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Next MLB players to join 500-HR club

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Last Saturday, Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado drilled his 300th career home run, becoming the eighth active player to reach that number. That got us wondering whether Arenado, or any other active player, will bash his way to an even grander milestone.

Only 28 sluggers have joined the 500 home run club, and when Miguel Cabrera follows Albert Pujols into retirement after this season, there will likely be zero active players on the list. (That’s barring an enormous surge from 42-year-old Nelson Cruz, whose 461 big flies, including just 10 last season, makes him the only contender currently within shouting distance).

So which current power threats are most likely to launch home run No. 500 someday? To answer that question, we had 11 MLB.com writers conduct a draft, taking into account not only proximity to 500, but also age and career trajectory.

Keep in mind, an early start is key. Of the 28 members of this esteemed club, all but four hit their first homer in their age-21 season or earlier, and all but two reached the 100-homer mark by their age-26 campaign.

Here are the results. (Players listed with 2023 seasonal age.)

Why he could do it: Trout’s path to 500 home runs is relatively simple. He’s already hit 353 home runs, the fourth-most among active players. He’s only in his early-30s and is on a guaranteed contract through 2030. Perhaps most importantly, Trout is hitting for more power as he ages. Through his age-24 season in 2016, he homered once every 21.2 plate appearances. Since then, he’s homered once every 14.4 plate appearances. Despite injuries that have limited him to 109 games per full season since 2017, he has still slugged 185 home runs during that span, the fifth most in the Majors.

Why he could do it: There’s a ton working in Soto’s favor here. He debuted as a 19-year-old, so he has time on his side. His 125 homers before turning 24 ranked seventh all-time, and that’s with a shortened 2020 season working against everyone, cumulative stats-wise. His plate discipline is legendary, but when he does swing, the power is unleashed. Consider this: 111 batters have swung at least 2,250 times since the start of 2020 entering Wednesday. In that span, only three batters have had a higher percentage of their swings result in home runs than Soto’s 3.1%: Aaron Judge (4.3%), Kyle Schwarber (3.7%) and Pete Alonso (3.4%).

Why he could do it: There are three main reasons Arenado could reach the 500-homer mark: durability, work ethic and consistency. Arenado hates taking even needed days off, and he’s rarely been injured throughout his decade-long Major League career. The seven-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner is also as intense a player as you’ll find, especially when it comes to putting in the work it takes to keep himself playing at an elite level. He has said he wants to play until he’s 38, meaning he’s got seven seasons to hit 199 more homers. That seems doable, given that he has exceeded 30 homers in every season he’s played in more than 133 games.

Why he could do it: While he’s the oldest player on this list at 33, Stanton is also the closest to 500 of any active player not named Nelson Cruz. The veteran sits 119 home runs shy of 500 with five years left on his 13-year, $325 million contract — an average of around 25 homers per season in that span would put him north of the 500 mark. Even considering Stanton’s age and injury history, that seems doable for a player who remains one of the most powerful hitters in the game.

Why he could do it: The case for Harper is simple. First, he’s (somehow) just now entering his age-30 season (or will be once he returns from Tommy John surgery, likely sometime around the All-Star break.). Second, he’s set an absurd pace to this point, with a 162-game average of 33 home runs. Third, he’s under contract until 2031, giving him a possible eight more full seasons to knock out the final 215. That works out to just under 27 home runs per season. To be honest, it might be more surprising if he doesn’t make it to 500.

Why he could do it: If Soto’s on this list, Vlad Jr. has to be here. These two will be in a race to 500. Vladdy will get there first. He has the top-of-the-scale power that even Soto doesn’t possess. Vlad Jr. reached the 100-homer mark at 23 years, 182 days old, and his 80 homers over the past two seasons are just the start. He can hit 30 a year in his sleep, and he’s got some 40s in him … maybe even 50. Vlad Jr. is going to fly past his dad (449 homers) and become the first Guerrero in the 500-home-run club.

Why he could do it: Pete Alonso earned a hefty amount of consideration here, but Acuña – three years Alonso’s junior — is the safer choice. Despite the shortened 2020 season and missing half of the ‘21 campaign due to a right knee injury, Acuña is one of only 27 players in the Modern Era to record at least 120 homers prior to his age-25 season. His 2022 homer total (15) left something to be desired, but there was and continues to be nothing wrong with Acuña’s bat; he consistently ranks among the league leaders in max exit velocity while posting strong barrel rates. Fully healthy and with lots of baseball in front of him, set a reminder for Acuña’s 500th-homer celebration for some point during the 2034 season.

Why he could do it: You may be surprised to see that Machado, who is only three months older than Harper and debuted in the Majors three months after him, is virtually tied with the two-time NL MVP on the career homer list. After all, we don’t necessarily think of Machado as a home run hitter. Aside from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he’s never finished higher than ninth in either the AL or NL in that category. Sometimes, though, slow and steady wins the race. Machado stays on the field (second in games played since 2015), and he is remarkably consistent (28-37 homers in each full season over that span). With no signs of slowing down, Machado just inked an extension to keep him in San Diego through 2033, which also gives him the benefit of time. He’s a steal in this spot.

Why he could do it: Because he’s 25 and might be the best hitter in the game right this very second. If that sounds like a hot take, realize that since he came up in 2019, he’s been outperformed at the plate by only Mike Trout and Aaron Judge, and he’s hit a home run once every 3.8 games. Last year, do you know who turned swings into hard-hit balls the most often of any hitter? It wasn’t Judge. It wasn’t Trout. It was Alvarez, five years younger than each, who is already 20% of the way there, with potentially another dozen years of great hitting ahead of him.

Why he could do it: Alonso didn’t get the head start that former wunderkinds such as Harper, Trout and Soto did; his MLB debut didn’t come until age 24 in 2019. But if his career so far has been any indication, he is more than equipped to make up for the lost time. In Alonso’s three non-pandemic-shortened seasons, he has averaged 43.3 home runs per year. Perhaps equally important for this exercise, he has never missed more than 10 games in a season. Let’s assume a sizable power reduction as Alonso ages: Even if he averaged 35 home runs per season for the remainder of his career, he would need to play only 10 more seasons to reach the 500 mark, which is a reasonable ask for the first baseman who doesn’t turn 29 until December.

Why he could do it: Wait, this guy is still available to be picked? Like, the reigning home run champion coming off an AL-record 62 dingers? Sure, he’s a little on the older side in his age-31 season this year, but Judge is just about halfway to 500. Considering that he’s capable of putting up 50-plus homers in any given year and averages 49 per 162 games in his career, Judge really just needs to stay healthy enough over the next five or six seasons to put himself on the verge. With his natural size, strength and power, Judge’s ability to hit the ball hard, far and out should hold up well into his late 30s. Plus, now that he’s staying with the Yankees for the long haul, he’ll be able to take full advantage of his homer-friendly home ballpark.

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