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Mike Napoli is a 31-year-old man with a degenerative hip condition. There is no chance that he is playing catcher in a Red Sox uniform. I don’t care what he does when he most likely leaves town at the end of the year, but as long as he’s wearing a red ‘B’ on his cap he is not playing catcher. It would be an absolutely ridiculous move. Napoli can play first and only first. That’s what he’s expecting to play and that’s the only position (besides DH) that I feel comfortable seeing in.
So the Red Sox shouldn’t do anything crazy like start trading catchers, either. In my opinion, Napoli is no longer a catcher and he’ll never be one again if teams are smart. Napoli is not the future of the position here in Boston. Any team would be foolish to have him catch. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him playing such a tough position day in and day out. His hip issue isn’t serious now, but it’ll catch up to him eventually. I do feel like he’ll be a great presence at first, but a huge disaster is he catches. I also really feel that the Sox are pretty solid at the position right now.
Salty’s 2012 wasn’t horrible, I think he’s a fine full-time catcher and I think he’s only going to get better with age. He’s no Gary Carter (even though he apparently goes to his barber) but he’s just starting to play catcher full-time and as far as I’m conserved he’s coming along nicely. Right now, he’s the guy I want behind the plate. Is he a place holder for when Lavarnway is ready? Maybe, he’s only locked in for this upcoming year. But the Sox should certainly stick with him.
I mean look at what he was able to do in 2012. He was a borderline AL all-star last year, (over shadowed by Napoli, ironically) and was in the top four in slugging for catchers and led the team in homers. His average stinks, but a little pop in a squatter’s bat goes a long way in today’s game. He’s much more than a place holder and he’s much more than trade bait. He’s certainly someone the Red Sox should invest a few more seasons in and not just trade away or let go to next year’s free agent pool. If Lavarnway is as good as the Sox say he is, that’s great, but we’ll most likely not find that out for sure for another year, year and a half tops.
Catchers are a lot tougher to scout than the rest of the players on the field. Great catchers, that can give you plenty of at-bats at the position, are hard to come by. I’m talking about backstops who can play a lot of games behind the plate and not need a ton of games at first too or get hurt a lot. So when judging a catcher I really look at things beyond batting average and traditional stats. Obviously those are important, but I’m just saying that you have to take a different approach with the position.
Take games played, for example. That gives me a glimpse into a catcher’s durability, which is a very, very important trait in a backstop. Obviously, durability is a trait that’s important in every position, but catchers show up to work a little more banged up than the rest. And you certainly want a guy who’s up to the task of playing in that condition. Salty will be able to do it. He did it 121 times and I’m predicting at least 130 for ’13. I really doubt Napoli will be able to put up with the grind for very long, if he were to catch. So for the time being, Salty is the man who’s crotch every Sox pitcher will be staring at over the summer.
Napoli has the same hip problem that ended Bo Jackson’s career. Leave it to the Sox to sign a guy whose hips are rotting away while we speak. So, what’s next? The Sox sign a relief pitcher with mesothelioma? Now, even though I feel that Napoli should never catch again that doesn’t mean I don’t think that he shouldn’t (or can’t) play. He’ll certainly play and (if he doesn’t slip in the shower) he’ll take full advantage of a particular set of overpriced seats in left field.
That guy had some righteous pop last year, 24 homers in only 108 games. I’ll take Mike Napoli swinging for the monster, 80 year-old pit bull hips or not, any day. The man is going to clear the wall a few times in 2013. I’m predicting a 30 homerun, 40 double, 90 RBI season. Back in 2011 he had numbers similar to my projection, with 30 jacks, 75 RBI and a stellar .320 BA. He certainly has the potential to do and keeping him away from catching might be the best thing for this guy’s career. It’ll be less stressful on him and he’ll be less beat up at the end of each game. Napoli is going to be Fenway’s next fan favorite. His contract is for only one year, but it’s with a ton of performance bonuses. He has the extra incentive to pull a year like he had in 2011 off. It’s never a bad thing to have a player motivated to produce. Let’s just hope the rest of the team follows suit.