Boston Red Sox

Mike Napoli: Red Sox First Baseman Has a Lot to Prove in 2013

FORT MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Mike Napoli #12 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait on February 17, 2013 at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIFebruary 20, 2013

Last season Mike Napoli posted a .227/.343/.469/.812 batting line with 24 home runs and 56 RBI in just 108 games.

Of those, 71 games came as a catcher and just 26 games came playing first base.

Despite having the best season of his career in 2011 where he posted an impressive 1.046 OPS, Napoli’s numbers braced themselves for impact as they took a nosedive from the stellar altitude of one year prior.

His batting average alone dropped nearly .100 points from .320 to .227.

Additionally, after coming to an agreement to play for the Boston Red Sox for three years and $39 million, the team medical staff learned of a degenerative hip condition called avascular necrosis.

According to The Mayo Clinic, avascular necrosis is the death of bone tissue due to lack of blood supply and can lead to tiny breaks in the bone and the bone’s eventual collapse. It is most common in men between the ages of 30-60.

The Mayo Clinic goes on to describe how most people feel no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, which explains why Mike Napoli told Tom Caron of NESN he never felt any pain in his hips.

The result of Napoli’s hip situation resulted in a restructured deal with the Red Sox. He is currently signed to a one-year deal worth $5 million. However, with incentives he should be able to earn $13 million in 2013.

WEEI.com’s Alex Speier broke down Napoli’s bonus structure for the season:

Active roster bonuses 

$500,000 each for 30, 60, 90, 120 days on the active roster

 

Plate appearance bonuses

$500,000 each for 300, 325, 350, 375 plate appearances

$1 million each for 400, 475, 550, 625 plate appearances

 

Catch-all bonus

If Napoli is active for a minimum of 165 days in 2013, he will get the full $8 million in incentives for a total of $13 million

With his hip condition, down statistics, a new position and trimmed down salary to start the 2013 season, Napoli has a lot to prove this season.

To begin with, the man wants to get paid. The most plate appearances he’s made in his career to date came in 2010 as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where he recorded 510 PA with 453 official at-bats.

What is more concerning is the historically low numbers Napoli has posted when playing first base versus catching regularly. In 125 career games at first, he has posted 475 plate appearances with 414 AB, 63 runs, 99 hits, 19 doubles, 26 home runs with 68 RBI and a .239/.328/.473/.802 batting line.

Is it better than rolling out Mauro Gomez every day?

Probably.

The fact that Napoli can come to Boston, a place where he has historically raked, and play first every day with zero expectations of catching could help to boost those numbers.

While there are plenty of holes and inconsistencies to his game, Red Sox fans should just cling to this fact: in 19 games at Fenway Park Mike Napoli owns a .306/.397/.710/1.107 batting line with seven home runs, 17 RBI and four doubles in just 62 at-bats.

Those are types of numbers you can certainly live with.

 

Christopher Benvie is a MLB Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report as well as a contributing writer for WEEI.com in Boston, Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter here: 

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