In response to the mega contract extension of Fernando Tatís Jr., Twitter user Jon Becker posed an interesting question: Which Major League Baseball Players Will Be Active The Next Time Tatís Is A Free Agent In 2035?
It is a compelling exercise in thinking because it puts Tatís’s talent in perspective. At 22, it’s conceivable that Tatís’s deal that keeps him in San Diego until the middle of the next decade isn’t even his last contract.
The Padres are obviously confident in Tatis’ ability to remain a high-level baseball player in the future, but how many other players will stick around for that long? Who is good enough and young enough right now to keep dressing in 2035? Here are five position players (and a couple of pitchers) who could pull it off. This is not to say that these players will definitely remain in the big leagues by the time there are teams in Portland and Charlotte, but they have the best chances of all.
Ronald Acuna Jr. (23)
Like Tatís, Acuña made her debut at age 20. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2018 and finished fifth in MVP voting in 2019. Speed is an important part of the 23-year-old center fielder’s game (he led the National League with 37 steals in 2019) but He also possesses the kinds of skills that tend to age well, like a dangerous bat and a strong throwing arm.
Juan Soto (22)
In the wake of Tatis’s lucrative extension, the bigger question is how much Soto’s first big contract will be worth. He has done nothing but smash the ball since he debuted at age 19 in 2018. If it weren’t for Acuña, Soto would have easily won Rookie of the Year. In 47 games during the shortened 2020 season, Soto hit an absurd .351 / .490 / .571, winning the National League batting title. He’s a left fielder without Acuna’s defensive acumen, but he could definitely stick around as a designated hitter late in his career if he’s no longer a productive outfielder, especially with a universal designated hitter.
Cody Bellinger (25 years old)
Bellinger won an MVP just a few months after his 24th birthday and putting aside a 2020 pedestrian is one of the most complete hitters in the game. The biggest obstacle to him playing on the eve of 40 is his reluctant left shoulder. First base would be a natural place to play a powerful southpaw in his later years, but the Dodgers decided in 2019 after he dislocated his shoulder in 2019 that playing first was too risky and moved him to the gardens full time.
Eloy Jiménez (24)
Jiménez literally has the power of a light tower and has posted good numbers at the plate in his first two seasons in the big boys (.276 / .321 / .527). He’s on the lower end of the defensive spectrum, but his talent at the plate is undeniable.
Trea Turner (27)
Will Trea Turner play until she is 41? Maybe not! It’s definitely the longest shot on this list. But the first thing a player loses is speed, and Turner is so ridiculously fast that it’s not hard to imagine him retaining above-average speed for many years. Add that to the fact that he is a solid contact hitter and has already demonstrated the ability to play in multiple positions, and it is plausible that he could be a productive player with gray hair.
One or two of these pitchers
- Mike Soroka (23 years old)
- Deivi Garcia (21)
- Dustin May (23)
- Sixto Sanchez (22)
Predicting a pitcher’s future is a risky tactic. Any pitcher, no matter how talented, can be thrown off by injury. But some can adapt as they age and achieve unexpected longevity. Who would have imagined that Fernando Rodney or Bartolo Colón would last as long as they did?
Someone you wouldn’t expect
It’s not just the pitchers who hold out longer than expected. Was there anything about Matt Stairs’ early career that suggested he would play until age 43? Julio Franco was a three-time All-Star and won a batting title at age 32, but it would have been absurd to think then that he would play until age 49. Perhaps some unremarkable young man who appeared in 2020 will end up having a ladder-like belief.
Andrés Giménez, a top 21-year-old Mets prospect whose actions suffered after a disappointing double-A offensive season in 2019, became the parent club at age 21 and hit quite well (102 OPS +). He’s the kind of versatile infielder who could stick around a utility after his prime. Ke’Bryan Hayes’ résumé in the majors is limited (only 24 games) but impressive (.376 / .442 / .682). No one expects the 24-year-old to maintain that kind of production over the course of a full season, but he is a former first-round pick and a highly-hyped prospect. Maybe he’s a bench bat for more than a decade. It is impossible to say.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.