By Brian Flinn
As the career stats continue to mount, many veterans have the opportunity to reach certain milestones in the upcoming 2018 season. This applies to both long-time players who are reaching the end of their careers as well as those in their prime who will continue to climb the lists.
These players also provide ample opportunity to invest in rookie cards that are very reasonable in price considering the stats these players have mounted. Let’s look at who can reach key milestones and what historic company these players can join.
Albert Pujols – Albert Pujols was the first player to achieve a milestone this season when he collected his 3,000th hit on May 4. He became the 32nd member of Major League Baseball’s 3,000-hit club.
One of the biggest power hitters of the modern era, Pujols is now up to seventh all-time with 620 home runs after moving into the 600 HR Club in 2017. The Angels first baseman had 23 home runs last season, his lowest since 2013 when he played only 99 games. After another 100 RBI season in 2017, Pujols moved into the top 10 all-time and needs 61 to reach the 2,000-RBI Club. That would move him into the top five all-time, joining the likes of Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez and Cap Anson.
Key rookie card: 2001 Bowman Chrome RC Auto
Adrian Beltre – The Texas Rangers third baseman became the newest member of the 3,000-hit club in 2017 and currently sits 26th all-time. If he were to stick with his pace of 106 hits that he got in 2017 for the current 2018 season, he would move into the top 16 and pass some all-time hitters like Rod Carew, Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount and George Brett.
Beltre is also 35th all-time with 462 home runs and could move into the top 30 by duplicating his 2017 numbers. Although he has now played 20 years, he started at age 18 so the 37 home runs he needs for the elite 500 HR Club is well within reach. His consistent production along with his longevity has also put him 31st all-time with 1,654 RBI.
Key rookie card: 1997 Bowman Chrome International Refractor
Bartolo Colon – Nicknamed “Big Sexy,” Bartolo Colon found yet another new team with the Texas Rangers. He currently needs nine wins to reach the 250 win plateau. That may be difficult as Colon had only seven wins in 2017. He also needs just 17 strikeouts to join the 2,500-K club. Although there is not much demand in baseball cards for the oldest current player, Colon created probably the most exciting moment of his career as a hitter when he hit his first home run in 2016.
Key rookie card: 1996 Topps
C.C. Sabathia – The Yankees pitcher comes into 2018 with the opportunity to reach two key milestones – 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts. C.C. needs 11 wins to reach 250 which is very attainable considering his 14 win output in 2017.
Reaching 3,000 strikeouts may be more of a challenge as he needs 116. He posted 120 strikeouts in a full slate in 2017. Both are within reach given the 2017 success of the Yankees and their lineup.
Key rookie card: 1999 Topps Traded Rookie Auto
Justin Verlander – Justin Verlander may be considered the key pickup for the 2017 season as his move from Detroit to Houston proved to be a catalyst for the Astros’ World Series Championship. He comes into 2018 needing 12 wins to reach 200 which is less than his 15 win total in 2017. Verlander will also surpass the 2,500 strikeout mark with 84 strikeouts which will be no problem for this power pitcher.
Key rookie card: 2005 Bowman Chrome Gold Refractor Rookie Auto
Craig Kimbrel – The Red Sox closer had another solid season in 2017 with 35 saves moving to 29th all-time with 291 saves. Early in the 2018 season, Kimbrel recorded the 300th save in his career. He is currently 27th all time in saves.
Key rookie card: 2011 Topps Chrome Refractor Rookie Auto
Kenley Jansen – Jansen was a key cog in the Dodgers taking the National League pennant and facing the Astros in the World Series. He tied for the saves lead in the N.L. and finished second in the majors with 41 saves. Entering the season he needed 20 saves to reach the 250 saves plateau.
Key rookie card: 2009 Bowman Chrome Refractor.
Ichiro Suzuki – Ichiro ended 2017 at 22nd all-time with 3,080 hits. Couple that with 1,278 hits in the Japan Pacific League and many consider him the true “Hit King” instead of Pete Rose.
Ichiro was back home with the Seattle Mariners to start 2018, but retired shortly after the season began, moving into the front office of the Mariners. His illustrious career appears to be over so no more milestones will be achieved. He falls just short of the top 20 hit list, resting in the 22nd spot with 3,089 hits.
Key rookie card: 2001 Topps Chrome Traded (PSA 10 sold on eBay for $135)
John Lackey – Lackey comes into 2018 at 146th all-time with 188 wins. He is currently a free agent and will need to find a new team to sign with to try and get the 12 wins needed to reach the 200 win mark.
Key rookie card: 2000 Bowman Draft Rookie Auto
Brian Flinn is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest.