On Monday, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit his 40th home run, the first of what will presumably be many seasons in which he reaches that mark. (His previous high? 15. To be fair, he is 22 years old.) Forty is a big number, and harder to reach than you might think. Cal Ripken Jr. never did it; Stan Musial never did it.
Seeing Vlad Jr. reach the number got us thinking of the best active home run hitters who have yet to reach such a plateau. It sure feels like many of them will get there eventually, as it did with Vlad Jr. back when we first saw him hitting homers like his dad (who did it twice). And maybe even soon.
Here are 10 players who haven’t hit 40 homers yet … but will.
1. Yordan Alvarez, DH, Astros (age 24)
Career high: 28 (and counting)
Alvarez was so good his rookie season in 87 games -- 87 games in which he smashed 27 homers -- that you wondered if he’d figure out a way to hit 40 in 60 games in 2020. He ended up playing two games in 2020 (and he homered in one of them!) in what was a lost season, and while he hasn’t hit quite as well as he did in 2019, he's still smashed 28 homers this year. He’s also 24 years old and just a monster of a physical specimen. Keep this guy healthy for a full season, we could see 60.
2. Mookie Betts, OF, Dodgers (age 28)
Career high: 32 (2018)
Is it weird to have Mookie on here? I don’t think so. He might be having a slightly down season for him this year, and he’s only at 19, but he hit 32 in 2018 and 31 in '16, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make power a larger part of his game as he gets older. He’s a player we’re going to start engaging in Hall of Fame discussions soon, and the quickest way to add to your Hall of Fame case is to hit a lot of homers. This may seem silly now, but you wait a few years: Mookie is capable of anything.
3. Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox (age 24)
Career high: 33 (and counting)
He’s got a chance to get there this year: He’s at 33 with four weeks to go. He had 32 two years ago, to go along with an AL-leading 54 doubles. He’s also of course just getting started, and he has the body type and swing radius that should make him a reliable launching pad for the next decade or so.
4. Eloy Jiménez, LF, White Sox (age 24)
Career high: 31 (2019)
Among White Sox, you could go with either Jiménez or Luis Robert here, but the natural power of Jiménez is so striking that sometimes it’s actively surprising when he doesn’t hit a homer. He’d probably be well on his way this year if he hadn’t suffered an early-season injury, and he’ll surely get there once he gets a full season under his belt. Of everyone on this list, he might have the best pure power to get to 60 someday.
5. Tyler O'Neill, OF, Cardinals (age 26)
Career high: 24 (and counting)
This might seem like a bit of a curveball -- he has 23 homers this year, the first time he’s ever so much as reached double figures -- but then again: Have you seen this guy’s arms? O’Neill, for all his brawn and athleticism (he’s also incredibly fast), has struggled with his plate approach in recent years but that has improved considerably this year, leading to a perfectly respectable .351 OBP. If he gets it all figured out and stays healthy, the sky is absolutely the limit.
6. José Ramírez, 3B, Cleveland (age 28)
Career high: 39 (2018)
Feels like Ramírez should have 40 by now, yes? He came up one short in 2018, and he still has eight to go to reach the mark this year. (This is also his third 20-20 season; he had a 30-30 one in 2018.) He was well on pace for 35-plus in 2020, and as he gets older and runs less, you have to think he’ll get there.
7. Marcus Semien, 2B/SS, Blue Jays (age 30)
Career high: 38 (and counting)
This is cheating, because he is only two away, and the way he’s going right now, he might reach that mark by the weekend. If you look back at his career, he has had only two star-level seasons … but they’re 2019 and '21. That might make his free-agent case complicated. But this year, it’s going to get him to 40.
8. Juan Soto, LF, Nationals (age 22)
Career high: 34 (2019)
He won’t get there this year, as he’s sitting at 25 homers, and the biggest thing standing in the way of Soto having 40 home runs so far is all the walks he receives: You can’t hit it over the wall if you’re always trotting to first base. But we saw in the Home Run Derby just how much power he truly has, and hey, all those walks didn’t seem to slow Barry Bonds down much. (Bonds, it should be noted, only had one year with more than 50 homers, which was in 2001, when he set the single-season record with 73, but he had seven other seasons with at least 40.)
9. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS/OF, Padres (age 22)
Career high: 37 (and counting)
If he hadn’t missed all those games earlier this year, he’d already be there. Like Semien, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if he has gotten to 40 by the end of the weekend.
10. Spencer Torkelson, 3B, Tigers (age 22)
Career high: 26 (and counting, but in the Minors)
Lots of names to go with for the 10th spot here -- Matt Olson’s a good pick, and Luke Voit had 22 in the shortened 2020 season -- but we should probably go with a prospect -- the No. 4-ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Torkelson is the right mix of being someone who is close to the Majors but not there yet, has light-tower power and will be encouraged to play as often as possible for a team that’s on the cusp. It may be only a matter of time.