10 MLB Players Who Could Challenge the Career Home Run Record

Cody Swartz@cbswartz5Senior Writer IJune 5, 2012

10 MLB Players Who Could Challenge the Career Home Run Record

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    The career home run record is the most coveted mark in professional sports, and Barry Bonds overtook Hank Aaron in 2007 to become the owner of that legendary milestone. Bonds finished with 762, seven more than Aaron, and steroids or not, it is an incredible feat that could stand for a long time.

    Every so often there comes along a player that looks like he will be the next one to break the record. Ken Griffey, Jr. looked like a safe bet to surpass Hank Aaron, and then he inexplicably fell apart in the second half of his career. Mark McGwire's late-career surge was too late, and he was out of baseball by 38. Mickey Mantle had raw power that scouts dream of, but his knees held him to "just" 536.

    Realistically, there's a pretty good chance no one on this list will break the record. It's just too many home runs from one player. But these 10 players have the best chance of one day hitting their 763rd home run.

10. Joey Votto

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    Joey Votto is 28 years old and while he’s a top three player in the game, he’s only on pace for 27 home runs this season. He has never hit more than 37 in a season. That’s not going to get him the record.

    Then again, maybe he will see a surprising jump in his power as his career goes on. Votto has a 10-year deal and he should definitely approach 500 or more home runs by the time he hangs it up.

9. Adam Dunn

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    Please forgive me for putting Adam Dunn on this list, but he does have nearly 400 home runs. Dunn has 382 to be exact, which doubled would give him 764. Save for his absolutely miserable season in 2011, and he has been a lock for 38-40 home runs per season.

    Realistically, Dunn will reach 500 but probably won’t get 600; he simply strikes out too many times and he’s going to be a .180 hitter who either homers, strikes out or walks 75 percent of the time when he’s 36.

8. Ryan Braun

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    Ryan Braun is a complete baseball player, not just a home run hitter. Hitting 25-35 home runs per season—to go with a .310 batting average, a .950 OPS, and double-digit steals—is a phenomenal achievement.

    However, age is not on his side. Braun is 28 already and he has fewer than 200 home runs. He will probably end this season around 200, but by then he will be 29. Braun will probably reach 500 if he can average 30-35 per season until he’s about 38.

7. Ryan Howard

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    Ryan Howard would have been at the top of the list if I had written the article after the 2008 season. Since then though, his home run total has dropped substantially each season and he hasn’t picked up a bat thus far in 2012.

    Howard has 286 home runs, but because he didn’t play regularly in the major leagues until he was nearly 25, Howard is already 32 years old. He might not even make 500 home runs. He has four more seasons with the Phillies in which he will be paid about $25 million per season, but after that, he may have to sign one or two-year deals as a pinch hitter somewhere.

6. Prince Fielder

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    Prince Fielder makes it over Ryan Howard because I think he will play longer, due mainly to the extensive contract he just signed. Fielder is at 239 home runs and will probably finish the season around 260. That will mean the 28-year-old Fielder will need to hit another 500-plus home runs.

    That’s about 35 for another 14 seasons, 40 for another 12 seasons, or 45 for another 11 years. Realistically, I don’t think the 290-pound Fielder has the body type to hold up for that many seasons. He will probably hit 500 and he may make a serious run at 600, but 763 is just too many. 

5. Giancarlo Stanton

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    Giancarlo Stanton has just 69 home runs, but of all the young players in baseball, he may have the best shot. Stanton is 22 years old and he’s on pace for nearly 40 home runs this season.

    I have no way of projecting in the slightest bit whether Stanton can maintain a pace of 40 home runs for the next 17 seasons. He’s certainly not the first player who seemed like he had a realistic shot at doing so when he was in the middle of his third season.

    But as of now, keep a watch for him. If he becomes a 45 to 50 home run guy—as he very well could—then Stanton will definitely get 500, and he could possibly approach the record.

4. Miguel Cabrera

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    In terms of pure hitters, there aren’t many ballplayers better than Miguel Cabrera. He’s a .317 career hitter with a higher OPS than Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, and he’s received MVP votes every year of his career.

    In terms of strictly a home run hitter though, Cabrera isn’t going to do it. He’s going to hit his 300th a little after the All-Star break, but he’s never hit 40 in a season, and 30-35 per season won’t get him to 763.

3. Bryce Harper

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    In terms of pure, raw power, I’m not sure what to expect from Bryce Harper. He’s still just 19 years old and I think he will assuredly put on more muscle. But this is a player that was hitting 500-foot home runs when he was a 16-year-old kid, and he’s thriving in the major leagues right now.

    Harper could rewrite the record books. Then again, something could happen and he could be the next Ken Griffey, Jr.—an absolutely terrific ballplayer that experienced an unforeseen drop in his numbers in the second half of his career. As a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I certainly hope Harper comes nowhere near the record. But I think he has the potential to hit 500, 600, 700 or maybe even 763 home runs.

2. Albert Pujols

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    For the first 10 years of his career, Albert Pujols really seemed like he had a shot. He hit 408 during that span, never hitting 50 but averaging over 40.

    Then Pujols endured by far his worst season as a pro in 2011, although he still did finish with 37 home runs. Pujols has struggled again in 2012, as he’s at just eight home runs through one-third of the season. That puts Pujols on pace for 24, and he’ll probably still hit 30.

    But if this is a sign that he is on the decline of his career, Pujols probably won’t get it. He’s at 453 home runs and will likely reach his 500th home run by the time he is 33 years old. There’s still over 250 to go after that point though, and that would be eight more seasons of a little over 30 home runs. Pujols is signed through 2021, so like A-Rod, he will be able to keep coming back and chasing that record. Two years ago, I would have said Pujols will do it. Now though, I think he’ll fall short.

1. Alex Rodriguez

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    Alex Rodriguez is No. 1 on this list, even over Albert Pujols, simply because he has substantially more home runs already. Many players start their career with people thinking they have a chance to break the record—Ken Griffey, Jr. was a prime example.

    A-Rod alreedy has 638 home runs, which makes him the active leader in that category. He has hit 30 home runs 14 times, 40 home runs eight times, and 50 three times. He’s led the league in home runs in five different seasons, and while he’s clearly on the decline, he’s still on pace for 27 homers this year.

    That would give A-Rod 656, meaning he would need about four more seasons of the same production to break the record. That isn’t likely, but his contract does run through 2017, so he will have the opportunity to give it a try as long as he wants to. A-Rod will probably hit 700 and he might pass Babe Ruth, but getting to 763 is pushing it.