What to do with Mike Napoli?

Coming into the season, most considered Angels’ backstop Mike Napoli to be one of the dozen best fantasy catchers in the game, and why wouldn’t they? He had a .362 wOBA with 20 homers and 56 RBI in 432 plate appearances last season, a year after going .399-20-49 in 264 PA in 2008. CHONE forecast another 19 homers in 2010, which is fantasy gold from a catcher.

And yet, Mike Scioscia loves him some Jeff Mathis. Just loves him. Mathis has started seven of the team’s nine games (including today), relegating Napoli to backup/pinch-hitting duty. Even worse, Mathis is fueling Scioscia’s mancrush by hitting .350/.364/.500 with a .368 wOBA in the early going. However, expecting that to last is just plain foolish. Mathis has a .266 career wOBA in close to 900 plate appearances, and his slugging percentage is his 31 points lower than Napoli’s on-base percentage. I’m well aware that Mathis has a good defensive rep with Napoli has quite the opposite, but sheesh.

Napoli is owned in 67% of Yahoo! leagues, and 100% of his owners are frustrated by his lack of playing time. There is some hope though. The Halos are just 2-6 with 29 runs scored, and when teams start to lose games in bunches and struggle to score runs, one of the first things the manager will do is mix up the lineup. With his never-ending contract and status as The Greatest Manager Who Ever Lived™, Scioscia should know that swapping Mathis with Napoli is the easiest move to make if he wants his team to score more runs. Plus there’s always the possibility of an injury, given the nature of the position.

Until that happens, the fantasy owners suffer. The possibility of 20 jacks from a catcher is too good to let go this early in the season, so dropping him shouldn’t even be a consideration. Hold on to Napoli for the time being and just ride out the storm. Try to grab Chris Snyder (11% owned) or heck, even Mathis and his somewhat hot start (4%) to hold you over. Napoli and his bat will find their way into the lineup eventually, at some point Scioscia won’t have much of a choice.




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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.


28 Responses to “What to do with Mike Napoli?”

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  1. I agree with that guy says:

    Well said. Top-12 in baseball apparently isn’t quite enough to get on the field more than once, maybe twice, a week. Already ditched Napoli for Yadier.

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  2. Reuben says:

    I overdrafted him in a 2 catcher league. I went ahead and picked up Carlos Santana in case Sciosa’s favor never turns. No one like Yadier or Snyder left out there.

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  3. Steen says:

    Iannette or Napoli? Who should I get for Montero

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    • Mike Axisa says:

      I’d grab Iannetta for the time being.

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      • Jason B says:

        I would second that – Iannetta at least gets the majority of his time-share, unlike Napoli. And has two double consonants, which has to count for something.

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    • SleepNowInTheFire says:

      Napoli, hands down. This madness won’t last forever, and I’d take 4 months of Napoli over 6 months of Ianetta. If you can, just grab a second catcher until Napoli gets his playing time back.

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  4. Alireza says:

    An interesting thing to look at is whether Mathis can keep up the hitting. If so, he really will be a good pickup. Remember that Mathis was a first round pick, is an excellent athlete and was considered both a hitting and defense prospect. I don’t see him ever being the hitter that Napoli is, but he could easily become as good or better than Yadier.

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    • alskor says:

      Mathis will never keep hitting. He can’t hit. He’s half the hitter Yadier is and won’t ever be better (he’s been playing in the majors a while now). Nor will he ever be worth owning. He stinks and Mike Soscia should be ashamed of himself for playing him. Terrible managing and its costing his team – and this year, they don’t have the margin of error to deal with this crap.

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      • Alireza says:

        Yadier was a terrible hitter in his first 2.5 seasons, and he didn’t have the minor league track record that Mathis did. I’m not saying Mathis hits better than Napoli, because he doesn’t. I’m not saying he is guaranteed to continue this, because he isn’t. I am just saying that he has the physical ability to do so. Indeed, he has been killed by BABIP the last 3 years, especially considering he has above average speed for a catcher, so better performance isn’t exactly impossible.

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      • alskor says:

        He’s been killed by BABIP because he doesn’t hit the ball hard. Better performance isn’t out of the question, but even with a significant improvement he would still qualify as terrible. In 5 MLB seasons (some partial), at age 28, over 887 PAs, his line is .204/.279/.325.

