Albert Pujols is currently approaching 700 home runs. We haven't see anyone get to that plateau since Barry Bonds, and he joined only Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Those are the only three players who have ever gotten there and Pujols would make it four. It's incredibly rare; we're talking about four elite-of-the-elite hitters in the history of baseball.
We know it's a gigantic number, but it's still a fun question to ask: Are there any active players who might one day make a run at 700?
After Pujols, the active leaders in home runs are Miguel Cabrera (506 HR, age 39), Nelson Cruz (459 HR, age 41), Giancarlo Stanton (371 HR, age 32) and Joey Votto (342 HR, age 38). Only Stanton has more than a season's worth left in his career and he can hit them in bunches, but his health track record won't allow it. Simply getting to 500 is much more realistic. Aaron Judge is potentially looking at single-season homer history in 2022, but the Yankees star is 30 and sits at 209 career homers.
Let's look at nine other active players who are among the best home run hitters in the game today.
Trout has 338 career home runs and he's still just 30 years old. His 162-game average is 40 home runs, but therein lies the rub. I just mentioned health track record for Stanton and while Trout was incredibly durable for the first five seasons of his career, he's had lots of issues since. The shortened 2020 season, only 36 games last year and, to this point, 91 in 2022 really hold him back.
The funny thing is, his pace has actually picked up. In the last three seasons, his 162-game average is 48 homers (he's hit 53 in 180 games). I suppose from this perspective we could opine that if he becomes durable again, a run is possible.
Then again, he's still not even halfway to 700 and the current back issue is very worrisome. Don't bet on a run here.
He's 29 years old with 282 career home runs, but the expectation is he'll play into his 40s and his durability isn't quite as big a question as Trout's (the injury this season to Harper was a hit-by-pitch that broke his thumb, which is a freak accident and isn't predictive).
Still, he is a long way away. He's 68 home runs from the halfway point. Harper hit 42 in 2015, but since then he's topping out in the mid-30s (34 in 2018, 35 in 2019, 35 last season). We'd need to see a few mid-40s totals before this becomes realistic.
Right now, it's not realistic at all.
Age 30 with 275 career home runs. From 2015-18, he was very consistent in hitting 35, 37, 33 and 37, respectively, per season. That's 142 in a four-year stretch. Let's double that and say he did it the next eight years, starting next season -- an incredibly generous estimation. That would give him 559 career home runs plus however many he hit the rest of this season.
You have to get an early start to work on a career milestone like 700 homers. Devers did. He debuted at age 20 and hit 10 that season. He had 38 last year and is now up to 137 in his career at age 25. It's a solid foundation, but the math still isn't on his side. Taking his current 137 home runs times five equals 685. That's short. And he's in his sixth season. He's not playing 30 years, so how much is he really going to pick up the pace?
Now we're talking. Here's the best pick.
Soto is still only 23 years old. He has 122 career home runs. Pujols had 114 homers through his age-23 season, so Soto is ahead of the pace. Then again, Soto's career high so far is 34 (2019) and he only has 24 home runs this season. In Pujols' age-24 season, he hit 46. The next year he hit 41. The year after that, he hit 49.
This is to say that while Soto is currently ahead of Pujols' pace on the volume of home runs by age, he's about to either become a totally different player or fall behind the pace rather quickly.
Ronald Acuña Jr.
The shortened 2020 season and torn ACL last year were pretty tough setbacks on Acuña's counting stats ledger. He's only 24 and has 115 career home runs in spite of those factors. The 162-game average of 38 home runs is nice and he could well increase that in the coming years. He's still 585 home runs short. That's a career for some of the very best we've ever seen.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
He's 23 and his next home run will be number 100. Woo hoo! Only 600 to go, right?
Something on Vlad's side here is the volume he got in 2021. He hit 48, so we know he has that in him. If he puts together a run of mid- to high-40s, piling up something like 180 home runs in four seasons, that really moves the needle here. Of course, he's only hit 27 this season. What if the 48 was a bit of an outlier?
There's an argument that Guerrero is the best bet here, but he's also far-fetched because 700 is just a gigantic number.
Fernando Tatis Jr.
The self-saboteur has entered the conversation!
Through his age-22 season, Tatis had 81 home runs in just 273 games. Of the 24 players in MLB history to top 75 home runs through age 22, Tatis, Acuña and Joe DiMaggio are the only ones to have appeared in fewer than 330 games. Injuries and the pandemic held Tatis back from making more history. He was ahead of Pujols' pace. His 48 homers per 162 games is robust enough that a run to 700 might've been realistic.
Of course, then he broke his wrist in a motorcycle accident this past offseason and tested positive for PEDs. He won't play again until May of his age-24 season. He's now behind the pace needed, in all likelihood.
Might Julio be our guy? He has 21 home runs at age 21!
Of course, Pujols hit 37 at that age and we've already chronicled how much more work Pujols did in the ensuing seasons. It's just so much volume. I'll lay it out.
Here are Pujols' first 10 seasons' worth of home runs, by year: 37, 34, 43, 46, 41, 49, 32, 37, 47 and 42.
Imagine if Rodríguez does that in the next 10 seasons. He'd already be a Mariners legend. He'd also still be a long way from 700. That 10-year stretch was 408 home runs.
Best bet: None of them
I said Soto was the best pick while Guerrero isn't terrible, but they are both behind none, pretty firmly.
Pujols entered the league at age 21 and hit 37 homers. He hit 40 home runs at age 35. Ages 23-30, he averaged 42 homers per season. He's now 42 years old, playing in his 22nd season, averaging 37 home runs per 162 games and he still isn't there. Seven hundred is an absurd number of home runs for one player.
As such, the most likely outcome here is none of the players listed above gets to 700. In fact, it's possible none of them even get to 600.
Enjoy Pujols' chase of 700 while it lasts. It might be a while before baseball fans see it again.