If the Angels and Blue Jays knew he would have a .320 batting average with 30 homers and 75 RBI in 2011, they would not have traded him during the previous offseason within one week of each other.
If fantasy baseball players saw him hitting .227 among all of his stats dropping off last year, they would not have been drafting him as a top-five catcher.
Now he’s with the Red Sox and between catcher, first base, and DH, he should play just about every day.
So, what to expect? Consider the following.
Napoli has power, no doubt, and he will get enough at-bats to hit 30 homers again this year. He has hit at least 20 homers in five straight years and played more than 115 games in only one of those seasons. Napoli should play at least 130 games this year and likely more if Jarrod Saltalamacchia is traded to open up more room behind the plate.
His RBI total will likely continue to hover around 60 or 70 as teams have rarely felt comfortable moving him up from the bottom third of the order and even if Boston does that, the offense around him will make it tough to drive in much more than 80 runs. However, he will play enough to boost the 56 runs he drove in this year.
Fenway Park looks like a comfortable fit for Napoli, who has hit .306 with seven homers in 73 at-bats in his career in Boston. His .710 slugging percentage is the best of any active player at Fenway.
Those are encouraging numbers, but beware of the small sample size. That’s barely more than a month of home games andNapolihas not show the consistency in his career to keep that up.
The Red Sox are filled up at catcher with Saltalamacchia as the incumbent and Ryan Lavarnway and David Ross as his back-ups. If Saltalamacchia is dealt, Napoli is easily better than the other options, but if Salty stays, then Napoli does not have as clear of a route to playing time.
Boston needs a first baseman so Napoli would fit there, but there is talk of Boston still seeking a better option at first, so it is possible the final roster could limit Napoli’s playing time. Boston didn’t pay him $13 million per year to sit, but just how he fits into the line-up will not be known until the Red Sox are done dealing.
He hasn’t played more than 35 games at first base in either of the past two years, so there are questions if he is good enough defensively for Boston to play him there every day. Also, will playing first base every day detract from his offense?
Of course, even if he plays every day, power is the only sure thing you will get from Napoli. He has hit .272 or better in three seasons and .247 or worse in the other four, so you are guessing at what kind of average he will bring to Boston.
His .320 season in 2011 came with just 85 strikeouts, but he has at least 103 in three of the last four seasons so it is hard to imagine him getting anywhere near that career-high average once again.
Napoli will certainly have fantasy value this year. Reliable catchers are hard to find, and his power alone makes him reliable and he has upside to be much more than that.
His past success at Fenway gives good reason to think he should bounce back from a rough 2012 season.
He is a top-10 catcher and has the ability to be as valuable as any catcher beyond Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, and Joe Mauer next year. You won’t have to take him as early in drafts this year and will certainly get an improvement on last season.
Mims’ Early Projection Range for Mike Napoli
|Best Case Scenario||500||155||85||34||86||5||.310|
|Worst Case Scenario||385||90||64||19||52||1||.234|