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When Adam Wainwright went down for the season, the Cardinals knew they would need to rely even heavier on their other three stars. So far they only have Matt Holliday running on all cylinders. Albert Pujols is hitting in the .260’s with very little power and Chris Carpenter only has one win as we approach late May.
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Conventional wisdom indicates Albert will turn things around and it is doubtful anyone willing to sell him at a discount, but Carpenter could be a candidate you can pick up in the bargain bin.
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When healthy, Carpenter is a proven winner and Cy-Young contender. Drafting Carpenter has always been an injury risk, not a performance risk. This year, Carpenter has struggled. Through May 22nd, he sits at 1-4 with a 4.88 ERA and a surprising 1.48 WHIP. Traditionally among the league leaders in WHIP, the high number is the key to his recent struggles and also provides a clue to a rebound in the near future. His BB/9
is 2.4, slightly higher than usual, but the exact same as last year when he won 16 games.
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The difference is his H/9 which stands at 10.9, his highest number since 2007, when he only pitched one game before undergoing Tommy John surgery. His career H/9 is at 9 so it seems the hitters are getting lucky on him and sure enough they have a BABIP of .343, compared to a lifetime .301. As the season progresses you should expect a correction.
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With a strikeout rate in-line with career average’s, Carpenter’s only other concern is run support. Although the Cardinals have the highest team batting average and are second in runs scored, Carpenter’s run support stands in the middle of the pack among MLB pitchers.
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Taking everything into account as the year goes on you should expect Carpenter’s ERA and WHIP to fall and his run support to climb. That should lead to more wins. The time to buy Chris Carpenter on the cheap is now.
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Kyle McClellan enters the week tied for the league lead with six wins. He’s 6-1 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. He has allowed two or fewer runs in six of his nine starts. Even in his three poor outings he was able to go at least five innings and limit the damage to four or five runs. That’s important because he doesn’t completely tax the Cardinals’ bullpen and still gives them a chance to win. For your fantasy team, it’s not the outcome you were looking for, but it sure beats taking the lumps over three or four innings.
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One of the bumps can be excused. He gave up four runs in six innings in Cincinnati. That was his lone start that week so he should have been on your bench in both daily and weekly leagues. If you used him there, you were asking for trouble.
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We know what he’s already done. We need to know if he will continue to shine. Obviously nobody knows the answer to that, but we can take a look at the numbers to see what we can infer.
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McClellan was 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA in five April starts. He is 2-1 with a 3.67 ERA in four April starts. The consistency has been there. He has averaged 91.4 pitches per start, with six in the 90-95 range, which adds to his consistency. You basically get two runs in six innings when he takes the mound.
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McClellan’s success isn’t predicated on luck. He has a .265 BABIP, which is actually higher than the .231 he posted last year and .264 from 2009. Solid numbers for a player with a 51.6 ground ball percentage.
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McClellan keeps the ball in the park, having allowed fewer than a home run (0.94) per nine innings. He had one three home run game, which was the game that he should have been on your bench when he started in Cincinnati. In his remaining eight starts he’s allowed one home run in three games. The other five he did not give up the long ball.
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He only issues 2.8 walks per nine innings. If he’s not giving out free passes or allowing home runs he can keep the damage to a minimum.
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McClellan is not without his warts though. He strikes out just 4.37 batters per nine innings. He has three or fewer Ks in six of his nine starts, plus another one with just four strikeouts. His season high is seven, and that came back on April 5th.
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That doesn’t mean he can’t continue to be successful. It’s just something to keep in mind when he has a tough match-up. If you can salvage a poor outing with a solid strikeout total, at least you have something to take away from it. Just be smart and use him when he has favorable match-ups, like this week when he faces the Padres in San Diego.
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Albert Pujols is hitting .241. He has seven home runs, but his slugging percentage is at .438. He has just one double on the year. He is dealing with a minor hamstring strain and the weight of the contract issue could be weighing on his mind. Not exactly the kind of start that justifies asking for gobs of cash.
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While  Phat Albert is struggling, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman are raking. Pujols has an OPS of .747 while Berkman leads the club at 1.249 and Holliday check in at 1.1137. Even Colby Rasmus (.859) and David Freese (.865 before he went down) were higher.
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Is the machine broken for good? I wouldn’t go that for. He is still only 31 with a lot of baseball ahead of him. Pujols is so consistent that any dip in production is unsettling. Only twice in his ten-year career has his OPS dipped below 1.000. Even then it was .955 and .997. He always hits 30+ HR and drives in 100+ runs. Only twice has he hit below .327 and they were .314 and .312.
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If you look at his career production from month to month, it’s even more consistent.
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April:  1.060 OPS
May:  1.008
June:  1.049
July:  1.006
August:  1.099
September :  1.059
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Even as consistent as Phat Albert is, he is noticeably better in the second half of the season. Before the All-Star Break Albert hits .322 with a 1.029 OPS. After the break he hits .339 with a 1.063 OPS.
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Historically speaking, Albert’s best days of the season have yet to come. Not to mention that common sense says Pujols isn’t going to continue to struggle for long, especially when his compadres are producing.
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Albert has been through slumps before. He hit .267 last July before torching the league by hitting .379 with 11 homer runs and 23 RBI in August.
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If you own Albert, don’t do anything rash. You aren’t going to get fair trade value for him now. You just have to ride it out. Just stay the course and Mr. Consistent will start hitting like he always does. His BABIP is a mere .213, which is 100 points lower than his career mark. His luck and  his health will improve and he’ll be one of the best in the game in no time.
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You can try to buy low on him, but your leaguemate should see that coming a mile away.
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Lance Berkman was hitting .214 on April 10th. He had yet to hit a home run and had just one RBI. He had an OPS of .576. If you dropped him from your team, you are kicking yourself right now, but the move was understandable.
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In his 16 games since Berkman has hit .474 with eight home runs and 21 RBI, bringing his average up to .393 and his OPS to 1.207. You’d be nuts to consider trading  him…or would you?
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He’s not going to continue to pound the ball like that all year. He’s a lifetime .297 hitter that has topped .320 just once. He hit .248 last year and .274 the year before. The power will still be there, but it will also slow. He hasn’t had a 1.000+ OPS since 2006, but he regularly produces a .900 or better OPS. It’s quite evident that last year was just a down year, and not the start of a major decline.
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The point is, while I expect him to continue to be productive, his value will likely never be higher. I’m not saying just give him away, but if you can get a king’s ransom for him, go for it.
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He has dealt with back issues in the past, which can return at any time. Once the back goes, the power is soon to follow. While players have been able to turn back the time and extend their careers, it should not be overlooked that Lance is 35. As the season wears on he will get some rest. He has already sat three of the Cardinals’ 21 games, which is good for 11 percent. If you extrapolate that over the course of the year, he would miss 18 games.
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Sure, he can do plenty of damage in 144 games, but if you can improve your teams based on his hot start, I would certainly entertain quality offers. I’d also dangle him to teams struggling in the power department. Selling high on a 35-year-old isn’t the worst thing you can do.
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After tossing a shutout last night I’m sure Kyle Lohse is a popular waiver claim. What’s not to like about a guy with a 3-1 record, a 2.01 ERA, and a 0.73 WHIP? You should know he’s been a fast starter for most of his career.
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He got bombed last April (0-1, 6.55 ERA), but look at his recent April performances:
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2009:  3-0, 1.97 ERA
2008:  3-0, 2.36 ERA
2007:  1-1, 2.88 ERA
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That’s a total of 7-1 with a 2.41 ERA in April over those three years. Considering he went 23-27 the remaining months of those seasons, it’s easy to be skeptical. Factor in a 4.79 ERA over that stretch and the alarms really start going off. That doesn’t mean you should either drop him or avoid him, but be realistic with him.
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Lohse is 32 years old with a 91-99 record and a 4.73 ERA. He had a brilliant 15-6, 3.78 ERA season in 2008, but that was the only time his ERA was below 4.00 for the year. In his first ten seasons he only finished with a .500 record or better three times. Two of them came in 2002 and 2003, making them a distant memory. His career high is 130 strikeouts.
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Feel free to use him while he’s pitching as well as he is, but be ready to eject when things start going sour.

