Each MLB season there are usually a few storylines involving records being broken or notable feats being accomplished, and 2017 is shaping up to be no different.
Single-season achievements have a considerable amount to do with greatness, but the ability to sustain that output consistently over a long period of time is what separates the good from the great.
Here are five examples of some of the greatest players of the past two decades who will likely reach big milestones in 2017.
Adrian Beltre – 3000 Hits, 600 Doubles
When Adrian Beltre’s 20th MLB season is all said and done, the question will not be whether he is a Hall of Fame-caliber player, but whether he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
The Texas Rangers third baseman will enter his 20th season within striking distance of two monumental achievements. Beltre currently sits just 58 hits shy of becoming the 31st player in history to record 3,000 hits, and just the fourth primary third baseman to accomplish the feat, behind George Brett, Alex Rodriguez, and Wade Boggs.
Beltre won’t stop there in all likelihood, as the slugger also needs just nine doubles to reach a career total of 600. Only 16 players in history have reached that mark, with both Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels and David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox doing so last season.
Albert Pujols – 600 Home Runs
The aforementioned slugger for the Los Angeles Angels was able to reach one 600 mark last season, and it will only be a matter of time before he reaches a second in 2017.
Arguably the greatest slugger of the last 15 years, Pujols needs just nine home runs to become the ninth player in history to reach 600 career big flies. Prince Albert has kept a clean slate when it’s come to arguably baseball’s most hallowed and controversial statistic, and with 71 home runs over the last two seasons, he could conceivably remain at this level for years to come.
Depending on how much Pujols has left in the tank, he would need to average roughly 36 home runs over the next three seasons to join Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth in the illustrious 700-homer club. With the 37-year-old used primarily as a designated hitter last season, it’s not an impossible feat.
Jose Reyes – 500 Stolen Bases
It has been a couple of years since Jose Reyes has struck fear into the hearts of pitchers while on the basepaths, but his body of work with regards to swiping bags has put him in position to join elite company.
With 12 more stolen bases, Reyes will reach No. 500 for his career, a feat only accomplished by 38 other individuals. Three hundred seventy-nine of those stolen bases have come in a New York Mets uniform, and a position switch to third base could very well provide more opportunity for the 33-year-old to push that total even higher.
Considering the only time in his career that Reyes recorded less than 12 stolen bases came in 2009 when he swiped 11 in just 36 games due to injury, it’s almost a certainty that Reyes will add the accolade to his resume in 2017.
Clayton Kershaw – 4th Cy Young
It’s extremely tough to find a pitcher who has been more dominant over the last six seasons than Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
The 28-year-old southpaw has posted sub-2.00 ERA seasons in three of the last four campaigns and has not finished with a WHIP over 1.00 since 2012. Toss in three National League Cy Young awards in the last six seasons, and you have arguably the best Dodgers pitcher since another highly regarded southpaw won three Cy Young awards from 1963-66.
If Kershaw adds one more Cy Young to his resume at the conclusion of the 2017 season, he would join Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, and Greg Maddux as the only pitchers ever to have four Cy Youngs to their name. Kershaw would also tie Johnson and Carlton for the most in National League history.
CC Sabathia – 500 Games Started
The man formally known as Carsten Charles Sabathia has been a workhorse since he made 33 starts as a 20-year-old for the Cleveland Indians in 2001, and with 18 more starts, he can add a nice, round figure to his list of accolades.
Provided Sabathia is able to put forth a consistently successful output in 2017, the big man in pinstripes should reach the 500-start plateau sometime in the heat of July. The New York Yankees have made it known that youth is a top priority going forward, so Sabathia will need to prove he can keep his age at bay if he wishes to maintain a role in the starting rotation in the coming years.
The 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner is also just 274 strikeouts away from 3,000 and 27 wins away from 250, so a couple more effective seasons could see a potential Hall of Fame resume grow even longer.