POTD Mike Napoli, 2014-16
Overrated and Underrated, Dept.


For those who are squeamish about Nelson Cruz' WAR ... or Curtis Granderson's K's and defense ... or Shin-Soo Choo's lefthandedness ... Mike Napoli offers a different kind of squeem.

Napoli gives you, basically, what Curtis Granderson does in the batter's box -- .250 with 180 PX (power index).  Except he does it from the right side.  

True, he doesn't play in the middle of the field, but on the other hand he is much more solid at the plate.  He averages 73 walks per 162 games, and the solidness goes far, far beyond simple BB rate.  Here is the start of our 5-part series from last winter.  We waxed ecstatic about Napoli's very aiki approach to thumping a baseball, and Mikey backed us up with a big season in Fenway.  (No, he didn't benefit from the park; his stats were better on the road than at home.)


Here, let's chart out the deltas between the two free agents, just for yuks.  We'll use Dr. D's opinion as to their Established Levels of Performance (ELP's):

  Granderson, CF Napoli, 1B
AVG .250 .260
OBP .330 .360
SLG .480 .480
OPS+ 115 125
RC/27 5.5 6.2
Runs/162 100 85
RBI/162 80 90
Defense Q'able CF Okay 1B
WAR 3.5 3.5
Salary $16M x 3-4 years? $14M x 2-3 years?


As 80% of yer know, Napoli was diagnosed with Zombie Necromantric Hip Destruction and his contract was amputated from 3 x $13M to 1 x $5M plus incentives.  2013 turned out to be a "prove it" year and Mikey --- > proved it.  No more catching for him, though.


The M's blog-o-sphere considers LHP's the "kryptonite" against the M's ... um, otherwise Superman-like performance, I guess.

Against left hand starters in 2013, Mikey hit .278/.375/.551.  His career splits vs LHP's aren't much different, and he hits RHP's well also.

Mikey's batting line vs LHP's match up quite nicely to Giancarlo Stanton's, thank you.  (.276/.370/.581).  Or to Edgar Martinez', for that matter:  .322 AVG with .539 SLG.  (The on-base column is removed because it could be incriminating to the author's case.)

Point is, if you're looking for heavy bruising about Derek Holland's head and shoulders, you're not really going to be asking for more than Napoli is offering.  What do you want, BETTER than a .550 SLG with a near-.400 OBP?


At this point you are probably scratching your head.  If Napoli's so good, why is he so overlooked?   I mean, other than the beard-and-trenchcoat disguise that he favors in the batter's box?

He's underrated because all of us, especially including the avant-garde sabermetricians, are closet HR and RBI subscribers.  Napoli hits 32 homers per 162 games, career, but he has only exceeded 70% of a season on two occasions.  So the RBI column contains a bunch of 68's.  That, friends, IS why he is underrated.  

It's a little trick Bill James taught us in the 1980's:  if you want underrated players, look for authentically excellent players who have played a bunch of partial seasons.  It works better now than it did then.

A lot of those missed games have been because of the catcher's gear.  The Red Sox doused those with lighter fluid and touched a match to them.  Something vaguely similar occurred with respect to Edgar's third baseman glove...


Vis-a-vis  Nelson Cruz, what's the delta here?  Just everything better on Mikey's side of the ledger, you would think?  Provided you've got nothing against zombies.

I shoulda split that paragraph out into another billable URL.  :: sigh ::  Robinson Cano is getting into my head.


Jason Churchill says the M's are in the fray on Napoli.  True, he has already proved that Seattle is not his preferred destination.  And the latest speculation is that if the market stays soft, he may pick somebody like the Marlins as a consolation for NOT getting years and money.

For the M's to land him, we presume that they would need to be the ones stepping up to the 3rd year.

My own contribution to the discussion?  This man's game is aiki-gorgeous.  Dr. D has more confidence in him, rather than less.  If you're rooting for a RH thumper to back up our Four Aces over the next few years, this option may be underrated.  But then, Mike Napoli has always been an underrated player.  


Dr D



blissedj's picture

1B/DH, Napoli. CF, Granderson. How much money is left after signing the two of them, 30M or so? Who else are we adding Doc?

M's Watcher's picture

Our outfield remains weak sauce and we're talking about adding a third 2B (Cano) and/or a RH DH/1B type. Uggh. On Napoli, yeah he is a solid RH MOTO bat, but getting him rules out Morales' return and probably Hart, unless he miraculously can play OF again. Of those three, pick one, and add a solid OF bat or two.

misterjonez's picture

Both will likely be available for short-ish contracts, and they would address our biggest weaknesses quite nicely.
Granderson provides a reasonable-if-not-quite-stellar CF option (his UZR/150 is actually pretty amazing from last year's limited sample, both at RF and CF) as well as a MOTO bat to replace Raul's production fairly nicely.
Napoli replaces Kendrys, both in the box and on the field for what limited time he'll play there, and provides balance righty vs. lefty.
Great, great idea. Not *quite* Sexon+Beltre, but it's a fine start. They're both linked to draft pick compensation, right? If so...that stings. But if you wanna make an omelet, ya gotta break some eggs.


Napoli would be a heck of an upgrade over Smoak at 1B. That would still leave a slot at DH for Morales or Ibanez. But yeah - doesn't solve the OF problem.

blissedj's picture

If we forfeit a draft pick, so be it. I'd rather have a few years of near certain Granderson and Napoli production NOW in exchange for a 20% chance of Granderson or Napoli production 3+++ years in the future from the draft pick(s). We manage to find good players in later rounds, maybe pick up an extra international guy that year if you can trade for more signing money.


Napoli is a choice over Morales, not along with. I have no problem with that choice. But it's an either or.
Goodness know that I've beat up on Smoak, but in '13 Napoli was .248-.353-.464 vR. He was .250-.365-.496 in '12. Smoak was .260-.361-.477 last year. I suppose you could easily keep Smoak as a bench bat, but we saw the result of too many DH/1B types last year.
Napoli does rip lefties nicely, but you're not going to pay him to platoon.
Get Granderson, get your slugging DH (Butler/Morales/Napoli) or play with the Dodgers and get Ethier. Then go out and pay the bargain $ for Jeff Baker (in 827 PA's vL he's .298-.353-.522/last year he started at LF, RF, 2B, 3B, 1B and DH), or Mark Reynolds (career .834 OPS vL) .
We could see Guti come back, in a 4th OF/vL role.
If you get Granderson, an OF of him, Saunders (in CF) Guti and Almonte wouldn't be terrible. Barring two OF pickups, it wouldn't surprise me if we had an OF of Granderson (or whoever), Saunders, Ackley (if we have him and he's not playing 2B) and Romero.
But I can not see us adding two 1B/DH types to multi-year contracts. No way.


The primary lesson to be learned from the Morse disaster of 2013: don't count on injury-prone guys to be "full-time players". Napoli's injury history is scarier than Morse's, actually: recurring shoulder issues, recurring hamstring tweaks, and now a degenerative hip condition. He's cracked 500 PA twice in his career, and one of those was 510. The other was last year, which... I wouldn't bet on him repeating.
Mike Napoli is a lovely player to have, and I'd be happy for the Mariners to get him (as long as there were contract clauses to account for his hips), but I wouldn't go counting on him to fill up one of the 1B/DH slots. If they're gonna get Napoli, they'd better have someone else who can hit so that they don't have a gaping hole at DH the instant Napoli tweaks his shoulder.

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