Click here to enter the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Team Name Contest
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Colby Rasmus had a solid rookie campaign that saw him post a .251-72-16-52-3 line in 2009. Last year, in ten fewer at bats, Rasmus saw an increase in average (+.025), runs (+13), HRs (+7), RBI (+14), and SBs (+9).  While a .276-85-23-66-12 line is solid, it’s far cry from being a fantasy juggernaut.
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Rasmus, who will turn 25 in August, should continue to progress in a lineup featuring Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. The Cardinals also brought in Lance Berkman and Ryan Theriot to bolster their lineup.
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Colby tailed off last year, hitting .284 with 51 runs, 16 HRs, 42 RBIs, and nine SBs in 264 at bats before the All-Star Break. In his final 200 at bats, Rasmus hit just .265 with 34 runs, 7 HRs, 24 RBI, and three SBs. It wasn’t all doom and gloom in the second half though. Rasmus hit.323 with 17 runs, four HRs, 12 RBIs, and two SBs in September.
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He proved to be a streaky hitter last year, seemingly turning it on and off with each passing month. That’s not uncommon for a young player. The question is can he take the next step. The way he improved last year, plus his pedigree (baseball’s #3 prospect in 2009), I believe he can.
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Rasmus held his own against lefties last year, hitting .270, compared to .278 vs. righties, which is a vast improvement on the .160 average he posted against southpaws as a rookie. He hit just .248 at home (.306 on the road), which will likely improve (he hit .270 at home as a rookie).
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Rasmus isn’t suddenly going to make you forget about Pujols and Holliday, but he has the potential to hit 25 HRs and swipe 15 bases. His ADP, according to Mock Draft Central, is 90, which puts him in the middle of the eight round. He is the 22nd outfielder off the board. Given his upside, he is a quality second outfielder.
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I think Rasmus will take another step forward in 2011. Do you agree or disagree?
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Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Colby Rasmus had his ups and downs in his rookie season, but is a player that many (myself included) predict will improve in 2010.

