Mike Napoli and the Red Sox
On his major league debut in 2006 Mike Napoli hit his first major league home run off Justin Verlander. Since then the slugging catcher has hit double digit home runs in every season, hitting more than 20 bombs in each of his last 5.
In his first year with Texas in 2011 he hit 30 home runs with an impressive .320 batting average, he regressed somewhat in 2012 hitting just .227 on the season but still slugged 24 home runs. Those 2012 numbers are very similar to those of Jarrod Saltalamacchia who hit .222 with 25 homers.
Napoli clearly has a more impressive body of work behind him and you wouldn’t be crazy to think there is regression in Saltalamacchia’s future, which is why signing Napoli makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox. When you factor in his ability to also play some first base to allow a platoon with the newly acquired David Ross or to DH to give Ortiz a night off, it starts to fit into place nicely.
Napoli has always been a lefty masher until last year where he hit just .179 against them but it could just amount to some bad luck as his BABIP was also a lowly .185. His career BABIP against lefties is .314 and while BABIP doesn’t tell you everything about Napoli’s 2012 campaign it does provide some comfort that 2013 will probably show some statistical improvement.
Among those lobbying Ben Cherington to sign Napoli might be the Boston pitching staff. In 41 plate appearances since 2010 Napoli has hit .329 against them, slugging 11 home runs in total with 6 of them coming at Fenway Park.
Napoli will likely be coveted by a few teams this offseason and so his price might be a little higher than you’d expect for a player coming off a down year, however his flexibility and previous track record would suggest he could be good signing for the Red Sox.