Daric Barton – 1B (.269/.372/.413)
2009 Grade: C+
The Good: He appeared to play above his assortment of earned labels (bust, brain damaged) and right back into the team's favor. Despite spending April and May at Triple-A, then serving as Jason Giambi's defensive replacement during a brief call-up in June, the A's put him at first base – and left him alone – after Giambi was mercifully euthanized. Barton hit .287/.386/.434 after being recalled in July. In September (.871 OPS) I can't say I've ever seen him look better: working deep counts, going the other way.
The Not-So-Good: Barton's career OPS in the three meaningless Septembers he's played is .944. His career OPS for every other month of his Major League career is .617. Without much power in the current lineup and only one legit home run-hitting prospect (1B Chris Carter) in the minor league pipeline, the A's can't have much patience with Barton if he scuffles out of the gate again. Carter KILLED pitching in the minors last season (.992 OPS in 650 plate appearances!) and it can't be a good omen that Barton's #2 age comp is…this guy.
Mark Ellis – 2B (.263/.305/.403)
2009 Grade: C-
The Good: Ellis rescued his season with a lights-out seven-week stretch (July 26 – September 12) in which he batted .340 and slugged .525. It would seem he's all but cemented his Teflon status with A's beat writers as Ellis' overwhelmingly "not-so-good" season was ignored by the local media in favor of the usual "hustling clubhouse leader who plays the game the right way while getting the most out of his abilities" platitudes.
The Not-So-Good: When Ellis' aforementioned seven-week hot streak began, his OPS was .595 – positively Bobby Crosbian. After the "streak" ended, Ellis posted a .508 OPS for the rest of the season. With the exception of a decent 2007 season, Ellis has been consistently subpar at the plate since 2006. His once-stellar glove work dropped noticeably, too.
Cliff Pennington – SS (.279/.342/.418)
2009 Grade: B-
The Good: For the second straight season, the A's publicly declared that Pennington would be the starting shortstop down the stretch – and this year, the team didn't inexplicably change their minds 24 hours later! He's 25-years-old with a career .720 OPS in the minors. Though not a prospect, he was fun to watch when he ripped off an occasional hot week at the plate. And, listening to his Shawon Dunston-like hose pop the first baseman's glove – echoing throughout an empty ballpark – is one of my favorite memories of the season.
The Not-So-Good: When it comes to player development, the A's seem to form opinions and hang labels before they actually see a player develop. If the team had any real faith in Pennington, why'd they sign Orlando Cabrera last offseason AND tolerate Cabrera's unfocused, indifferent attitude during the season? Pennington's respectable small sample size should've earned him – at the very least – a legit look next spring. But, a larger sample size of precedence has the A's jerking him around.
Adam Kennedy – 3B (.289/.348/.410)
2009 Grade: C
The Good: Acquired in early May, Kennedy was hotter'n fish grease for a few weeks. On May 31, he was hitting .390/.462/.622 and had convinced some of the A's more slow-witted fans that he was NOT a declining presence at the plate or in the field. In all seriousness, though, Kennedy did seem to carry weight in the clubhouse – most notably during a pointed between innings chat with immature SP Gio Gonzalez after he gave up like 100 runs in two innings.
The Not-So-Good: From June 1 on, Kennedy's OPS was .697. We had Cristian Guzman batting in the top third of our order for four months. He still can't hit LHPs (.241/.303/.333) and his defense at third base – admittedly, not his natural position – was so bad that even the A's beat writers (who stick up for EVERY player) made one or two passive-aggressive mentions of it late in the season when no one was reading the game reports anymore.
And, the rest…: It took 15 seasons, but Nomar Garciaparra managed to supplant Steve Sax as the worst "former All-Star middle infielder" free agent signee in A's history. 26-year-old 1B Tommy Everidge finally made it to The Show for two dozen games. Tommy Everidge…this guy. Hmmm… Hey, only 100 days remain until A's fans are inundated with "Eric Chavez is in the best shape of his LIFE"