He showed some pop hitting 16 HRs in 474 at bats. He also scored 72 runs. Unfortunately he hit .251 and managed just 36 walks. 

He had just 3 stolen bases for the Cardinals, but I think that’s an area where he can improve. He had double-digit SB totals every year in the minors.

He’s just 23 and will have some growing pains, but he could is a nice low risk-high reward candidate. He’s definitely worth taking a chance on in five outfield leagues. After all, he is slated to hit in front of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. 

Prediction:  .260, 85 runs, 20 HRs, 60 RBIs, 9 SBs

Past profiles:
Arizona Diamondbacks:  Brandon Webb
Atlanta Braves: Yunel Escobar
Baltimore Orioles:  Adam Jones
Boston Red Sox:  Clay Buchholz
Chicago Cubs:  Geovany Soto
Chicago White Sox:  Jake Peavy
Cincinnati Reds:  Joey Votto
Cleveland Indians:  Grady Sizemore
Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez
Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
Florida Marlins: Cameron Maybin
Houston Astros: Lance Berkman
Kansas City Royals: Billy Butler
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Howie Kendrick
Los Angeles Dodgers: James Loney
Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Hart
Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan
New York Mets: Jason Bay
New York Yankees: Robinson Cano
Oakland A’s: Kevin Kouzmanoff
Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins
Pittsburgh Pirates: Octavio Dotel
San Diego Padres: Everth Cabrera
San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito
Seattle Mariners: Franklin Gutierrez

St. Louis fans got great news today that slugger Matt Holliday isn’t going anyway (see ESPN article) after agreeing to a megadeal with the Cardinals. The deal is reported to be for seven years and worth approximately $120 million.

Albert Pujols and Holliday will continue to form one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. After “struggling” in 93 games with Oakland hitting .286 with 11 HRs and 54 RBIs, he went on to hit .353 with 13 HRs and 55 RBIs in 63 games with St. Louis.

Holliday is familiar with National League pitching and should remain a top tier fantasy OF. Don’t expect him to return anywhere near his 2008 SB total of 28. He should hit in the .320s with 110 Runs, 40 Doubles, 30 HRs, 110 RBIs, and 15 SBs.


Written by
Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

The Oakland A’s have traded Matt Holliday to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for a trio of minor leagues in 3B Brett Wallace, OF Shane Peterson & P Clayton Mortensen according to espn.com.

To me, this appears like a coup for the A’s, who for a long while appeared likely to get little in return for Holliday. Considering the way he had been playing, I don’t think it was a guarantee the team would even offer him arbitration in fear of being saddled with a huge commitment to him in 2010. Instead, they get a player who was seen as the future 3B for the Cardinals as well as another one of their Top 10 prospects prior to the season.

