Brewers Season Grades: Solid Contributors

Yesterday we handed out grades for the bottom of the Class of 2009 — those players who earned D’s and F’s.  Today, we recap a group of players that were more productive, and generally good to have around.  Guys who earned C’s were serviceable but most likely replaceable without much cost, while those with B’s were good but had something holding them back.  With that much said, here are the grades…be sure to check back tomorrow when I hand out A’s to the cream of the crop.  Feel free to comment if you agree/disagree below.

B’s
Yovani Gallardo (B): He performed well considering the fact that he was forced into the ace role a year after missing most of the season with a torn ACL.  The high walk totals led to too many short outings, however — how much of it was nibbling, and how much was it just him hitting a wall late in the season?

Mitch Stetter (B): One of my concerns heading into the season would be how well the Brewers would replace Brian Shouse’s old LOOGY role.  Stetter filled in very nicely, and even showed a bit of effectiveness against right-handed batters, increasing his value.  It’s always nice to develop your own relievers — the Brewers got a lot of of value out of him considering his low salary.

Claudio Vargas (B-):
It was easy to scoff at the deadline deal that brought Vargas back to Milwaukee — most were frustrated that Doug Melvin didn’t bring in a starter to help the rotation — but the Human Rain Delay performed admirably as a long reliever, sucking up a lot of innings following short outings from the starters and keeping the team in games.  All in all, Claudio may have found his niche.

Craig Counsell (B+):
After the way Counsell fared at the plate the past couple seasons, it was hard to get excited about him coming back, even at the extremely cheap price of $1 million as a utility player.  A new batting stance seems to have done wonders for Craig, as he put up one of the best batting lines of his career without the ridiculous Lightning Rod stance.  He was especially valuable during the time between the Weeks injury and the Lopez trade, and he’s performed so well that you have to imagine the club wouldn’t mind him coming back next year on a similar 1-year, $1 million deal.

Casey McGehee (B+): Another year, another scrap heap pick up by Doug Melvin that paid huge dividends.  Very few people thought much of the waiver wire pick up late last season — some Cubs fans even mocked the Brewers for making the move — but McGehee put together an incredibly unexpected season.  Heading into spring training, how many people thought McGehee would make the 25-man roster, let alone have his name mentioned as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate?  As I’ve noted before, it’s no guarantee that Casey will be back with the club next season, but at the very least he’s been another Melvin gamble that’s paid off in a big way.

Mike Cameron (B): It’s easy to get frustrated with the high number of strikeouts and the low batting average, but Cameron’s defense and home run pop has again made him worth the money he’s making.  His range isn’t what it used to be in center, but there’s no doubt he’s made Ryan Braun look like a better left fielder, and most fans likely won’t realize what they had until he’s gone.  Here’s to hoping Cameron makes good on his word that he’d be willin to make some sacrifices in salary to stay on with the club — or, at the very least, he doesn’t sign with the Cubs in the offseason.

C’s
Seth McClung (C-): Big Red was a valuable part of the bullpen early in the year, essentially filling the role Vargas filled in August and September.  A move to the rotation flamed out badly, though, and one could point to his horrendous start against the Cubs in Wrigley Field as the beginning of the end of the Brewers’ season.  I still think he has value as a long reliever, but I doubt many people would mind if he was replaced.

Chris Narveson (C): Narveson’s season was nearly a complete mirror image of McClung’s — he flamed out as a long reliever in his first big league stint, but filled in admirably in the rotation when Manny Parra went down with neck spasms.  Narveson hasn’t pitched deep into games in his starts, but he’s shown enough promise there that he at least has to be considered for a bottom-of-the-rotation spot during spring training next year.  I hesitate to raise his grade too high, due to the fact that you can never fully trust outings in the first and last months of the season. 

Chris Smith (C+):
Perfectly acceptable in mop-up duty, and saved quite a few innings from the rest of the bullpen by going two or three innings at a time in a number of appearances.  Also perfectly replaceable, which is why I can’t bear to give him a much higher grade than this.

Mark DiFelice (C+):
His cutter was unhittable early in the year, even drawing the attention of national writers.  Unfortunately, he was never the same following injury, and finished the year on the 60-day DL.  He’s a great story — here’s to hoping that he can recover and again be a big part of the bullpen in 2010.

Frank Catalanotto (C): An afterthought signing, and it could be argued that the Brewers had no intention of playing him in the majors until they ran into injury problems at the big league level.  Far from spectacular, but far from useless in the absence of Corey Hart in August.

Jody Gerut (C-): Gerut was the subject of a lot of criticism early in his tenure as he struggled to get into a groove at the plate as a pinch hitter.  Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, a lot of Gerut’s biggest detractors were also big supporters of Tony Gwynn, Jr. and the bad feelings about Gwynn never getting a real shot in Milwaukee may have rubbed off on him.  Gerut came into his own with a hot stretch late in the season, and with a projected salary in the low $1 million range, he wouldn’t be a bad option for a cheap stopgap centerfielder if Cameron isn’t brought back.

Corey Hart (C-):
For whatever reason, Corey’s seemed like a completely different player following his All-Star game appearance last year, and has struggled to find many hot streaks at the plate.  He lost about a month with an emergency appendectomy, which you can’t blame him for, but even before the injury he wasn’t living up to expectations.  It’s crazy that about 18 months ago, many thought of him as being untouchable in trade talks, and now we’re trying to figure out ways to pry pitching from the Braves by using him in mock trade offers.

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