Only four men in the history of Major League Baseball have been able to reach the 700 career home run milestone, showing just how rare of an achievement it is. For context, the fourth-ever perfect game, which is considered to be one of the rarest feats in Major League Baseball, happened all the way back in 1956.
Babe Ruth was the first to hit 700 home runs, finishing his career with 714. He was surpassed by Hank Aaron, who hit his 700th in 1973 and finished with 755. Barry Bonds became the third member in September 2004, finishing as the all-time leader with 762. In 2022, Albert Pujols became the fourth member, finishing his career with 703.
Before Pujols’s 700th home run left the playing field, many were wondering when the next 700 home run hitter would come around. People turned their attention to the young stars while also seeing if veterans were on pace to even get close. The truth is, we may not see another 700-home run hitter for several decades. That’s because there are some major factors that come into play, and let’s take a look at how a player can project into the 700 club.
There’s one thing that the four members of the 700 home run club all have in common. All of them played 22 seasons with the exception of Hank Aaron…who played 23. With that in mind, it seems to be a requirement to play 22 seasons, because even the top eight all-time spots all belong to players with 22 or 23 seasons under their belts. Sammy Sosa sits in ninth place and had 18 seasons.
It’s not enough to just play all of those seasons, as players also have to stay healthy. Bonds only had one season where he played in fewer than 102 games. Even then, he was already 40 years old. Aaron didn’t miss significant time until his final season at 42 years old. Pujols and Ruth struggled multiple times with playing in full seasons but also had seasons where they missed almost no games.
A player can play for 22 seasons, but even averaging 30 home runs per year (which is amazing), would only get a player to 660 home runs instead of 700. Since we’ve set the requirement of playing 22 seasons, a batter would have to slug an average of 31.8 home runs.
That means a player that has an injury-filled season and only hit 12 home runs would have to cancel it out by hitting 52 home runs in a healthy season. A more realistic pace would be 32 home runs over the course of 20 seasons as long as they’re healthy. The more 50+ home run seasons a player can rack up at a young age, the better their chances are. Someone with a great chance for 700 would already have needed at least 200 by the time they finish their age-25 season.
Let’s say that a player stays healthy for 22 seasons and is averaging over 30 home runs per year. Unfortunately, there are some other factors that can come into play that knocks players off of their pace. There could be a labor stoppage like we saw in 1994, a global war (which took the primes of several legendary players), or even a pandemic like in 2020. After all, many thought Pujols wouldn’t get to 700 because of the shortened season in 2020.
So Who’s Next?
With all of these factors in mind, is there anybody that has a realistic chance of getting to 700 career home runs again? There were many that pointed to the likes of Aaron Judge, especially following his 62 home run season. However, Judge had already hit 30 years old at that point, essentially making him a massive long shot. If the next member of the 700 club isn’t Mike Trout, Juan Soto or Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., it could be a very, very long time until there’s a new member.