Wallace, the team’s first round pick in the 2008 draft, split time between Double & Triple-A this season hitting .289 with 11 HR, 35 RBI and 44 R. At 22-years old (he’ll turn 23 in late August), he easily could immediately join the A’s or certainly will see time at the hot corner this season.

Currently, the team’s depth chart has Adam Kennedy, Bobby Crosby and Nomar Garciaparra listed at the hot corner. Wallace clearly has more upside then any of those, and by dealing Holliday the team is waving a white flag of sorts. He is one of the top prospects in the game and certainly is worth owning in all keeper leagues immediately.
Mortensen was ranked as the number six prospect for the Cardinals prior to the season. He made one appearance for the Cards this season, allowing 2 earned runs over 3 innings. At Triple-A (in the Pacific Coast League), he was 7-6 with a 4.37 ERA. That comes after going 8-10 with a 4.96 ERA between Double & Triple-A last season.

His problems were described by Baseball America prior to the season by saying, “Propelled to Triple-A in June, Mortensen was too fine around the strike zone and pitched himself into mechanical issues. Control and command troubles cost him late in his college career, and they returned at Memphis, where he gave up 42 walks and 12 homers in 80 innings. He needs to improve his changeup to handle lefties, who hit .354 against him last year.”

He’s worth monitoring, but he’s not a fantasy impact player this season.

The third player, Shane Peterson, has split time between Single & Double-A this season, hitting .295 with 7 HR, 46 RBI and 12 SB. He was not ranked among the team’s Top 10 prospects prior to the season and is not going to have any fantasy impact in 2009.

As for Holliday, he leaves Oakland as a player who was starting to heat up, but for the most part fulfilled the concerns that people had of his departure from Coors Field. He hit .286 with 11 HR, 54 RBI, 52 R and 12 SB. Those are still extremely usable numbers, putting him right on pace for a 20/20 season. Are they the numbers of a top outfielder, like he had once been? Of course not, but useful just the same.

I would expect his value to potentially increase slightly with his move back to the NL. He’ll be joining Albert Pujols in the Cardinals line-up. I don’t know that his presence is going to force teams to pitch to Pujols more, but it definitely will allow him to get more opportunity to drive in runs as opposed to his time spent in Oakland. I would not be surprised to see him finish with over 100 RBI at this point, possibly as high as 110. His other numbers should remain status quo.

This also may spell the end of Rick Ankiel’s days as an every day OFer, at least for this season. Ryan Ludwick is heating up and should be in there everyday and Colby Rasmus has simply outperformed Ankiel. He’ll get some AB, but I wouldn’t be using him at this point.

As for who won the deal, I think the A’s did much better then anyone could have reasonably expected. The Cardinals, however, are a better team today then they were yesterday. There’s no question about that, and considering that they are in first place in the NL Central, 1.5 games up on the Cubs and Astros, that’s what they care about most.

What does everyone else think? Who won this trade? How will Holliday perform in St. Louis?

A discussion I’ve been having with a great baseball mind has led me to profile Jim Edmonds. 

Photo courtesy of TSN Archives/Icon SMI


 
The Numbers
1925 Games
7708 At Bats
.284 Batting Average
.528 Slugging %
.905 OPS
132 OPS+
1881 Hits
1207 Runs
414 Doubles
25 Triples
382 HRs
1176 RBIs
974 Walks
65 SBs

Five .300 Seasons
Four 100+ Run Seasons
Seven 30+ Double Seasons
Five 30+ HR Seasons
Four 100+ RBI Seasons

World Series:  2 World Series, 1 Ring, 64 Games, 230 At Bats, 63 Hits (.274), 33 Runs, 16 Doubles, 13 HRs, 43 RBIs, 30 Walks  

Awards
4-time All-Star
8 Gold Gloves
1 Silver Slugger
MVP Votes in 6 Seasons

Top Ten Finishes
Batting Average – Once
On-Base % – 3 Times
Slugging % - 3 Times
OPS – 3 Times
At Bats – Once
Runs – 3 Times
Hits – Once
Doubles – Once
Home Runs – 4 Times
RBIs – Twice
Walks – 4 Times
Extra-Base Hits – Twice
Intentional Walks – Twice

Hall of Fame Yardsticks:

