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Which Yankees could reach career milestones this season?

From Aaron Judge to Jordan Montgomery, several Yankees are closing in on magic numbers in 2022.

Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

This past week, future Hall of Famer and current Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera has been the talk of baseball. After all, why wouldn’t he? On Saturday afternoon, he collected his 3,000th hit, a single off Rockies pitcher Antonio Senzatela, to join an exclusive group that may not see a new member for a very long time.

Every time that a player hits a major round number milestone like this, I wonder which career milestones might be approaching for members of the current Yankees team. While none of them are as significant as 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, or 3,000 strikeouts, they do represent significant achievements for the players involved. And so, I decided to take a dive into Baseball Reference and Statcast to see which milestones the Yankees are close to — and guess how long it might take them to achieve them.

Gerrit Cole

Milestone: 2,000 strikeouts
Current Total: 1,694
Estimated Time to Completion: Slim Shot at Late 2022, Most Likely Early 2023

The Yankees ace has gotten off to a shaky start to the 2022 season, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is an excellent pitcher capable of piling up strikeouts as easily as you and me pile up food on our plates. This is why, despite the fact that Cole is 306 strikeouts away from 2,000, he finds himself on the top of this list. It would certainly be a difficult feat — since he already has 21 punchouts on the year, the 327 K’s he would have on the season would break Ron Guidry’s franchise single-season record of 248 by almost 80 — but it’s a feat that Cole has actually done already in his career (he had 326 back in 2019).

Even so, it’s an incredible long shot that he’ll complete it this season; April 2023 is infinitely more likely. Cole, after all, came in 2nd in the Cy Young voting in 2019, losing only because Justin Verlander had his best season since his 2011 MVP campaign. But for the time being, it’s still plausible — and that in itself is a testament to his ability.

Aaron Judge

Milestone: 200 home runs
Current Total: 161
Estimated Time to Completion: Late 2022, Early 2023

Much like Cole, Judge is far enough away from 200 career home runs that it’s not really on anyone’s radar at the moment, but close enough that he might force the conversation. With a trio home runs on the season already, he would need to hit a total of 42 on the season to reach the mark — not the most absurd mark, as he has averaged 44 across 162 games played. So long as he stays healthy, this milestone is definitely reachable.

Chances are, however, we’re going to have to wait until 2023. Even ignoring the fact that home runs appear to be on the downswing due to the deadened ball, the truth of the matter is that the Yankees are going to play it safe with Judge due to his injury history by giving him semi-regular rest days and keeping him out of the lineup if he’s not at 100 percent. Because of this, while it’s not exactly impossible, don’t bet your life savings that Judge will hit his 200th bomb this year.

Anthony Rizzo

Milestone: 1,500 hits
Current Total: 1,386
Estimated Time to Completion: September

Now, we come to the milestones that are likely to be reached this season. Over the last three years, Rizzo has averaged about 150 hits per 162 games. To reach 1,500 career hits, he will need to post just 128 on the season. Or, to put it another way, he needs to average just 23 hits per month the rest of the season — and that’s assuming that he remains hitless throughout the final week of April.

Barring something unforeseen, Rizzo should be celebrating his 1,500th hit sometime in the middle of September.

Jordan Montgomery

Milestone: 500 strikeouts
Current Total: 392
Estimated Time to Completion: August

Thanks to injuries eliminating most of his 2018 and 2019 seasons and the pandemic-shortened 2020, Montgomery has not even reached 400 strikeouts despite this being his sixth career season. He has a chance at reaching that 400-K mark with a strong showing against the Orioles tomorrow (and at the latest, he’ll reach it in his first start in May), but that 500-K milestone is also within his grasp in 2022. In fact, assuming just five strikeouts per start — a number he matched or exceeded in 19 of his 30 starts last season — Gumby ought to reach it sometime in mid-August, if not sooner.

Aaron Hicks

Milestone: 100 home runs
Current Total: 93
Estimated Time to Completion: Sometime this spring

If I told you after Hicks’ 27-home run 2018 campaign that it would take him another four years to reach the 100-homer mark, you likely would have assumed that his performance simply fell off the face of the earth. Well, to an extent, that has been true, although it’s more been injuries limited him to just 59 games in 2019 and 32 in 2021, while a global pandemic held him to 54 in 2020, with the added information that these injuries robbed him of much of his power.

The Yankees center fielder has shown some signs, at least in the early going, of being his former self once again, and with that, the chase for 100 home runs resumes in earnest. That said, although he’s only seven away, it’s hard to gauge when he’ll hit that mark, in part because it’s hard to gauge exactly who Aaron Hicks currently is. Is he the 2017 version of himself, the guy with 15-homer pop who gets on base a lot? The 2019 version of himself who, when healthy, homered at a high clip (on pace for 32 in a full season) but who struggled to get on base? Something else entirely?

It’s hard to say. For now, I’m going to guess that he hits that number sometime before spring turns to summer on the 21st of June.

DJ LeMahieu

Milestone: 100 home runs
Current Total: 97
Estimated Time to Completion: May

Milestone: 1,500 hits
Current Total: 1,471
Estimated Time to Completion: Late May/Early June

The only player on this list who is closing in on not one but two milestones, LeMachine has returned to form in the early going, with a .333/.414/.510 (179 wRC+) over the first 16 games of the season. Driving the ball with authority on a consistent basis, something he never seemed to do last year, there’s really no question that the Yankee super-utility infielder will reach both these milestones within the next five weeks or so. The only question is, which will he hit first? If I were a betting man, I would say the home run total; as always, LeMahieu likes to drive the ball to the opposite field, and if he keeps it elevated enough, he can make use of that short porch to notch three homers in a hurry.

Giancarlo Stanton

Milestone: 350 home runs
Current Total: 349
Estimated Time to Completion: Any inning now

After starting the season with home runs on back-to-back days against the Boston Red Sox, it looked like Giancarlo Stanton might hit his 350th home run before the season’s first weekend was out. That was five years ago two weeks ago. Since then, Big G’s bat has colder than the frozen tundras beyond The Wall, in the Land of Always Winter: he has just 7 hits in 48 plate appearances, only one of which went for extra bases.

Still, this is Giancarlo Stanton we’re talking about. Even in the darkest of slumps, he can put a charge into the baseball like nobody can, and he can turn winter into summer quicker than Tyrion Lannister can get off a witty remark. Homer No. 350 is imminent, and could come as soon as the first inning tonight.