500 HRs not out of reach for these stars

August 24th, 2021

Now that Miguel Cabrera has become the 28th member of the 500-home run club, we can’t help but wonder: Which current players -- be they young stars, sluggers in the prime of their careers or veterans in the twilight of theirs -- have a good chance to reach the 500-homer mark before it's all said and done? Here's a look at 14 active players who could someday join Miggy in that exclusive club.

And with each player, analyst Mike Petriello will make a prediction of whether they will get there or not.

All stats entering Monday.

Venerable veterans

Nelson Cruz
Age: 41
Career HR: 443
Career AB/HR: 15.3 (36 HR per 550 AB)

You know why Cruz is going to get to 500 homers? Because age is just a number to him. The man just keeps hitting dingers as if he's 21 and not 41. It helps that he's a full-time designated hitter, too, keeping some mileage off his legs in the outfield. Barring injury, Cruz is a virtual lock for 500 homers. And would it really surprise us if he hits No. 600 at like age 45 or something?

Petriello’s prediction: He’ll fall just short. Cruz needs 57 homers to get to 500 -- let's assume he knocks a few more over the final few weeks of this season -- but only two men have ever hit even 35 career homers starting in their age-41 season. That's Carlton Fisk (53) and Barry Bonds (54), so no one's ever done what Cruz would need to do. He's probably hurt more by 2020's shortened season than anyone else here. That said, if the DH does come to the NL, it will double his job opportunities.

Sluggers in their prime

Giancarlo Stanton
Age: 31
Career HR: 332
Career AB/HR: 14.2 (39 HR per 550 AB)

When it comes to sluggers who have been in the Majors for more than just a handful of years, no one has hit homers at a more frequent clip than Stanton. As with several others on this list, though, health will be the primary concern for Stanton as he pursues the 500-homer milestone. He was sidelined by injury for most of the past two seasons, but has been pretty healthy so far in 2021.

Petriello’s prediction: He’ll get there, because he’s already two-thirds of the way there, and he’s only 31 years old. As Manny correctly notes, simply staying available is the biggest issue, but even in his generally disappointing Yankee tenure he’s mashed (.492 SLG) and he’s under contract for seven more seasons after this one. He’s 168 short, with plenty of time to get there.

Mike Trout
Age: 30
Career HR: 310
Career AB/HR: 15.0 (37 HR per 550 AB)

Trout is the most likely player on this list outside of Stanton and Cruz to reach the 500-homer milestone for two reasons: He only just turned 30 and he's more than halfway there. Yes, his incredible eye at the plate and tendency to get pitched around will hurt that cause, but if he stays healthy, 500 homers will probably be a formality. The question is, can he reach 600?

Petriello’s prediction: A lock. There is absolutely nothing on a baseball field Trout cannot do, except get his team into the playoffs. Though injuries are increasingly a concern, he was off to the best start of his career this year before injuring his calf.

Nolan Arenado
Age: 30
Career HR: 260
Career AB/HR: 17.6 (31 HR per 550 AB)

Arenado's consistent excellence at the plate is only overshadowed by his otherworldly defense at third base. Outside of a shoulder injury that plagued him in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Arenado has been remarkably durable. If that continues, he'll have a great chance to get into the 500-homer club.

Petriello’s prediction: He won’t get there, because he just turned 30 and he’s only halfway there. While he’s clearly become the latest player in a notable line (DJ LeMahieu, Matt Holliday, etc.) to prove that Rockies hitters can still hit just fine after departing Coors, he’s also traded in one of baseball’s best home run-hitting parks for righty batters for one of its worst.

Bryce Harper
Age: 28
Career HR: 255
Career AB/HR: 17.4 (32 HR per 550 AB)

Yes, Harper is still only 28 -- that's what happens when you make your MLB debut at age 19 in 2012. Given his teenage start in the big leagues and his penchant for belting home runs throughout his career to this point, he's more than halfway there. Assuming he's healthy, there's no reason not to think he won't make a run at 500 homers before he hangs up his cleats.

Petriello’s prediction: Strong, strong case. He’s more than halfway there, and he’s still only 28 years old; more importantly, he’s been as good as he’s ever been over the last two years aside from his 2015 MVP season. (In seven years with Washington, he slugged .500 twice; he’s three-for-three with Philadelphia.) He’s also going to get to spend the next decade in one of baseball’s best home run parks for lefty hitters.

Manny Machado
Age: 29
Career HR: 245
Career AB/HR: 20.3 (27 HR per 550 AB)

Machado has time on his side -- he only just turned 29 years old and is about halfway to the 500-homer mark. While he got off to a slow start in the home run department early in his career, he's been averaging a home run every 17.8 at-bats since 2015, and has a legitimate shot at crossing the 500 threshold before his illustrious career comes to an end.

Petriello’s prediction: A better shot than you’d think. It took about 1,300 plate appearances before Machado became something of a home run hitter, but he hit 30 or more homers in each of the five seasons from 2015-19, and he had 16 in 2020’s 60-game season, making it likely he’d have done so again last year, too. If he gets to 30 again this year, he’ll join an elite club of the very few hitters ever to have six such seasons of 30-plus homers by the end of their age-28 seasons.

Joey Gallo
Age: 27
Career HR: 149
Career AB/HR: 12.8 (43 HR per 550 AB)

If there's one thing Gallo's first homer as a Yankee showed, it's that he's going to love hitting at Yankee Stadium. The towering drive, which had a launch angle of 48 degrees, dropped into the stands just over the short porch in right field, and for a guy who hits no-doubters on the regular, we'll see some screaming liners go for homers that wouldn't have when he was in Texas. That'll only enhance his chance at reaching 500 homers someday.

