play deep into his career. The Rockies superstar should have no problem as he’s only missed nine games throughout the past four seasons (including 2018). Look for Arenado to come down to the stretch.
Mookie Betts (25) — 648 career hits
He can do more than hit three home runs in a single game (twice already in 2018). The fantasy baseball must-have is averaging 195 hits through nearly 3.5 seasons of baseball service. Super young, but he’s on pace.
Xander Bogaerts (25) — 709 career hits
Lost in the deep, deep lineup of the Boston Red Sox, the short stop has been ultra-efficient atop the lineup card since becoming a full-time player as a 21-year-old in 2014. Bogaerts averages 179 hits per season to date, and because he started so early, he is already off to a scorching start.
Carlos Correa (23) — 439 career hits
Dude is just 23 and is nearing 500 Major League knocks. If he keeps the pace, Correa will notch hit No. 3000 as a 36-year-old. That would be two years younger than Pujols who just accomplished the feat.
Here are some others that should be in the conversation of 3,000 hits in the latter portion of their careers, but will have some major work to do.
Francisco Lindor (24) — 523 career hits
Aaron Judge (26) — 206 career hits
Corey Seager (24) — 412 career hits
Jose Ramirez (25) — 534 career hits
Marcell Ozuna (27) — 716 career hits
Rougned Odor (24) — 506 career hits
Wil Myers (27) — 532 career hits
Ender Inciarte (27) — 663 career hits
Christian Yellich (26) — 744 career hits
Jonathan Schoop (26) — 544 career hits
In this day in age, chicks dig the long ball. But a base-hit up the middle could still do a lot of damage over the course of a career.
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