I was never good at drawing. As a result, in school when teachers would say to doodle on the back of a paper once you were done, I would list members of the 500 home run club instead. 500 is a satisfying number, and one that I like to think still has some meaning. It’s arbitrary, just like any other number, but the significance still looms in baseball. It draws fans, and becomes a leading conversation topic as player approaches it. The Yankees have two of this era’s premier power hitters in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and there is a fair chance both could reach the exclusive club in pinstripes.
As of now, there have been 28 players to notch 500 homers, five of which spent some time with the Yankees: Ruth, Mantle, Reggie, Sheffield, and A-Rod. Three of them hit their milestone homer while with the Yankees. With a lot of time left on their contracts, and plenty of good baseball left to play, Judge and Stanton have good chances of joining these various clubs.
We’ll go with seniority, and start with Stanton. As it stands, he’s tallied 378 big ones in his career, meaning he needs just 122 more to join the club. The big righty turned 33 in November, and appears to be exiting his prime. That being said, I have no doubt that he can be a productive hitter for a while still, and it’s not like he’s lost his trademark alien strength.
Over his career, Stanton has averaged just under 43 home runs per 162 games, impressive for someone with 13 years under his belt. The real roadblock for him, however, is staying on the field for anything close to 162. He hasn’t played in 150 games since 2018, and has only reached 140 games four times in his career.
Although everyone’s milestone chances were hindered by the shortened 2020 season, Stanton missed most of the 60 games anyway, and played even less in 2019, resulting in two largely lost years. He has five years remaining on his contract with the Yankees, and as time continues to roll on, moving him probably becomes less likely. It is safe to assume that this contract will bring him close to the end of his playing days, especially in New York.
Over those five years, he would need to average 24-25 dingers to get there. Not bad, especially for someone who’s hit 27 in a 74-game season. And in every year he’s played at least 100 games, he has launched at least 22. What would really help Stanton is having another 40+ homer season before the end of it, to help negate whatever time he’ll likely end up missing.
At this point, you probably can’t pencil him in for more than 120 games, but when he plays, he can still crush the ball like few else. If he can stay relatively healthy, or even just have a couple of full-ish seasons, 500 as a Yankee is well within reach.
Judge has a more interesting and complex path than his teammate. He’s still in the heart of his prime, and is coming off a AL-record 62 homers no less. But, he’ll be turning 31 in April, and didn’t start playing meaningful time until his age-25 season. He has made up for some lost time though, hitting 52 in his rookie year, and adding another 62 this past season.
As he heads into his 30s, he sits at 220 home runs, with 280 to go. He’s averaged an nearly 49 home runs per 162 games, and about 37 per year excluding his cup of coffee in 2016. Stanton has a head-start of over 150 home runs, but Judge has more time on his side.
The big right fielder also just signed a nine-year deal, ensuring a long future with the Yankees. Assuming he plays those years out, he would need to average a hair over 31 per year to reach 500 by the end of it. That is no small task over the course of a decade (especially in one’s 30s), but Judge would be the guy I’d pick to do it.
No. 99 can also reasonably do something few other can. That being racking up 150 over the course of three seasons, or something along those lines. We’ve already seen him break the rookie and the American League record, there’s not much he could do to surprise at this point. Judge is no stranger to otherworldly power runs, and if he can stay somewhat consistent and healthy, with a couple of big years in his prime, 500 is there for the taking.
Though it may be a random number, 500 home runs means a lot in baseball. Stanton and Judge are likely this era’s cream-of-the-crop when it comes to putting the ball over the fence, and we’re fortunate to watch them together in New York. As they play out their careers here, they’ll surely rack up milestones to our delight. And if they can stay healthy and produce at levels they’re more than used to, 500 could be just over the horizon for both of them.