Petriello’s prediction: He’ll fall short. No one doubts his power, but because so many of his plate appearances end in The Other Two Outcomes (strikeouts and walks), he’s only got 149 home runs for his career. He’s not even a third of the way there yet, and he’s only a year younger than Harper.

Aaron Judge
Age: 29
Career HR: 146
Career AB/HR: 13.2 (42 HR per 550 AB)

Judge only has 146 career homers? It's true. But that just goes to show you -- it's all about the frequency with which he deposits baseballs over the fence, and Judge hits them out at a furious pace. He can go on a homer binge with the best of them, and given he's on the good side of 30 years old, 500 home runs is by no means a remote possibility for the Yankees slugger.

Petriello’s prediction: For all his prodigious exit velocity feats, Judge is far more than just a power hitter. He’s simply a great hitter. But he’s also older than everyone thinks he is -- he’ll somehow be 30 already next April -- and has played more than 112 games in a season just once. (Though he’ll soon do that this year.) He’ll hit a lot of homers in his 30s; he probably won’t hit 354 of them.

Cody Bellinger
Age: 26
Career HR: 132
Career AB/HR: 15.5 (35 HR per 550 AB)

Entering this season, Bellinger would have been viewed as a great candidate for this list. He still is a candidate for 500 homers, but his massive slump this season and the continual mechanical changes in his swing throw his chances into question. Time will tell whether he can emerge from his rut and return to his MVP form -- the same goes for injuries in Bellinger's case, as he had been very healthy up until 2021.

Petriello’s prediction: No. Bellinger is hitting .174 with nine homers this year, and he wasn’t all that impressive last year, either. He’s too young and talented to write off, but at this point, with 132 career homers, even wondering how long it’ll take just to get to 200 is tough to answer.

Pete Alonso
Age: 26
Career HR: 97
Career AB/HR: 12.6 (44 HR per 550 AB)

Alonso has firmly established himself as one of the most prolific home run hitters in the game (his back-to-back Home Run Derby titles don't hurt that reputation, either). Though he has yet to reach the 100-homer mark and is already staring at his age-27 season coming up, there aren't many players who hit the ball out more frequently than the Polar Bear, which gives him a shot at 500.

Petriello’s prediction: 403 additional homers is a tall ask, so we’ll take the under, especially because while his raw power is indisputable, his career totals seem a little skewed by that 53-homer debut that seems unlikely to be repeated, coming as it did in the midst of a 2019 that saw the Majors as a whole set the all-time dinger record.

Precocious Power

Ronald Acuña Jr.
Age: 23
Career HR: 105

Career AB/HR: 14.4 (38 HR per 550 AB)

What's exciting about Acuña is not only his potential to reach the 500 home run milestone someday, but also for his potential inclusion in a club that only has one member today: the 400-homer, 400-steal club, which consists of only Barry Bonds. Acuña is already at 105 homers and 78 steals through 395 career games. The power-speed combination here makes for some really intriguing possibilities. Although in the future, ACL tears are not advisable.

Petriello’s prediction: Acuña’s knee injury costs him precious time (and homers!) that he can’t get back, though there’s little reason to think it will impact his power long-term. Through age 23, he’s got the same kind of slugging percentage as Henry Aaron, Alex Rodriguez and Frank Robinson. He’ll get there.

Juan Soto
Age: 22
Career HR: 89

Career AB/HR: 16.7 (33 HR per 550 AB)

Soto will very likely reach the 100-homer mark before his 23rd birthday. And he probably would've already been there if not for the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign. That bodes well for his potential bid for 500 or more career homers. His .511 slugging percentage this season is actually below his career slugging entering 2021, by 46 points. If he stays healthy, you can pencil in 30-plus homers year-in and year-out for a decade.

Petriello’s prediction: Just ever so slightly behind Acuña on that list, by the way, is Soto, who seems to have garnered such a (well-deserved) reputation for being a legendary strike zone master that people overlook his outstanding raw power. (For real: When he puts the ball in the air, it’s hit as hard as Judge.) Nearly a year younger than Acuña, he’ll get there too.

Fernando Tatis Jr.
Age: 22
Career HR: 73

Career AB/HR: 12.4 (44 HR per 550 AB)

Sometimes we need to be reminded that Tatis has only played in fewer than 240 MLB games -- that's not even a season and a half. And yet we feel as though he's already put up incredible numbers at the plate. That's because he has -- when he launched his 70th career homer on July 27, Tatis became the only player since at least 1901 to hit 70 or more homers and steal 50 or more bases over his first 227 career games. The only question is, will he stay healthy enough to reach the 500-homer mark? His recurring shoulder problems are certainly a concern in that area.

Petriello’s prediction: On talent alone, there’s no doubt; he’s got a .610 career slugging and he’s only 22. But his litany of injuries have been well-chronicled, and there’s nothing scarier than a shoulder injury for a power hitter. (See: Matt Kemp, Adrián González.) It’s easy to see him getting there, but of the Big Three, he’s the least likely.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Age: 22
Career HR: 60
Career AB/HR: 18.9 (29 HR per 550 AB)

His pedigree is Hall of Fame caliber and the hype was justified. But even still, we're just now seeing what Vladdy Jr. can do. Guerrero is in the midst of the best offensive season of his young career, with a 1.005 OPS and 89 RBIs to go along with 36 homers. Before 500 homers, look for a few seasons of 50 from this guy -- 2021 may just be the first of them.

Petriello’s prediction: Or maybe that should be the Big Four, now that Guerrero is in the midst of his breakout. Given his pedigree and hype, it’s pretty easy to believe everything about his 2021 season, which he’ll end with something like 65 career homers, and he’ll somehow go into Opening Day 2022 having just turned 23 years old. He’ll get there too.