Red Sox Mike Napoli: Should Be Replaced By Brock Holt?


The title of this article is an interesting question, if not suspect. Should Mike Napoli be dropped from the Boston Red Sox lineup entirely, with Brock Holt becoming the full-time first baseman? At least for the rest of the season?

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It is an idea posed in Brian McPherson’s article for, where, at least for now, it could make the most sense. McPherson claims, “In Brock Holt, Boston has an alternative to playing Napoli every day, if an unconventional one. Even more significant, if Holt were to move to first base, he’d free up a spot in the outfield either for Rusney Castillo, optioned to Triple-A on Tuesday, or for Jackie Bradley Jr., who continues to beat down the door for a promotion to Boston.”

McPherson goes on to say, “A lineup that features Bradley and Mookie Betts in the outfield with Holt moving to first base might not just be the lineup that showcases the most potential future contributors. It also might be the lineup that gives the Red Sox the best chance to win now — at least against right-handed pitching. Perhaps Napoli would still play first base against lefties, pushing Bradley to the bench.”

While McPherson’s last statement shows a bit of backpedaling, in case there were any doubters out there, there is something valid in what he proposes.

Before we dive in, let’s be clear: any thoughts of Allen Craig returning to the club will be henceforth regarded as lunacy. Why would you solve a problem in the majors with a player whom has already been sent down for having his own difficulties? Red Sox Nation wants a quicker solution, before the other American League East teams leave the Red Sox farther down in the division basement.

Napoli is 33 years old and at the end of his current contract with the Red Sox. The likelihood of the veteran being a part of Boston’s future is almost zero, leading us to this discussion. In his last seven games, Napoli has hit a slash line of .150/.261/.350, while striking out seven times in 20 at-bats. Brutal stuff. It means that he either makes a bit of contact that may lead to a base hit or his swing sits himself back on the bench, after whiffing on the pitch. Having said that, he does have a home run and three RBIs in that span, but it’s the only thing that’s kept him in the lineup at all. Napoli has not earned a hit, or even a walk, in the last three games while striking out six times.

These numbers explain why Napoli has been moved way down in the batting order to the eighth spot. They also could explain why Napoli has been a quiet topic on the trade wires. Who is going to trade for an aging veteran, who can’t seem to hit, in a contract year?

Jun 21, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox second basemen Brock Holt (26) at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The solution may be what McPherson proposes, as there doesn’t seem to be any big possibility of help coming from outside the club. Holt is having a great season for the Red Sox, arguably being one of the leaders in this time of woe. The bolt of energy has been playing like a starter for most of the season, hitting .306 with a .467 slugging percentage and a .329 on-base percentage. No matter what, Holt is finding a way to contribute, unlike Napoli, which explains why the young man continues to hit in his usual two-spot in the batting order.

If Holt becomes the replacement, then the outfield situation may loosen up, as McPherson suggests. With Castillo being optioned down Pawtucket, it would likely be Bradley’s turn in right field, as center fielder Mookie Betts has recently looked like the future All-Star he has been touted to become, earlier in the season.

Will Holt at first base be a permanent decision, if the strategy pays off? That’s hard to say. If designated hitter David Ortiz hangs around for another couple of seasons, according to the options in his contract up to 2017, then the idea that any big-name player coming to Boston could be more difficult. If the player is strictly a first baseman, he might not play when the Red Sox travel to National League ballparks in the regular or post seasons. Some big players don’t like the sound of that idea. Holt’s skill set may be underutilized at first base, but until someone from the Red Sox farm system steps up for utility play in the infield, Holt looks like the best, and most realistic, option.

McPherson reported manager John Farrell saying, “‘I’m not here to say that Nap will be out of the lineup going forward,’ though he declined to say specifically that his first baseman would be back in the lineup Thursday.” Makes sense. Why declare anything at this point? Right now, the Red Sox are experimenting with solutions. There’s no need to put anything into stone, just yet. However, the word ‘yet’ should be stressed pretty heavily.

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