Just a quick glance at Mike Napoli‘s current stats reveals why he’s been one of the most frustrating players in fantasy baseball this season. Napoli has hit for power, but his poor average and sporadic usage have likely frustrated his owners this season. Despite those struggles, there’s reason to be optimistic about Napoli’s performance going forward. If an owner in your league has given up on Napoli, this might be a good time to buy low on the power-hitting catcher.
While Napoli has never been a player known to post strong batting averages, this season has gotten pretty ridiculous. Napoli’s batting average has plummeted to just .212 this season; the lowest of his career. Since Napoli carries a .248 career batting average, we should expect that number to rise.
You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances this season, Napoli currently has the fourth worst BABIP in baseball (.191). His career average of .285 gives us a much better indication of what he’s capable of doing. Due to his abundance of fly balls and high strikeout rate, however, Napoli may only hit .240 this season. Still, that’s a large upgrade over his current performance.
Speaking of that high strikeout rate, Napoli is actually posting the lowest K-rate of his career. On top of that, Napoli’s plate discipline has shot through the roof this season; leading to an 17.9% walk rate this season. Even though those numbers may normalize as the season unfolds, it’s yet another sign that Napoli has experienced terrible luck this season. Typically, players with a 22/24 walk to strikeout ration perform much much better than this.
While it’s safe to bet on an improved performance from Napoli going forward, it’s nearly impossible to predict whether he will play more often. Even if Napoli starts producing at a higher level, he won’t provide much value if he’s sitting on the bench every other day. We’ll have to hope that as Napoli’s performance improves, Ron Washington will be less hesitant to pencil him into lineups against
lefties right handers.
Even if additional playing time doesn’t come, Napoli still makes a strong buy low candidate. You can choose to “platoon” Napoli with your current catcher if your team allows daily roster changes. This allows you to get more at bats out of the catcher position, where players are typically given 1-2 days off per week. Napoli also qualifies at first base, so he adds some position flexibility to your roster as well.
If Napoli has proven anything this season, it’s that when he plays, he’ll provide power. It’s not all that often that players with 30+ home run potential are available for peanuts in fantasy leagues. It’s also unlikely that you’re going to find a player with that much power potential on the waiver wire. Take advantage of Napoli’s owner while his batting average hovers near the Mendoza Line; even though his batting average won’t be great at season’s end, he’s bound to experience a huge improvement in the category this season. Catchers that hit .240 with 25-30 home runs and a solid OBP are rare creatures. It just so happens one of those players is likely available in many leagues. That type of upside is far too tempting to ignore.