Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki became the 30th member to join the 3,000 hit club when he tripled to right field at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon. Natually, that has led many to wonder who will become the next member of the club. And that’s easy: Adrian Beltre, who’s 37 years old. He has 2,878 career hits now and he’ll likely get another 50 hits before the season is over. Barring injury, a sudden massive decline in skill, or an abrupt retirement, Beltre gets there easily next year.
Beyond Beltre, Albert Pujols has 2,774 career hits. While he’s not the player he used to be, Pujols will simply need to average around 100 hits over the next two seasons. Health and playing time will be the biggest obstacles for him, but he’s under contract through 2021 earning close to $30 million annually each season.
Then there’s Miguel Cabrera, who has 2,459 career hits. He’s 33 years old and is still one of baseball’s very best hitters, batting .308 this season with a .929 OPS. Prior to last season, when he missed some time with an injury, Cabrera logged 190-plus hits in four consecutive seasons. Even if we account for a decline in skill as Cabrera progresses from his mid-thirties into his late-thirties, he almost certainly gets to 3,000 hits by 2019. He’s under contract through at least 2023, earning over $30 million annually on average. The biggest worry for Cabrera, as it is for any older player, is health.
Robinson Cano has a decent shot, currently with 2,146 hits. He’s averaged 185 hits per season from age 30 to 32 and will probably get to 190 total hits by the end of this season. If we account for age-related decline and give Cano credit for 165 hits per season from age 34 to 38, he would get to 3,000 in 2021.
Looking at the other members on the active hits leaderboard, no one else really stands out. Carlos Beltran has 2,570 hits but is 39 years old. Jimmy Rollins hasn’t played since June and has under 2,500 hits.
Players on track to be in the conversation about a decade from now are Andrew McCutchen (29 years old; 1,247 career hits), Jose Altuve (26; 985), Bryce Harper (23, 611) and Mike Trout (25, 868). [Edit: After reconsideration, I removed Buster Posey and Paul Goldschmidt from this list.]
There’s a reason only 30 players have joined the 3,000 hit club in about 150 years. For a player to accrue 3,000 hits, he must avoid serious injuries (and other reasons for missing large chunks of games, like being suspended), have the desire to have a long career, and stay well ahead of the aging curve. Knowing this only engenders further appreciation of what Suzuki did over a 16-year career in the major leagues.