Gray Ink Batting - 60 (407), Average HOFer ≈ 144
Hall of Fame Monitor Batting - 88 (183), Likely HOFer ≈ 100
Hall of Fame Standards Batting - 40 (144), Average HOFer ≈ 50
  
He certainly belongs in the Rawlings Gold Glove Hall of Fame because of his defensive prowess, but I’m on the fence for Cooperstown.  He did have a stretch of greatness from 1995-2005 (throwing out 1999 when he was limited to 55 games), where he averaged 99 Runs, 32 HRs, and 93 RBIs.  He collected all eight of his Gold Gloves during that stretch meaning he was one of the most complete players in the league for a decade.  He also had his share of postseason success in the second half of his career.  It would be easier to induct him if he reached 2000 Hits, but he had 1200 Runs and nearly 1200 RBIs.  He may have won even more Gold Gloves if it weren’t for Ken Griffey, Jr.  He doesn’t pass the name test for induction, but if you look into the numbers, I think he did just enough to get in.

References
Baseball-reference.com

Past Chronicles
Dick Allen
Roberto Alomar
Richie Ashburn*
Earl Averill*
Harold Baines

Dan Bancroft*
Jake Beckley*

Albert Belle
Jim Bottomley*
Pete Browning

Jim Bunning *
Bert Byleven
Joe Carter
Orlando Cepeda*
Rocky Colavito
Earle Combs*
Dave Concepcion
David Cone
Roger Connor*
Larry Corcoran

Stan Coveleski* 

Mike Cuellar
Kiki Cuyler*
Bill Dahlen
George Davis*
Andre Dawson 
Larry Doby*
Bobby Doerr*
Jimmie Dykes (Player/Manager)
Dwight Evans
Rick Ferrell*
Wes Ferrell
Chuck Finley
Steve Finley
Nellie Fox*
John Franco

Gary Gaetti
Steve Garvey
Lefty Gomez*
Luis Gonzalez
Dwight Gooden
Joe Gordon
Mark Grace
Bobby Grich
Charlie Grimm (Player/Manager)
Ron Guidry
Chick Hafey*
Jesse Haines*

Billy Herman*
Keith Hernandez
Orel Hershiser
Whitey Herzog (Manager)
Gil Hodges
Ralph Houk (Manager)
Waite Hoyt*
Shoeless Joe Jackson
Travis Jackson*
Tommy John
Bob Johnson
Addie Joss*
Jim Kaat
George Kell*
Joe Kelley*
George Kelly*
Tom Kelly (Manager)
Chuck Klein*
Jerry Koosman
Bill James & Pete Palmer
Barry Larkin
Tony Lazzeri*
Freddie Lindstrom*
Mickey Lolich
Ernie Lombardi*
Fred Lynn
Sherry Magee

Roger Maris
Rube Marquard*
Billy Martin (Player/Manager)
Dennis Martinez
Edgar Martinez
Bobby Matthews
Don Mattingly
Gene Mauch (Manager)
Carl Mays
Bill Mazeroski*
Fred McGriff

Mark McGwire
Bid McPhee
Johnny Mize*
Paul Molitor*
Jack Morris
Tony Mullane
Dale Murphy
Graig Nettles
Hal Newhouser*
Lefty O’Doul
Tony Oliva
Al Oliver

Buck O’Neill & Minnie Minoso
Dave Parker
Wes Parker
Lance Parrish
Vada Pinson
Boog Powell
Tim Raines
Willie Randolph
Pee Wee Reese*
Allie Reynolds
Jim Rice
Phil Rizzuto*
Brooks Robinson*
Pete Ro$e
Amos Rusie*
Jimmy Ryan
Ron Santo
Curt Schilling
Red Schoendienst* (Player/Manager)
Ted Simmons
Enos Slaughter*
Lee Smith
Rusty Staub
Vern Stephens
Dave Stieb
Mel Stottlemyre
Harry Stovey
Sam Thompson
Luís Tiant
Joe Torre
Alan Trammell

George Van Haltren
Arky Vaughan*
Mo Vaughn
Bobby Veach
Mickey Vernon
Frank Viola
Bucky Walters
Mickey Welch*
Lou Whitaker
Deacon White
Bernie Williams
Vic Willis*
Maury Wills 
Hack Wilson*
Ross Youngs*
Veterans Committee Ballot
 

* Signifies actual Hall of Famers


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