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Mike Napoli

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Michael Anthony Napoli

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[edit] Biographical Information

Catcher Mike Napoli was selected by the Anaheim Angels in the 17th round of the 2000 amateur draft. After being scouted by Todd Claus, he began his professional career that year with a .231/.308/.400 line in 10 games for the Butte Copper Kings. The next year, he served as a backup backstop for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, putting up a .232/.341/.406 line and he went 4 for 20 with a homer for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

In 2002, Mike began playing regularly for Cedar Rapids as a DH while still backing up at catcher and produced at a .251/.362/.392 clip with 104 strikeouts. The next season, Napoli backed up Jeff Mathis with the Quakes and hit .267/.364/.412. With Mathis moving up, Napoli dazzled as a Rancho Cucamonga catcher-1B in 2004, hitting .282/.394/.539 with 88 walks, 166 strikeouts, 94 runs, 29 homers and 118 RBI in a fine Three True Outcomes-type season. He made the California League All-Star team as a utility man and led the league in homers, RBI, intentional walks (5) and walks (88, tied with Paul McAnulty) while finishing five strikeouts behind the leader. He had gone from part-timer to prospect in one year.

Napoli hit .237/.372/.508 for the 2005 Arkansas Travelers with 96 runs, 99 RBI, 88 walks, 31 homers and 140 strikeouts. Baseball America rated him as the top power prospect in the Texas League. He led his league in home runs again, led in RBI and walks and made the All-Star team at catcher. Defensively, he led in errors (14) and passed balls (13) but also in percentage of runners thrown out (47%).

In 2006, Mike hit .244/.344/.436 in 21 games for the Salt Lake Bees and got called up to the Angels in early May. In his first major league at-bat on May 4th, facing Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, he hit a home run. He finished the year hitting .228/.360/.455 in 99 games, showing good power with 13 doubles and 16 homers.

The longest ever postseason losing streak by one team against another was eleven games, by the Angels against the Boston Red Sox, between 1986 and 2008. The streak ended when the Angels won Game 3 of the 2008 ALDS 5-4: Napoli contributed the game's only two home runs, and he had 3 RBI and scored 3 runs in the win. He was only the sixth catcher ever to have more than one home run in a postseason game, and was the first of the six not to win the World Series that year. While his burst of power may have seemed unexpected, he had in fact hit 20 home runs in only 227 at bats during the 2008 regular season, giving him one of the best home run ratios in the major leagues that year. However, one year later, it was his long-time backstop partner Jeff Mathis whose bat was heard during the postseason, hitting 5 doubles in the ALCS and relegating Napoli to the bench as the Angels once again fell shy of the World Series in losing to the New York Yankees. Ironically, that benching came after another good year with the bat, as he again hit 20 homers in 2009, to go along with a .272 batting average, 22 doubles and 56 RBI in 114 games.

In 2010, Napoli set personal records for home runs with 26 and for RBI with 68, in a career-high 140 games. However his walk rate fell significantly, as reflected in his OBP which went form a solid .350 in 2009 to a below-average .316 in 2010. He played 70 games at first base - 67 as the starter - following a season-ending injury to Kendry Morales in May, and got the remainder of his playing time behind the plate, where he shared the job with Mathis. After the season, he was traded twice in the space of one week, first to the Toronto Blue Jays along with OF Juan Rivera in return for OF Vernon Wells on January 21, 2011, then to the Texas Rangers for P Frank Francisco on January 25th.

Napoli emerged as a bona fide star with the Rangers, hitting .320 with 25 doubles and 30 homers in 2011. He moved around between catching duties, which he shared with Yorvit Torrealba, 1B and the DH slot, playing 113 games and getting 369 at-bats with manager Ron Washington trying to get his bat into the line-up as much as possible. He was excellent during the postseason, where he did the bulk of the catching. He hit .357 with a homer and 4 RBI in the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays, then .292 with 6 runs scored against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. Facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, he went 7 for 20 (.350) with a double and a pair of homers, but the Rangers lost in seven games, after twice blowing two-run leads in the late stages of Game 6. In 2012, he was named to the All-Star team for the first time, but slumped to a .227 batting average, although his power was still there, with 24 homers (but only 9 doubles). He was moved off the plate late in the season as the Rangers acquired Geovany Soto from the Chicago Cubs in a mid-season trade and went 0 for 3 with a walk as the starting DH as the Rangers were upset by the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card Game.

On December 3, 2012, Napoli signed a three-year contract with the Boston Red Sox for $39 million. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia entrenched at cather, the Sox were looking for Napoli to play first base and take advantage of the Green Monster to put up big power numbers. However, the deal was scrapped when Napoli failed his physical examination, which showed that he required surgery on his hip; the Red Sox were still willing to sign him, but for only one year at $5 million. He was the Sox's starting first baseman in 2013, hitting .259/.360/.482 in 139 games, with a career-high 38 doubles, 23 homers and 92 RBI. In Game 3 of the ALCS on October 15th, he hit a solo homer against Justin Verlander of the Tigers, the same pitcher he had taken deep in his big league debut, for the only run in a 1-0 win by the Sox.

Sources: 2001-2006 Baseball Almanacs

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • AL All-Star (2012)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 6 (2008-2013)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2011)
  • Won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2013

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