One of the rarer feats you’ll see in baseball is a player reaching 100 career home runs before his 25th birthday; it’s only happened 44 times in history. Even rarer is reaching 150 before that quarter century birthday, but one player this season has a legitimate shot at that—Bryce Harper.
Harper won’t reach his 25th birthday until Oct. 16 (hard to believe, isn’t it? He’s already in his sixth big league season). As of July 28, Harper has 148 homers, which already puts him 14th on the list for most homers before age 25. If he hits two more, he’ll become only the 15th youngster to reach that total. If he belts 13 more, which is certainly within his reach, he’ll have the seventh highest homer total for that young group.
Harper wasn’t the only player still younger than 25 playing this season who already exceeded the 100-homer career mark. Manny Machado turned 25 on July 6 and had 121 dingers to his credit, which places him two ahead of Willie May's total.
Record Is 190 Before Age 25
But not even Harper has a shot at reaching the top mark of most homers from someone short of his 25th birthday. That record is held by Eddie Mathews of the Milwaukee Braves, who crushed 190 homers from ages 20-24. He went on to hit another 322 in his career and ended up with 512.
A somewhat distant second is Mel Ott, who bashed 176 and finished with 511 lifetime, followed closely by Jimmie Foxx at 174 (534), Mickey Mantle, 173 (536); and Alex Rodriguez, 172 (696) and Ken Griffey Junior, 172 (630).
To be clear: I am talking about home runs right up to the day before a player’s 25th birthday. Some stat charts count all the homers in the player’s 24th-year season, meaning if he turned 25 after June 30, as A-Rod did, they count all the homers he hit that year. Those charts have Alex Rodriguez second with 189 homers; however, he hit 17 that season after his 25th birthday. I am counting just those right up to the birthday.
Other active players who reached this mark by their 25th birthdays are Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, 160; Giancarlo Stanton, 154; Miguel Cabrera, 141; and Justin Upton, Jay Bruce and Adrian Beltre, 100.
Of the 44 players on the list, 15 went on to top 500 for their careers, four of them over 600 (Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre potentially will reach the 500 club, as well as some of the young players). Seventeen of them are already in the Hall of Fame.
Players Hitting 100+ Homers Before Age 25
Ken Griffey Jr.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Injuries and Unmet Promises
Three players probably would have had quite a few more homers before age 25 except for circumstances that kept them out of the lineup. Ted Williams and Willie Mays both lost a year to military service before that age, and Tony Conigliaro lost more than a year after suffering a horrendous beaning when he was 22.
By and large, most of the men who had great success hammering the ball before age 25 went on the have above average to great careers, but there are a few outliers such as Bob Horner, who hit 129 by the time he was 25 but only 89 more after that, and Hal Trosky, who hit 136 by 25 but only 92 afterwards in a career cut short by unbearable migraine headaches. Injuries also affected the career of Eric Chavez, while Tom Brunansky and Cesar Cedeno never quite followed through on the careers people expected of them.
Two Reasons it Doesn't Happen More
There are two primary reasons hitting 100 homers before age 25 is such a rarity. One is that you have to start fairly young, and many players don’t reach the majors until age 23 or later. Aaron Judge, for example, may end up having a great career hitting homers, but when he turned 25 on April 26 he had hit only 10 career long balls.
The other issue is that many players don’t fully mature physically until they’re 24 or later. Starlin Castro, for example, got in five seasons before he turned 25 and had only 51 career homers. Last year he hit 21 and has 12 so far this season because he’s bigger, stronger and smarter.
Two More Possibilities
It takes a special talent to have the raw power to hit homers at an early age like Harper, Machado and the rest so reaching 100 before age 25 will continue to be a rarity. Currently only two players are in a position to make a run at that number – Rougned Odor, who currently has 78 and won’t turn 25 until after the 2018 season, and Carlos Correa, who has 62 and won’t reach 25 until Sept. 22, 2019.
GaryKauffman (author) from North Augusta, South Carolina on May 22, 2017:
Schwarber has a chance to be a great player but no chance of reaching 100 homers before he turns 25 next March. He would have to hit 84 homers this year to reach that mark. Joey Gallo has a chance since he doesn't turn 25 until after the 2018 season. But he has to average 47 homers per season for each of the next two years to do it - a stretch but possible with his power if he can make contact a little more frequently. Wesman Todd Shaw, it looks like you live in a great town if you could just add one more "f" to the name!
Matthew DeWitte from Madison, Wisconsin on May 20, 2017:
Awesome article, one player I think that has a chance at the record would be Kyle Schwarber. He has the power like the Babe himself. I enjoy your articles!
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on May 19, 2017:
Great article, and I'm pleased whenever I see other folks who love baseball like I do.
Joey Gallo could hit 50 this year at age 23. He's the real deal, and I don't think we care any more if he only hits .200 in a season.
I'm rooting for Gallo to best Judge this year. I'm a Texan.
I don't guess I'd thought about Bob Horner since 1986. Was pleased to be reminded about him.