Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Grading Area's Major Leaguers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Grading Area's Major Leaguers

Article excerpt

Byline: SCOTT KENDRICK

With the Major League Baseball season almost at its midpoint, we check in on former baseball stars from the First Coast and give them grades for 2009.

GRADE A

DARREN O'DAY

Texas Rangers, RHP

Bishop Kenny High School

Texas fans are reveling in their undiscovered gem, the sidearmer from BK and UF. The Mets claimed him in the Rule 5 draft in December, then designated him for assignment in April, and the Rangers claimed him. Since then, he's been one of the best set-up relievers in the AL, going 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in 25 appearances entering Saturday.

JONATHAN PAPELBON

Boston Red Sox, RHP

Bishop Kenny High School

In his fourth season as the closer for Boston, he's having a typical Jonathan Papelbon season, saving 17 games in 18 opportunities entering Saturday, with a 1.97 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 32 innings for the first-place Red Sox.

CHIPPER JONES

Atlanta Braves, 3B

The Bolles School

After a hot start, the 17-year veteran has cooled a bit, but is still hitting .295 with eight homers entering Saturday. At 37, he probably only has a few years left, but with 416 homers, 2,341 hits and a .310 average, he still has an outside shot at becoming the third player in big-league history with 500 homers, 3,000 hits and a .300 career average.

GRADE B

ADAM WAINWRIGHT

St. Louis Cardinals, RHP

Glynn Academy, Brunswick, Ga.

The 6-foot-7 right-hander missed most of last season with a finger injury, but has bounced back to become the St. Louis ace, winning a team-high eight games with a 3.51 ERA, 19th in the National League as of Saturday. He's struck out 89 in 105 innings.

BILLY BUTLER

Kansas City Royals, DH-1B

Wolfson High School

Royals fans are still waiting for that huge breakthrough. Butler shot through the minors after being selected in the first round in 2004, but hasn't quite found a consistent power stroke in the majors. Entering Saturday, Butler is hitting .283 with seven homers in 258 at-bats as Kansas City's primary designated hitter.

GRADE C

MAT GAMEL, Milwaukee Brewers, 3B

Bishop Kenny High School

With starter Bill Hall struggling, Gamel was called up from the minors and has shown flashes of potential while platooning at third base, hitting .244 with two homers and 12 RBI in 86 at-bats entering Saturday in his first extended stay in the majors. Milwaukee GM Bob Melvin recently called him off-limits in trade talks.

DANIEL MURPHY, New York Mets, LF

Englewood High School

The rookie, who played college ball at Jacksonville University, entered the pressure cooker as the Mets' starting right fielder, and is trying to hang on to the job at age 24. He's hitting .251 with five homers entering Saturday's game against the Yankees, and has raised his average 13 points in two weeks.

BRETT MYERS, Philadelphia Phillies, RHP

Englewood High School

Myers was solid down the stretch last season and earned a championship ring with the Phillies last season, but his 2009 season hasn't gone as well. He underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his right hip last month and his season is probably over. He went 4-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 10 starts.

GRADE D

BRIAN BUSCHER, Minnesota Twins, 3B

Parker High School

Buscher had a solid rookie season in 2008, hitting .294 with 47 RBI in just 218 at-bats. But in his first full season in the big leagues, Buscher is struggling with a .205 average entering Saturday and just 9 RBI in 88 at-bats, splitting time with former White Sox third baseman Joe Crede.

RYAN FREEL, Chicago Cubs, Utility

Englewood High School

Freel can't escape the utility role, and he's running out of time. At 33, Freel is with his third team in the past six months, going from Cincinnati to Baltimore and then to the Chicago Cubs in a trade last month. …

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