Mike Napoli finally signed with the Red Sox. It took him a month or so to iron out the details, and in that month his draft stock fell. Considering his track record of power, it’s tempting to label him a sleeper even after the tough year he showed in Texas last season, but the the circumstances of the deal can’t be considered ideal — even if a probable move to first base, where only Mauro Gomez is his competition, probably means more available playing time.
The obvious asterisk is his hip problem. It cost him $34 million dollars and two years of security, so it must be a big deal. And fantasy owners have to take notice. Red Sox fans might remember how it was the hip that eventually ended Mike Lowell‘s career with the team. And as a catcher, it might be particularly bad — Matt Treanor missed the second-most days among position players since 2000 when something in his hip tore and he lost 168 days in 2009. Even as a first baseman, Carlos Delgado‘s 146 missed days due to a hip impingement in his last season can’t be considered good news. And of course, Alex Rodriguez missed time with hip surgery in 2009… and is now sidelined with an injury to the other hip.
Sprinkled in among the names Jeff Zimmerman provided are plenty of good players that missed small increments of time. Alex Gordon, Joe Mauer, Juan Uribe and Jose Guillen didn’t see their production completely harmed by some time missed due to a hip issue. But the names that show up more than once — Garret Anderson, Jeremy Hermida, Matt Treanor, Mike Lowell and Todd Helton — those names could send a shiver down the spine of a dynasty leaguer with Napoli on the roster.
The good news? Napoli has not yet missed a single day to a hip injury.
That makes these revelations a little bizarre. But I’m no doctor, so it’s probably better to focus on the fact that Napoli just left fifth-friendliest park in baseball for right-handed home runs (107 RH HR park factor) for a basically neutral park in Fenway (98 RH HR PF). You know what, though, Napoli hit plenty of home runs in Anaheim (99 RH HR PF), too.
And righty pull hitters LOVE the green monster for doubles (112 RH 2B PF in Fenway). Even more than Texas (104 RH 2B PF). Napoli should dig it. He’s becoming more of a pull hitter as he ages:
More negative means more along the left-field line. And with the monster there, Napoli might pull even more to try and pepper the wall with doubles.
You don’t own Napoli for batting average, however, so trading some home runs for doubles would probably be a loss. On the other hand, the projections have him hitting around .250 right now, and in two of the last three seasons, you would have lost the over/under game betting on that number. Maybe this year, with the help of the green monster, Napoli can push that batting average over .250.
Bad hip and all.