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Mike Napoli may be struggling for the last few months, but there is still a chance the Boston Red Sox’s first baseman could fight his way out of this slump since early in the season. Napoli has been the second-best run producer on this team with 15 home runs and is tied for second with 69 RBI. However, it seems that during the summer months he has cooled off quite substantially.
The 31-year-old hit .269 with four homers and 27 RBI in the month of April before really cooling off with a .252 average in May with another four home runs and 13 RBI. In July his offensive numbers really declined with a .243 average and 37 strikeouts in 83 at-bats. He did hit five homers, but most people could tell he was struggling to see the ball.
August has come around and it has been by far the worst month for Napoli in a Red Sox uniform. He is hitting a mere .143 with 18 strikeouts in 42 at-bats.
The lone homer for Napoli came in the ninth inning of Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays to tie the game 3-3 with two outs in the inning. This one hit is the main reason that the Red Sox should keep Napoli at first until the rosters expand on September 1.
Having a tight-handed batter who can slug the ball is tough to find and Napoli has proven year after year that he can hit the ball for power. His numbers may be down this season, but numbers always seem to even out throughout the baseball season. If the Red Sox bench him, then he may get cold down the stretch and they need his bat in the postseason if they hope to win anything at all.
The only other option is lefty Mike Carp. Carp has hit eight home runs and driven in 29 runs as a bench player and has played pretty well defensively at first and in the outfield.
The 27-year-old may see more time at first against right-handed pitching, but he should not see more time than Napoli at first.
Napoli has been a solid defender with only five errors and a .994 fielding percentage in his 103 games played, including 100 games started at first.
This is by far the most he has ever played in a season, so it may be time for him to get some rest. However, he is the best protection for David Ortiz when he is hitting the ball.
John Farrell needs to manage this situation carefully because a platoon at first will only hurt the production from Carp and Napoli. The Red Sox manager needs to stick to his guns and keep Napoli at first and just hope he gets hot sooner rather than later.