We’ve done the bottom of the class. We’ve done the average and above average “students.” Now it’s time to take a look at the valedictorians of the 2009 squad, if you will — when we think back about the 2009 season a few years from now, chances are we’ll still remember the performances of the following players. If there’s good news for the Brewers after a disappointing season, it’s that most of these guys will be around again next year.
Todd Coffey (A-): After watching Coffey implode during his last days in Cincinnati, it’s been incredible watching him perform as a great set-up man for Trevor Hoffman. With Hoffman set to return for 2010, the Brewers should have an extremely solid 1-2 combination at the back end of the bullpen. Next year’s squad will greatly benefit if Coffey and Hoffman can team up to essentially make it a 7-inning game for opponents.
Trevor Hoffman (A): Hoffman’s performance was on a steady decline the last few years in San Diego, but he’s outperformed any expectations we had coming into this season. For the first time post-Cordero, a lead in the 9th inning always seems safe. I’m a bit skeptical that Hoffman will be able to duplicate this year’s numbers in 2010, but signing him to a new deal so soon after the season ended shows he wants to be here, and it shows the fans that the team will be trying to contend for a playoff spot again next year.
Prince Fielder (A+): If it weren’t for a guy named Pujols, it’s a safe bet Prince would be getting some real MVP hype. If this is his last year in a Brewers uniform, he’s at least made it a memorable (yet short) stay.
Felipe Lopez (A-): Despite some concerns about work ethic and defense, Lopez has filled in admirably at second base since being traded to the club. He hit .320/.407/.448 since the trade, and while the power numbers weren’t quite there (only three homers post-trade), he’s done a great job of getting on base at the top of the order.
Ryan Braun (A-): He’s improved his OBP from .335 last year to .386, led the National League in hits, continues to develop into a solid defensive left fielder, and has become one of the more vocal team leaders the club has had in years. It’s easy to see why fans of other teams can’t stand him, but we should be thankful he’s “ours” for the foreseeable future.
With that, we close our player grades series. Thoughts? Comments? It’ll be a long cold winter before Spring Training 2010, but if the few short days after the season have told us anything, we’ll have plenty of news to talk about.