By Sean McAdam
It's that time of year, class: time for the end-of-season grades for the 2010 season.
In some cases, a slight grading curve was used, especially when it came to young players, of whom little was expected.
Without further ado....
Victor Martinez: B
Martinez's first month was a disaster -- at the plate (four RBI) but mostly behind it, as teams ran at will. To his credit, Martinez worked hard to improve his throwing and by midseason he was at least league average. He positively crushed left-handed pitching (.742 slugging) and, after a five-week absence following a broken thumb, played every game remaining until the final weekend. After Kevin Youkilis went down, Martinez was often the team's best offensive player.
Jason Varitek: C-
In some ways, Varitek's season was the exact opposite of Martinez. He began well, showed surprising power in the early going and for a time, it looked like he might earn more playing time. A broken foot interrupted his season and when he returned, he didn't look nearly as comfortable as a catcher or hitter.
Kevin Cash: D
Cash was the team's emergency answer when both Martinez and Varitek went down with injuries within days of one another. Cash proved he's still a solid catch-and-throw receiver, but the fact that he didn't get his first RBI with the Sox until the second-to-last-day of the season speaks volumes about his offensive dip.
Kevin Youkilis: A-
After the Sox were hit by a litany of injuries, they seemed to improbably hang in the race. But when Youkilis went down for good with a season-ending thumb injury, the Sox were effectively finished. Youkilis again displayed superb defense at first and flirted with a 1.000 OPS. The argument can certainly be made that he's the team's best position player.
David Ortiz: B
For the second season in a row, Ortiz managed to resurrect his season after a painfully slow start. Unlike 2009, this time, the nosedive lasted only the first month. Ortiz can still be a force at the plate, as evidence by his run production and his first 30-homer season since 2007. But his difficulties against left-handed pitching (.599 OPS) is troubling. He could benefit from a platoon next season -- assuming he returns.
Dustin Pedroia: A-
If the loss of Youkilis represented the end of the Red Sox' playoff chances, then Pedroia's broken foot on the final weekend of June stands as the beginning of the end. When Pedroia went down, the Sox not only lost standout defense at second and top-of-the-order scrapiness, but also, their swagger. Anyone who believes intangibles are overrated hasn't spent much around Pedroia, who infuses his team with energy and confidence.
Jed Lowrie: B
Just when it seemed like this was going to be nearly a lost season for Lowrie, who missed most of the first four months recovering from mono, he re-introduced himself to the Sox as a versatile infielder with pop in his bat. Granted, it was a relatively small sample size, but would it surprise you to learn that he finished with the fourth-best slugging percentage (.526) on the team? If he can stay on the field -- a big if -- he could be in the running for two starting jobs (shortstop and third base) next spring.
Marco Scutaro: C
He wasn't the overpriced disasters that were Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo -- the two free agents who preceded him through the revolving shortstop door -- but wasn't anything special, either. He was solid in the field, but showed disappointing range. At the plate, he filled in OK as a leadoff hitter in Jacoby Ellsbury's spot, but didn't deliver the extra-base dimension that some had hoped for. He gets credit, though, for playing through neck and shoulder woes.
Mike Lowell: D
The final weekend ceremony was fitting tribute for a classy pro, but his final season was largely forgettable. He didn't have a spot, and couldn't get himself healthy or traded. The August homer he hit straight off the DL was a season highlight, but there was little else memorable.
Adrian Beltre: A
Both the Sox and Beltre gambled on a one-year deal and both won. Beltre resurrected his value and the Sox obtained a fantastic middle-of-the-order presence and good -- though perhaps not as great as advertised -- defense. He was unquestionably the team's MVP and had the Sox qualified for the playoffs, might have even had a case for A.L. MVP. It's quite likely his stay in Boston was one-and-done, but that doesn't detract from how he played, or, just as significantly, how hard he played.
Mike Cameron: C-
Right from the start, Cameron's defense was somewhat suspect. He seemed to break poorly on balls hit to center and bore little resemblance to his Gold Glove past. If it turns out that his troubles were related to the abdominal tear that dates back to spring training, the Sox will be relieved. If it merely signaled a real downturn in his play, they're stuck with an overpriced season in 2011. Either way, it may be that he played through more pain than any Red Sox player since Andre Dawson.
Bill Hall: C
Like Cameron, Hall was a gamer, willing to play all over the infield and both corner outfield spots. He added power off the bench, but was streaky at the plate and inconsistent with his outfield defense.
J.D. Drew: C-
In many ways, Drew was the biggest disappointment among regular position players. His OBP slipped and he was horrendous against lefties (.208 batting average). His outfield play was solid, but even there, not what it once was. A late power surge gave him his fifth 20-homer season, but there was something missing.
Ryan Kalish: B
Out of need, Kalish arrived in the big leagues far sooner than he or the organization expected. From July 31 on, he played pretty regularly, showing good baseball instincts in the outfield and on the bases. He slumped at times at the plate, as might be expected for someone who began the season at Double A. If he's not a regular next season, it will be because the Sox obtained a regular outfielder in the offseason. Either way, his time is coming.
Daniel Nava: C-
Who could have predicted that when Nava hit a grand slam with his first swing in the big leagues, it would be his only homer of the season? Limited as an outfielder and tentative at the plate, he got exposed the more he played. He could probably be a fourth outfielder elsewhere, but shouldn't be one here. Still, his arrival -- from independent league obscurity, relatively late in his career -- was a nice story.
