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Is Ryan Doumit the New Mike Napoli?

Mike Napoli was one of the most valuable fantasy catchers last season. Hell, Napoli was one of the best “real-life” players in baseball last season as well. How did this happen? Well, Napoli was finally given the opportunity to shine. Ryan Doumit looks to be in a similar situation next season, as the Minnesota Twins may utilize him in a similar manner. Opportunity knocks for Ryan Doumit in 2012, but can he answer the call?

Before we go overboard projecting greatness for Ryan Doumit, let’s acknowledge that he’s no Mike Napoli. Sure, their situations may be comparable, but Doumit has never shown the offensive ability of Napoli. When healthy, however, Doumit has proven to be a pretty valuable catcher. Viewed through that lens, Doumit might be an interesting sleeper next season.

Over his career, Doumit’s slash line has been a solid .271/.334/.442. That’s not bad for a catcher — the position Doumit will qualify for in leagues next season. With the Twins, Doumit should see some time at DH and first base as well. The hope is that playing multiple positions will keep Doumit healthy for the first time in his career.

While his value takes a hit as a DH or first baseman, that won’t matter to fantasy owners. In fact, Doumit might get more plate appearances than most catcher based on the fact that he’ll likely be playing multiple positions. So long as your league allows you to play him at catcher when he starts at another position, you can extract some extra value out of Doumit.

Using Napoli’s 2011 season as an example, what type of numbers can we expect Doumit to post?

Napoli only played in 113 games last season, and only had 432 plate appearances — neither number was even a career high for Napoli. By comparison, Doumit has reached those heights twice over his career. In each of those seasons, Doumit proved to be a solid — but unspectacular — option at catcher. Much of his value had to do with a fluctuating BABIP, as it greatly affected Doumit’s ability to hit for average. The ability to hit for a high average with double-digit home runs is a valuable skill set at catcher — where strong fantasy players are pretty scarce.

Brandon Warne did a really nice job explaining how Doumit might play at Target Field. Warne states that while Doumit’s platoon issues may be overstated, Target Field could limit some of his power.

All told, Doumit is no Napoli. Though it looks as if he’ll have an opportunity to get some more playing time, it’s unclear how much his performance will actually improve. If the Twins are willing to play him at less stressful positions in order to keep him healthy, he could see an increase in games played and plate appearances. This would, obviously, increase his ability to post better counting stats.

Still, Doumit’s performances in his relatively healthy seasons aren’t all that desirable. Sure, he was a useful option at catcher, but he was far from a top option at the position. As a late round sleeper, Doumit is certainly worth a look, but it would be foolish to expect any type of breakout.