Armed with a powerful bat but a deficient glove, Mike Napoli heads into the 2010 season hoping to finally break free from his platoon with Jeff Mathis.
2009 Stats: 382 AB, .272 AVG, 60 R, 20 HR, 56 RBI, 3 SB, .842 OPS
2010 Bill James Projections: 395 AB, .266 AVG, 68 R, 24 HR, 69 RBI, 5 SB, .867 OPS
2010 Chone Projections: 340 AB, .259 AVG, 54 R, 19 HR, 54 RBI, 4 SB, .833 OPS
2010 Marcel Projections: 383 AB, .266 AVG, 61 R, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 7 SB, .846 OPS
2010 ZiPS Projections: 334 AB, .260 AVG, 54 R, 19 HR, 53 RBI, 3 SB, .840 OPS
2010 Monkey Projections*: 400 AB, .270 AVG, 50 R, 24 HR, 65 RBI, 2 SB, .880 OPS
*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.com except the Monkey Projections which are strictly based on my own knowledge, logic and intuition.
2009 Review: Mike Napoli still hit over .270 and clubbed and 20 homers for the second consecutive year, but for all intents and purposes, 2009 was a step backwards for Mike Napoli. Naps essentially replicated his breakout 2008 campaign, but needed an additional 155 at-bats in order to do so. Of more concern though wasn’t his drop in production (which ended up still being pretty good) was how badly his defense slipped. Health played a role in Napoli’s defensive demise, but by the end of the year, Napoli’s defense became such a liability that he was playing less than Jeff Mathis.
3 Questions for 2010:
- Will his defense ever be good enough? No matter how much power Mike displays at the plate, he will always be held back by his defensive limitations. Seeing how he has yet to throw out a baserunner this spring training, defense is going to be a challenge for him again this year although he has lost some weight which should help his mobility behind the dish. Scioscia has been working hard with him all spring but will it be enough for him to be ready to go by the start of the season?
- Can Napoli finally establish himself as superior to Jeff Mathis? Pretty much everyone thinks that Mike Napoli should be the primary catcher… everyone except Mike Scioscia who insists on platooning him with his polar opposite, Jeff Mathis. Sosh is a stickler for defense, especially from his catchers, and isn’t going to relent on his decision to platoon his backstops until Napoli gains his trust. Napoli clearly knows this, but knowing and doing are two very different things.
- Is plate discipline going to become a problem for Napoli? Naps has always been a big strikeout guy, but he didn’t walk as much as often last year and given his extreme streakiness, a lack of patience can become a trouble spot for Napoli. I think that Mike Scioscia is willing to stomach one guy like that in the line-up, but now that Brandon Wood is expected to be a regular as well and has a similar hitter’s profile, Sosh might lose patience with both of them if they continue striking out at high rates and failing to get on base consistently.
2010 Preview: As of right now, Napoli still appears to be a defensive disaster with the start of the season just around the corner, but you can see just how much emphasis he is putting on that half of his game and I believe that it will pay off for Naps sooner rather than later. For that reason, I am betting that Napoli finally convinces Scioscia to give him the lion’s share of starts at catcher. It will also help that Jeff Mathis is probably going to be terrible with the bat again. Since Napoli is still prone to long slumps, Mathis will get a decent amount of action, but at the end of the season Napoli will be setting a new career-high in at-bats and his power numbers will garner him some moderate consideration for the AL All-Star team.