After an arduous and protracted offseason contract negotiation resulting in a one-year, $9 million deal with Boston Mike Napoli was ready to show the Red Sox and the people of Boston what they got for their money. Napoli, even if he hasn’t traditionally hit for average, has hit 20+ plus homers for five years in a row. In securing his services Boston hoped to get the guy to complement David Ortiz. A guy who would get his homers and drive in much-needed runs from the middle of the Red Sox order. So far, what’s not to like.
Napoli is leading the majors with 25 runs batted in and is currently hitting nine points above his career average. While his batting average of .268 is satisfactory, it’s what Napoli is doing with men on base that is giving the Sox such a lift. He’s hitting .320 with runners on base, .357 with runners in scoring position. In short, Napoli is Boston’s early season Captain Clutch.
While he continues his not entirely unexpected bashing ways at the plate, the bonus Boston is getting is in the field. There were doubts after his acquisition that Napoli could be Boston’s every day first baseman and that even if he filled the role he would be solid defensively.
Once he knew catching would essentially be off the table due to both the hip injury discovered during his physical and the acquisition of former Braves backup catcher David Ross, he worked hard during spring training to focus on first base. Manager John Farrell noted that he was impressed early on with Napoli’s work ethic and footwork around the bag. Napoli’s professionalism and hard work are paying off.
To date, Napoli’s fielding percentage is a snappy 1.000. He has dug a number of errant throws out of the dirt and athletically leaped to get balls wide and high while applying sweep tags to get the runners. Napoli’s solid start has been a big part of Boston’s early success. When you consider that Jonny Gomes, Will Middlebrooks, David Ross, Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all batting less than .200 (some way less than .200) his contributions are further amplified.
Now, about that one year deal…