Darnell McDonald: B-
Like Nava, he bounced around interminably. Unlike Nava, he showed he had staying power with athleticism in outfield and on the basepaths. If the Sox want Kalish to get more experience at Triple-A, McDonald might again have a roster spot as a reserve next year.
Jeremy Hermida: D-
Early on, when Hermida was contributing off the bench and showing a knack for two-out hits, it appeared as though the Sox had struck it big in picking up Hermida from the Marlins. In time, this proved a mirage. And his defense was, in a word, abysmal.
INCOMPLETE: Jacoby Ellsbury, Felipe Lopez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Yamaico Navarro, Lars Anderson, Eric Patterson, Gutavo Molina, Josh Reddick, Angel Sanchez, Niuman Rivera, Dusty Brown, Jonathan Van Every, Ryan Shealy
Jon Lester: A-
Another fine season for the lefty, who missed out on an a straight 'A' because of another poor April, then missed out on his first 20-win season in his final start of the year. Other than David Price, is there another lefty in baseball you'd even think about take over Lester?
Clay Buchholz: A
The Red Sox' patience was finally rewarded with this breakout year from Buchholz, putting an end to questions about whether he was truly capable of being a front-line starter. He was incredibly dominant at times with 20 starts in which he allowed two runs or fewer.
Josh Beckett: F
After a good start on Opening Night, it was all downhill for Beckett. Everything negative that could happen, from injury to ineffectiveness, did. The Sox have to hope that this was an aberration; otherwise that contract extension handed out in spring is going to become a giant albatross for the franchise for years to come.
John Lackey: C-
He wasn't a disaster, but he wasn't nearly as good as people assumed he was going to be. Some in the organization believe his inconsistency was due to adjusting to life in the AL East and his trouble with lefties, who had an OPS of .802 against him. Either way, he'd be wise to ditch the rationalizations and the body language toward his fielders.
Daisuke Matsuzaka: C-
His record could have been better, but then, that's what you get when you take forever on the mound and seldom pitched into the seventh inning. It seems obvious now that Matsuzaka peaked in his second season here, one more reason for the Sox to seriously explore dealing him off this winter.
Tim Wakefield: D
Like Lowell, Wakefield never truly found a role with the team once Matsuzaka returned from the DL in early May and Buchholz established himself. He was unhappy as the long man in the bullpen and even his second-half spot starts didn't go particularly well. It's a shame that it's ending this way for him.
Hideki Okajima: D
Examine the numbers closely and it's evident that he's been in decline since his first season in Boston. He pitched better in September, displaying his trademark command, but he's almost certain to be a non-tender since the Sox have no interest whatsoever in paying him the 5 million or so he'll get in arbitration.
Daniel Bard: A
True, he blew seven saves -- most earlier than the ninth inning -- but he was by far the team's more dominant and durable reliever, averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Everyone assumes he's the closer-in-waiting, but until that time arrives, the Sox are lucky to have such a powerful weapon in the set-up role.
Manny Delcarmen: C-
It never worked out for Delcarmen in Boston, which is sometimes the way it goes with local guys. For a stretch in mid-April through mid-May, he was almost unhittable, but that didn't last. He couldn't seem to maintain the same delivery and release point and got himself traded to Colorado late in the year where, sadly, things didn't get any better.
Ramon Ramirez: D
In retrospect, we can now see his first half-season with the Sox in early 2009 was the exception to the rule. Another reliever whose stuff suggests the results should be a lot better than they are, he, too, was jettisoned to the National League. That they moved him on July 31, at the exact time when the Sox were desperately searching for bullpen upgrades showed just how out of favor he had fallen.
Felix Doubront: B
It's too much of a stretch to suggest that things could have been different for the Sox had not this rookie gone down with injury in the first few days of September. But it sure would have been more interesting with Doubront available for the late innings in the final month. Who knows how he'll be used in 2011, but there was plenty to like about him in his introduction to the big leagues -- both as a starter and a reliever.
Scott Atchison: B-
It probably says more about the Red Sox than it does about Atchison that this non-roster invitee journeyman was, by the the end of the year, the team's second-most trusted set-up man. Credit Atchison for making the most of the opportunity -- even if he did show a distrubing propensity for giving up homers at the worst possible time.
Jonathan Papelbon: C-
It's easy to forget that Papelbon saved 37 games. What you remember, of course, are the ones he blew, since they were all pretty demoralizing and particularly ill-timed. His career arc is, after two straight down years, trending the wrong way. In what will almost certainly his final year with the Sox, will be be able to reverse that trend? No bigger offseason question exists.
INCOMPLETE: Matt Fox, Rich Hill, Robert Manuel, Robert Cuello, Dustin Richardson, Michael Bowden, Scott Schoeneweis, Joe Nelson, Boof Bonser, Fernando Cabrera.
Terry Francona: A-
By the manager's own admission, he could have done some things differently in April when the team was skidding. But he kept them in competition in the face of the Great Injury Plague of '10, and for that, he deserves eternal respect and praise.
Theo Epstein: C
Some offseason moves (Beltre) worked; too many (Cameron, Lackey, Herminda) didn't -- at least in the first year of some multiyear deals. And the Beckett extension is looking mighty suspect. He was probably correct not to mortgage the future for bullpen help that wouldn't have saved the season, but it just didn't look good to lose out on Kerry Wood to the Yankees simply because of money. The Sox' GM has had a number of terrific seasons -- this wasn't one of them.