The big milestones on tap in '23 -- and whether they'll happen

March 26th, 2023

Last year was a career milestone-palooza, between Albert Pujols topping 700 home runs and Miguel Cabrera surpassing 3,000 hits. With each new baseball season, there are always more milestones to look out for -- and 2023 is no exception to that rule.

Here is a look at some major milestones on the horizon for 2023 and beyond, along with a breakdown of each player’s chances of getting there this year.

: 15th all-time in hits

Last year, Cabrera became the 33rd member of the 3,000-hit club, and now, there’s still more climbing to do. He enters the year with 3,088 hits, which ranks 24th all-time. Here are the next nine ahead of him, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:

  1. Cal Ripken Jr.: 3,184
  2. Adrian Beltre: 3,166
  3. George Brett: 3,154
  4. Paul Waner: 3,152
  5. Robin Yount: 3,142
  6. Tony Gwynn: 3,141
  7. Alex Rodriguez: 3,115
  8. Dave Winfield: 3,110
  9. Ichiro Suzuki: 3,089

Will it happen?

Cabrera should certainly move up this list over the course of the season, especially considering he’s just a hit shy of Ichiro. He had 101 hits last year, which would put him just ahead of Ripken, so 15th seems like a realistic target.

: 100 career home runs and beyond

Alvarez, who hit a career-high 37 homers last season, has gone deep 98 times in just 368 career games. If he gets to 100 within his first two games of 2023, he’d be the fourth-fastest to do so by games, and at the very least, he should be within the top eight.

Fewest games to 100 career HR:

Ryan Howard: 325
Pete Alonso: 347
Gary Sanchez: 355
Aaron Judge: 371
Ralph Kiner: 376
Joey Gallo: 377
Ronald Acuña Jr.: 378
Chuck Klein: 390
Bob Horner: 390

Will it happen?

Barring bad health news, this should happen very early in the season. If you’re thinking of the earliest possible, the Astros have had two individual multi-HR games on Opening Day: Jeff Bagwell in 2003 and Román Mejias in 1962, in the first game in franchise history. And by the way, Alvarez hit one last year on Opening Day.

and : 3,000 strikeouts

Greinke enters with 2,882 strikeouts and Kershaw with 2,807. That means that 3,000 is very much on the radar for each of these former teammates over the course of the season. The last pitcher to join the 3,000-strikeout club was Max Scherzer, who became its 19th member. The 3,000 mark is certainly elite territory: of the 19 pitchers to reach it, the only ones not in the Hall of Fame are Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling -- plus CC Sabathia, Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who are not yet eligible.

Will it happen?

Greinke is 118 strikeouts away from the mark. He had 73 strikeouts last year, but had at least 118 in every other non-shortened season since 2008. Of course, that span encompasses a transformation as a pitcher for Greinke, too. But 3,000 still seems in reach. Kershaw is further, needing 193 -- a mark he hasn’t reached since he struck out 202 batters in 2017. But with a healthy season, he could certainly come close. The last time Kershaw made at least 25 starts, in 2019, he had 189 strikeouts.

and : 10th all-time in strikeouts

From former teammates to former-turned-current-again ones – the Mets’ top two starters enter the year 12th and 13th all-time in career strikeouts. Verlander is 12th with 3,198 and Scherzer is 13th at 3,193, both within striking distance of 10th all-time. Here’s the relevant list, according to Elias:

  1. Walter Johnson: 3,515
  2. Greg Maddux: 3,371
  3. Phil Niekro: 3,342

Will it happen?

Early in the season, this will just be as it’s been for a while now: the two future Hall of Famers trading spots on the list -- given that 11th is more than 100 strikeouts away for each. But that 10th spot is definitely reachable late in the season. Verlander is 174 strikeouts from passing Maddux, and Scherzer is 179 from the mark. Verlander had 185 last year, and Scherzer had 173 in 23 starts, so both are realistic with healthy seasons.

Each of these prolific closers is on the cusp of joining an exclusive club. Only six pitchers have amassed at least 400 saves. Kimbrel enters ‘23 with 394 saves and Jansen with 391. The Phillies will be the seventh team Kimbrel records a save with; the Red Sox will be Jansen's third.

Will it happen?

Kimbrel needs six saves for 400 and has had fewer than 10 in just two seasons: 2020, when he had three save opportunities and notched two, and in his first MLB season in 2010, when he was 1-for-1 in save situations. Jansen needs nine. He last had fewer than 10 in 2011, when he was just two years removed from being a Dodgers Minor League catcher. That year, he went 5-for-6 in save situations.