At this time a year ago fantasy owners were drooling to get their hands on Mike Napoli. It made sense, coming off a season where he had hit .320 with 30 HR for the Texas Rangers. Of course, those people who pushed him among the Top 2 or 3 catchers ignored two important facts:
1) His BABIP was an inflated .344
2) His strikeout rate was an uncharacteristic 19.7% (his career rate is north of 25%)
Now, coming off a year where he disappointed significantly in the average department (.227) and had his spring delayed due to a hip issue, where should we be valuing him?
There is no question that Napoli can hit for power. He still delivered 24 HR in 2012 and now moves to Fenway Park, where he should continue to supply ample home run totals.
He also will likely ht in the middle of a revamped lineup, meaning Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury will be helping to set the table for him. In other words, while he may not score a ton of runs, RBI opportunities should be there. It looks even better when you take into account that he will likely see the bulk of his playing time at 1B and DH, as opposed to enduring the wear and tear of catching.
The real question is can he provide a good enough average? Are we looking at a .230 hitter or are we looking at a .250-.260 bat?
While we don’t believe his 2011 strikeout rate, his 2012 mark (30.0%) is just as excessive. An improvement there will help better his average.
His BABIP, which sat at .273 last season, should also be better give his 19.2% line drive rate. Is it going to be back to his 2011 mark? Not likely, but he could easily be around .290-.300.
As long as he stays healthy the underlying numbers indicate that he could easily be a .255+ hitter. Couple that with his power and his catcher eligibility and there is a lot to like (especially since he should get more playing time than a lot of catchers). Don’t reach for him or draft hm as a Top 5 catcher, but if he slips on draft day I wouldn’t hesitate to grab him (as long as you have an insurance policy stashed away).
What are your thoughts of Napoli? Is he a player you think is worth targeting? Why or why not?
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