        He’s absolutely terrible. He hits like a pitcher and there’s virtually no reason to expect him to ever hit at an acceptable level for a starter in MLB.

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  5. Joser says:

    It’s not like this is a surprise, though: Scioscia showed this same preference last year and nothing he said or did over spring training indicated he had changed his mind. I realize Napoli may have been the best of the available catchers when you got to that point in your draft but this kind of under-utilization was part of the package.

    An interesting thing to look at is whether Mathis can keep up the hitting.

    His BABIP so far this year is .400, compared to a career average closer to .250. What do you think?

    It’s possible he will continue to improve his hitting, but it’s not like there isn’t a track record here: when your #4 comparable on b-r is Bob Uecker, you have to be a little concerned.

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    • wobatus says:

      Scioscia did not show this much of a preference last year. Far from it. Napoli started 84 games at catcher during the regular season last year, even though at the start of the year he was held back somewhat due to injury. Plus they got him DH at-bats when Vlad was down. So he started more games than Mathis. At worse you’d expect maybe a split of time, not Napoli basically being relegated to being the Brad Ausmus of the Angels, catching once a week. Scioscia gave no indication that Napoli had lost his half, or slightly more than half, of the job.

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      • Joser says:

        Odd, I remember enormous angst at Halos Heaven last year over Scioscia’s preference for Mathis, and this spring Mr. Cameron pointed out that Matsui’s acquisition was going to make it hard for Napoli to find AB’s, which in fact was obvious to Rotographs commenters assessing Napoli last October. It had certainly sunk in enough as the conventional wisdom for me that I didn’t consider Napoli anything other than a backup catcher / utility bat when I was looking at fantasy lineups this spring.

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  6. Yo Izzle says:

    Mike Scioscia is so overrated. It is amazing how this guy gets away with this decision without any mainstream media even second guessing him, since they think he is some flawless or god-like mythical creature.

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    • Joser says:

      I wouldn’t say they think he’s god-like, but I imagine they fall into the same trap as most media observers (and most fans): results-based analysis. The Angels keep winning the AL West; therefore who are we to question how Scioscia does it? As soon as the Angels fall from their perch (which could be as soon as this year), expect the mainstream media to suddenly notice and spend time analyzing his mistakes — the same ones he’s been making all along.

      To be fair, though, the Angels have been exceeding forecasts for several years now — including those by some of the smarter corners of the non-mainstream — and while it’s unclear how much credit for that should be apportioned to Scioscia, it’s probably fair to say he amounts to a net asset overall.

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  7. Jay says:

    I dropped him and picked up Bengie Molina. The games played limit for our league is really high for hitters and our bench is shallow, so the fact that Bengie puts up similar numbers in more ABs than Napoli works out fine. Plus, I don’t have to try to figure out when my catcher is going to play every day (at least until anything changes with Posey)…

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    • Jason B says:

      Bengie Molina was unowned?!? Is it a 6-team league? :-)

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      • byron says:

        You think that’s ridiculous? I’m in a 10 team mixed league, and I was hurting with Napoli as my catcher. Then who shows up on the waiver wire? Russell freaking Martin. One $11 FAAB bid later and I was set. I held on to Napoli for a bit, but eventually dropped him for Snyder (to try and catch up on the games I’d missed at the spot), but I’m confident that if Napoli starts hitting again I’ll be able to get to him before anyone else.

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      • Jay says:

        Ten teams, but only one catcher per team. Other catchers owned are Mauer, Victor, McCann, Martin, Montero, Doumit, Wieters, Suzuki, Soto, and Posada. So it’s actually reasonable that Molina would be on the fringe of this list…

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      • Jason B says:

        Yeah, I guess it’s semi-reasonable. Not sure Suzuki or Soto should rate higher but they’re close enough so as not to be too incredulous. Montero is on the shelf, though.

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  8. Dave says:

    Funny thing is… Mathis isn’t even a good defensive catcher. Napoli is worse, but not by far. Check any of the catcher defense metrics

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  9. Bryz says:

    “Try to grab Chris Snyder (11% owned) or heck, even Mathis and his somewhat hot start (4%) to hold you over.”

    Or I can just stick with Joe Mauer as my number one and keep Napoli as a luxury ;-)

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