Between 1971 and 2001, every 500-homer player was an event. Willie McCovey’s came in 1978, with Reggie Jackson’s coming six years later. The highlight of Mike Schmidt’s puppy dance was played on every This Week in Baseball for years. Then there were a bunch of them linked together, right around the time of the BALCO scandal, when fans started to act like Claude Rains collecting roulette winnings. It wasn’t unreasonable to think that the 500-homer club would be 50 players deep by 2017. There was evident fatigue by the time Frank Thomas, Alex Rodriguez, and Jim Thome joined in the summer of 2007.
Albert Pujols came in at the tail end of this wave, hitting 500 homers in a down season with a new team. The excitement was muted, possibly because of the down season, possibly because of the new team, probably because of a combination of both. When Miguel Cabrera hit his 500th, though, the calculus changed a bit. Suddenly, it was clear that Adrian Beltre was the last chance of the decade, but even that seems dicier with the current reminder that he’s 38 and vulnerable to injuries. The 500-homer club was rare and cool again.
Here we find one of the strangest truisms of the MLB draft: When you’re drafted as an outfielder, you stay in the outfield. Apparently, there just aren’t a lot of opportunities for kids to show off their infield prowess when they’re drafted as an outfielder.
My methodology went like this: I searched the Baseball-Reference database for players drafted at each position. I would sort by WAR to get the major leaguers at the top, look for players out of position, and then move on to the next year.