Who is Next for 3,000 Hits?
Accumulating 3,000 hits in a career used to be an automatic ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and all eligible players in the modern era sailed in on the first ballot until Rafael Palmeiro in 2011. It was easy to disregard Palmeiro, however, given his suspension do to PEDs; yet Craig Biggio, with 3,060 hits in his career, also failed to get in on his first try, taking three years to finally overcome the 75% threshold. This suggests that the magic number of 3,000 has lost some of its allure. Yet there is no denying that the number still means something and the list of those with 3,000 hits is a who’s-who of baseball’s greatest and all eligible players expect Palmeiro are in the Hall of Fame. Derek Jeter, who just retired with 3,465 hits, will certainly gain entry on the first ballot when he becomes eligible.
Looking forward, who might be next in line for 3,000 hits?
First, a number of aging stars with 2,000+ hits have called it quits (Bobby Abreu, Paul Konerko, Alfonso Soriano, and Raul Ibanez), appear to have come up short on comeback attempts (Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada), or are going to have difficulty finding a job next year if they do decide to keep trying (Jason Giambi). Others are getting too old and are too far away to have a shot anymore (Tori Hunter, Carlos Beltran, and David Ortiz). I would put Aramis Ramirez in this last category. With 2,186 hits right now, he would have to average 163 hits for five full seasons to make it. With injuries, he has only averaged 130 over the past six seasons, so it seems unrealistic to expect him to be healthier and more productive over his 37-41 age seasons. But who does still have a shot?
Alex Rodriguez (2,939): Even a mediocre season next year as a part-time player should get him over the line. The only real chance he doesn’t make it is if he suffers a major career-ending injury, decides to retire, or is suspended again for new violations that emerge; but all indications right now are that he is going to play next year, probably as a DH.
Ichiro Suzuki (2,844): He says he wants to keep playing and has no intention of retiring, and he put up a line of 284/324/340 this year with 15 SBs and OK defense in RF. That is probably enough for someone to take a flyer on him next year as a fourth outfielder. But will he get enough at-bats? He had 102 hits in 359 ABs for a banged up Yankees team this year, and so it is unlikely he would get more than that next year wherever he plays. So could he squeeze out two more years of 250-ish at-bats to get over 3,000 hits? I would not count him out, especially if he looks to be close heading into 2016; a non-contender may sign him cheap as a back-up outfielder just for the draw of having him do it in their uniform.
Adrian Beltre (2,604): He will turn 36 in April, but he has averaged 180 hits a year for the past five years and put up a 324/388/492 line during his age 35 season, so he is showing no signs of slowing down yet. Assuming some regression and additional missed time for injuries as he ages, Beltre should still comfortably hit 3,000 sometime in 2017 or early 2018 at the latest.
Albert Pujols (2,519): His stats have declined the last few years, and he just turned 34, but his hit totals the last four years have been 173, 173, 101 (injured), 172 and he is signed for seven(!) more years. So it will probably take him four years to do it, but barring a major injury or dramatic decline in production, he should get to 3,000.
Jimmy Rollins (2,306): He is 35, batted just .243 this year with 131 hits, and only has one year left on his contract. But he plays a premium position (SS) and put up a solid WAR of 3.9 this past year with 17 HR and 28 SB. So after one more year with the Phillies, could he hang around for another 3-4 years as a starter somewhere and compile the hits to get there? It’s certainly possible—Omar Vizquel had 389 hits AFTER he turned 40—but it is probably more likely he goes the way of Johnny Damon and Vladimir Guerrero and finds himself out of a job more quickly in his late 30’s than he anticipates.
Miguel Cabrera (2,186): He is just 31 and has averaged 196 hits the past four years. Even assuming he does not maintain that level of play into his 30s, he still should be able to play 4-5 more years at a high enough of a level to make it, especially with the ability to move to DH.
Carl Crawford (1,868): Through his age-28 season, Crawford had 1,480 hits and seemed well on his way, but dramatic struggles and constant injuries have plagued his last four years. Barring an unforeseen resurgence, he will most likely plug away for 3-5 more years and end up somewhere in the 2,200-2,500 hit range, falling short of 3,000.
Matt Holliday (1,837): He has averaged 167 hits a year for his 11-year career; a pace that projects for 3,000 hits in 18 seasons. But Holliday just started too late, debuting at age 24, for it to work out. It is highly unlikely he plays at this level through age 41, and he will almost certainly fall a few hundred hits short.
Robinson Cano (1,836): He’s only 31, is well over half-way there in just ten seasons, put up stellar numbers this year (314/382/454), and is signed for nine more years, so he has the best shot of anyone under 2,000 hits right now.
Jose Reyes (1,772): At age 31, Reyes is essentially Jimmy Rollins four years ago. If he has a few more seasons like this past year (175 hits), then he’ll be 35 and sitting at 2,400-2,500 hits, and if he stays healthy he could float around for a few years and perhaps pull it off. But that is a lot of “ifs” and the chances are very small.
David Wright (1,702): Very similar to his former teammate Reyes in age (31) and career hits, Wright also has a very small outside chance. He has six more years left on his contract and if he stays healthy and puts up his normal 150-175 hits a year, he would be sitting about 300 hits shy. Would he stick around for 2-3 more years, perhaps as a DH or in a part-time role to pull it off? Maybe. But again, that is a lot of “ifs” to even get to that point.
Adrian Gonzalez (1,635): He would have to put up about eight more seasons of 175 hits to make it, and at age 32 that seems very unlikely, even with the ability to move to DH later in his career. Ultimately, Gonzalez will probably end up like Holliday for the same reason: his first real season in the bigs did not come until age 24.
Nick Markakis (1,547): He has averaged 172 hits a year over his nine-year career and turned 31 this November. So he would have to maintain level that for another 8-9 years to make it. It would be difficult, but it is too early to take him out of the running completely. How he ages and performs the next three-four years will tell us a lot about his chances.
Joe Mauer (1,540): Turning 32 in April, Mauer is an extreme longshot. He has battled injuries the past few years and his performance really slipped in 2014. He also has no speed and very little power, making it difficult for a team to carry him at 1B or DH as he ages, despite his very high OBP. That being said, this year was the first he did not catch and adjusting to a new position was certainly not easy. So perhaps he settles in at first base, a position that should help him avoid injuries and prolong his career, and in turn settles in again at the plate. If he puts up 5-6 more good seasons, it is certainly possible the Twins sign him to a hometown discount and he plays several more seasons part time or at DH, and if he is close… Again, extreme longshot; I mainly just wanted to demonstrate that I thought through his scenario.
Dustin Pedroia (1,371): He has averaged 169 hits over his first eight full seasons. He would have to do that for ten more, or through his age-40 season, to make it to 3,000, and he is coming off the worst season of his career. But he typically stays healthy, accumulates a ton of at-bats at the top of the order, is signed for seven more years, and as a hometown favorite of the Red Sox would almost certainly get a Jeter-esque swan song for a couple of years at the end of his career if he was close and wanted to keep playing. A long shot, but worth keeping an eye on for the next few years to see how productive and healthy he is as he advances into his mid-30s.
Players under 30 to Watch
- Justin Upton (27) 1,039
- Andrew McCutchen (27) 986
- Starlin Castro (24) 846
- Jason Heyward (25) 644
- Jose Altuve (24) 630