Tigers legend Miguel Cabrera has. He did so in his first at-bat Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park against the Colorado Rockies. Cabrera is the 33rd player in MLB history to reach the hallowed mark.
This is the first time we’ve seen a player get there since Albert Pujols did in 2018 and that actually was the fourth straight season a player got there, after A-Rod in 2015, Ichiro Suzuki in 2016 and Adrián Beltré in 2017. We will not, however, be starting another streak like that. In fact, trying to peg who might get to 3,000 hits next is a chore.
Robinson Canó is next on the active list with 2,630 hits. He’s 39 years old and signed through next season. The best bet is he will fall short. After that, there’s Yadier Molina at 39 years old and 2,116 hits, Joey Votto at 38 and 2,035 and those are the only players even over 2,000 hits.
So, here are 10 candidates.
He was once on a much more scorching pace. From 2014-17, Altuve averaged 211 hits per season, leading the league each of the four years. The pandemic-shortened 2020 season hurt, obviously, but Altuve had just 169 hits in 2018, 149 in 2019 and 167 last year. He’s currently at 1,783 in his age-32 season, and he’s currently on the injured list. He certainly has a chance, but it no longer looks like a decent chance. Twelve-hundred-plus hits the rest of his career is a tall order.
Freeman is also 32 and in the 1,700s, sitting at 1,722. He hasn’t fallen off like Altuve has, but his career high for hits in a season is 191 (2018). If he has six full seasons of 191 hits left after this year, that gets him to 2,868 plus however many hits he has left in 2022. Is that a realistic bet? Let’s say he continues to average 176 hits per 162 games the rest of his career. At that rate, he’d get to 3,000 hits after roughly 7 1/4 more seasons. Again, he’s 32. It would be very tough, but I do think he gets close.
He doesn’t turn 30 until July and he’s approaching the halfway point, as he has 1,445 career hits. He’s topped out at 189 hits in a season and that was all the way back when he was 20, but he has topped 180 three times since. Of course, he only had 150 hits in 2019 and 157 last year. He’ll need to get back up into the 180s on a seasonal basis to have a good shot.
Injuries and the pandemic derailed him. Trout is now 30 years old and has 1,428 hits. He had 182 hits in 2012 and 190 in 2013 before three straight years in the low-170s. It then went 123, 147 and 137, respectively, before 2020 and he only had 39 when shut down last season. He’ll surely be able to play to around age 40, but he’s not even halfway. He’ll need to approach 200 hits a few times in the next few years before he’s a serious contender.
Will he get enough pitches? Harper led the majors in walks in both 2018 and 2020. He walked 99 times in 2019 and 100 times last season. That leaves him short of 1,300 hits (1,286) despite being similar in age to Machado at 29. Harper’s career high in hits is 172, but his second-highest total came last season at 151. Even with him likely playing at a high level into his late-30s, he’s not on pace.
He’s also 29 years old and a touch behind Harper at 1,259 hits. He’s capable of a higher pace, though, as Bogaerts has collected at least 190 hits in three different seasons. He has the batting average and early debut, but does he have the longevity required? Even when he gets to 1,300 hits, that’s just 43.3 percent of the way to 3,000.
As someone who debuted very young and gets a ton of plate appearances, he fits the profile of a player who could rack up hits. Albies has had at least 684 plate appearances in each of his three full seasons. He’s still only 25 years old. Of course, he still only has 627 hits which is just over 20 percent of the way to 3,000. He has a foundation, but so much needs to break right.
He’s also 25 and has 615 hits. And though we often think of players getting to 3,000 hits as those who string together 200-hit seasons, Miguel Cabrera has only one of those. Devers already has one, as he clubbed 201 hits in 2019. If he can approach 1,000 hits by the end of his age-27 season, we have a great candidate right here. He’s certainly one to watch.
Though it seems like he’s been around for a long time, Soto is still only 23 years old. We can’t be sure about his longevity, but there’s every reason to believe Soto ages well and is one of the best hitters in baseball for at least another decade. Pete Rose only had 309 career hits through his age-23 season. Soto already has 500, exactly 1/6 of the way to 3,000. Still, Cabrera might be a better comparison and he had 654 hits through his age-23 season. Soto should end up just about in that ballpark, barring injury, this season. Then again, his two full seasons saw him gather just 153 and 157 hits, respectively, and part of that is how often he walks. His 162-game average for hits is 169. He’d need about 18 full seasons (all 162 games, that is) to get to 3,000 at that rate.
He only has 388 career hits right now, so he’s well over a decade from even thinking about it. He’s also a generational talent with the bat and is just 23 years old. It’s reasonable to think he’ll have a shot someday and if I could bet on 2,000 hits, I’d take the over in a heartbeat. He had 188 hits last season. Ten more of those and he’s a serious contender for 3,000.