Miguel Tejada

Who will be the next player to join the 3,000-hit club?

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Last night, Alex Rodriguez became the 29th player in MLB history to join the 3,000-hit club. He’s the first player to reach the milestone since former teammate Derek Jeter on July 9, 2011.

After Jeter reached 3,000, I attempted to make a guess about who would be next. I went with Rodriguez, but figured he would get there in 2013. I was only off by two years. His hip surgery and year-long PED suspension obviously pushed back that timeline significantly. Still, better late than never. Rodriguez reaching 3,000 hits almost seemed like a longshot a year ago.

Who will be next to reach 3,000 hits? Removing Rodriguez from the mix, here’s the list of the current active leaders in hits (their ages in parentheses):

Ichiro Suzuki (41) – 2,886
Adrian Beltre (36) – 2,657
Albert Pujols (35) – 2,587
Miguel Tejada (41) – 2,407
Torii Hunter (39) – 2,386
Carlos Beltran (38) – 2,373
Jimmy Rollins (36) – 2,353
Miguel Cabrera (32) – 2,268
Aramis Ramirez (37) – 2,230
David Ortiz (39) – 2,211

Not surprisingly, the great majority of these players are toward the end of their respective careers. Tejada is still technically active, but we can effectively scratch him off as a possibility. Similarly, it’s highly unlikely that Ortiz, Ramirez, Rollins, Beltran, and Hunter will get there.

That leaves Suzuki, Beltre, Pujols, and Cabrera as our best options. Suzuki has played well in a part-time role with the Marlins this season, but he has only had 42 hits. Let’s say he can double that the rest of the way. That would put him at 2,928 hits, just 72 away from the milestone. The Marlins have reportedly had internal discussions about bringing Ichiro back for 2016, which makes sense given that they could market his chase. I think he’ll be the next to reach the milestone if he decides to come back.

Beltre and Pujols are both still young enough where 3,000 is within reach. Beltre is currently sidelined with a thumb injury and his .257/.294/.408 batting line isn’t on par with his usual lofty standards, but he likely has some productive seasons left in him and 343 hits doesn’t feel like a stretch here. However, he appears unlikely to get there until at least 2017. Pujols is 413 hits away and while he’s not putting up the monster numbers we saw during his peak with the Cardinals, he’s still very good. Keep in mind that he’s under contract through 2021. Barring injury, he’ll get there eventually.

Cabrera, is the closest thing we have to a lock on this list. He has averaged 191 hits per season since 2004 and has showed no signs of slowing down since his offseason foot surgery, leading the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS this season. He doesn’t turn 33 until next April and appears poised to blow well past 3,000 if he can remain healthy. Still, he wouldn’t figure to get there anytime before 2018.