Player Profile: Mike Napoli is a veteran of eight MLB seasons beginning with the Angels, followed by Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and now the Boston Red Sox.
Napoli’s contract issues of 2013 are well documented as his original free agent contract with Boston was renegotiated over concerns regarding potential health issues. Napoli’s original three year deal was downgraded to a one year contract at 5M that was incentive loaded. Based on his 2013 performance all incentives were attained and Napoli has now signed a new two year deal for 32M. Reportedly Napoli had more attractive financial offers elsewhere but chose to remain in Boston.
Napoli’s health concerns dissipated as the season progressed as Napoli had no visits to the disabled list despite extensive wear and tear. For his career Napoli has an offensive slash line of .259/.357/.502 while playing both catcher and first base. Napoli is also well know as a positive clubhouse force and that was clearly on display during the past World Championship season.
Examining career hitting spray charts shows that Napoli has power to all fields. Napoli is the type of hitter that makes a pitcher pay for their mistakes – usually by blasting a line drive to the perimeter and beyond it in the ballpark.
2013 And Recent Past: Napoli is 32 years old and his history is one of the long ball. The power game is his calling card and Napoli checked in with 23 home runs and a career high 92 RBI for the 2013 Red Sox. The downside to Napoli’s resume is a propensity to strike out. In 2013 Napoli managed 187, thus acquiring the infamous single season team record previously held by Mark Bellhorn. The upside is that Napoli is a pitch count machine and led all AL hitters with 4.59 pitches per at bat. Napoli was also second, behind David Ortiz, in extra base hits for Boston, thus cementing his extra base hit credentials. Napoli slashed for .259/.360/.482 for 2013, which was essentially his MLB baseline.
Napoli also transitioned to an exclusive role as a first baseman and demonstrated excellent defensive metrics with a UZR of +10. Napoli also displayed the inconsistency with the bat that frustrated so many denizens of RSN. Prolonged slumps with ever increasing strikeout totals and attached left on base figures would be followed by a prodigious home run or crucial XBH – the Detroit Tigers can lend credence to that as well as the Cardinals.
2014 Outlook: Napoli should continue to provide a significant right hand power presence in the Boston lineup. The goal, of course, would be a reduction in strike outs that could and should translate into more power production and a greater OBP. Napoli should continue to provide solid defense and clubhouse leadership as the Red Sox attempt to repeat. Napoli represents a formidable presence in the batters box and is a legitimate right hand power threat who is capable of providing necessary protection for fellow slugger Ortiz. Just possibly, Mr. Napoli may be able to perform another shirtless display and, if that occurs, Napoli’s performance will certainly represent an integral part of team success.