Is Giancarlo Stanton Going to Hit 500 Homers?

First, some data.

Home Runs Through Age-26 Season
Player Games Played Home Runs
Alex Rodriguez 1114 298
Jimmie Foxx 1109 266
Eddie Mathews 1029 253
Albert Pujols 933 250
Mickey Mantle 1102 249
Mel Ott 1288 242
Frank Robinson 1050 241
Ken Griffey Jr. 1057 238
Orlando Cepeda 1062 222
Andruw Jones 1137 221
Hank Aaron 1039 219
Juan Gonzalez 817 214
Johnny Bench 1094 212
Miguel Cabrera 1040 209
Jose Canseco 853 209
Giancarlo Stanton 827 208

This is quite an illustrious list! We have quite a few Hall of Famers, we have a few slam-dunk future members of that group, and we have Jose Canseco. There’s also one Giancarlo Stanton there, and that’s who we’ll be discussing herein.

Stanton is something of a mythic figure in today’s game. Seen only in bursts, and sequestered away with an under-followed franchise at an ill-attended park, Stanton often only reveals himself to the average fan in highlight reels and on magazine covers. Stanton is the strongest man in the league, a demigod among mere mortal dinger-hitters. He makes the cavernous stadium in Miami look tiny. He breaks scoreboards.

Imagine what we’d see from Stanton if he stayed healthy.

Stanton just completed his age-26 season. He’s played in just 827 games so far. As you can see above, that’s the second-lowest figure of the group, 10 games more than Juan Gonzalez. His seasons have a habit of being derailed by injury: only once has he reached the 150-game mark. Even still, he’s never hit fewer than 20 homers — not even when he played just 74 games in 2015. That was the year Stanton hit 27 bombs, played his final game in June, and still finished 10th in the National League in home runs.

That’s the kind of talent and raw power that Stanton possess. It’s the sort of prowess on which you can dream, and has already produced more than 200 home runs and 27 WAR. How many home runs can Stanton tack on? Is he going to reach 500 before his career is over? 600?

Let’s do a little math. Let’s say that Stanton avoids major injury for the next four or five years. During that time, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he could average 35 home runs a year. Steamer projects Stanton to hit 36 in 127 games, while ZiPS projects him for 31. Our Depth Charts projections have him at 42. So, it’s not really a stretch to say Stanton can reach 35 homers in a healthy year.

If we arbitrarily peg Stanton for 35 bombs over the next four years, that gets him to 348. If we up it to five years, it’s 383. But interestingly enough, Stanton can opt out of his humongous contract after 2020, his age-30 season. Entering the market as a 31-year-old slugger could get interesting, if this offseason is anything to go by. Stanton would be leaving at least $218 million on the table if he does this. Can he best that in free agency? We’ve yet to see how the new CBA will impact free-agent earnings, so we can’t say no just yet. If Stanton suddenly goes nuts over the few years (as he’s fully capable of doing with a clean bill of health), maybe he will. He may also be willing to jump ship if the Marlins fade all the way back into obscurity as the Phillies and Braves ascend the standings while Miami is left to pick over its barren farm system. If Stanton decides he wants a ring, he may cut ties.

This is important, because it could afford him the chance to move to a more hitter-friendly park. Imagine Stanton at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium. I mean, if the Rockies really are about to get good… imagine him at Coors Field. Colorado hasn’t been a big spender for a while now, but if the team is trending upwards, they’ll have incentive to add a big star.¬†And really, the idea of Stanton seeing regular time at Coors is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Woo boy.

Stanton moving to a smaller park right as age begins to work against him would help counteract any potential drop-off in power he may experience over the years. As we’ve seen with players like Adrian Beltre and Edwin Encarnacion — to say nothing of David Ortiz — age doesn’t always slow down power. These are special players, to be sure, but Stanton is special, too.

Of course, Stanton could sign somewhere like Anaheim, and his power won’t be aided at all. Or he could simply not opt out. There are many variables here. Stanton could keep getting hurt. He could start regularly churning out 45-homer seasons. He could quit baseball and join the Zurich ballet. Life’s a freaky thing like that.

If we build on our mental math from earlier and say that Stanton averages 25 home runs per season for five additional years after reaching 383, that brings him to 508 home runs following his age-36 season. The 500-homer mark has only been reached 27 times in big-league history. A number of the men from the above table are in that group. That shouldn’t be a shock. Yes, stockpiling a lot of homers early in your career helps you reach the 500-homer club.

Stanton, if he stays healthy and doesn’t experience a dramatic drop-off in his power, has a halfway decent shot of making it. He probably won’t.

Those players, in addition to having prodigious natural talent, were blessed with good health. Many of them also used (or are suspected of having used) performance-enhancing drugs, which in addition to bestowing strength onto the user, also help with recovering from injuries at a more expedient rate. Stanton’s body already has some mileage on it.

In all likelihood, we probably won’t see Stanton achieve that nice round number, and then surpass it. But a healthy Stanton is a force of nature, and one with which we may be about to become familiar. Goodness knows we need something to be excited about when it comes to the Marlins.

Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.

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Pirates Hurdles
Pirates Hurdles

Isn’t there an internet rule that says “If the headline is a question, the answer is no”? Quite obviously, he will need to get a heckuva lot healthier to even get close.