The Boston Red Sox took their first step in replenishing their roster by reaching an agreement with former Ranger Mike Napoli on Monday. Napoli will likely fill the Red Sox’s need at first base and would also be another option behind the plate for the team.
At home in Fenway
Napoli was born in Florida and has played his major-league career in both California and Texas, but Boston probably felt like home to him even before he struck a deal with the Red Sox.
Napoli owns a .306/.397/.710 line with seven homers in 73 plate appearances at Fenway Park in his career.
His slugging percentage, OPS and at-bats per homer rate are each the highest at the park among active players (min. 70 PA). Last year he hit three homers and went 6 for 13 in three games at Fenway.
Napoli has also enjoyed his trips to the new Yankee Stadium, which will be more frequent now that he is wearing a Red Sox uniform. Napoli has hit .375 with a .625 slugging percentage in 24 at-bats and eight games there.
Can Napoli bounce back?
After a breakout year in 2011 during which Napoli led the majors in slugging (.631) and ranked second in OPS (1.046) among players with at least 400 plate appearances, he endured a career-worst season at the plate in 2012.
His OPS dropped nearly 200 points and he hit a career-low .227 last year. Though his walk rate remained strong (13.4 percent), his strikeout rate skyrocketed from 20 percent in 2011 to 30 percent in 2012. No other AL righty with at least 400 plate appearances struck out more often than Napoli last year.
Napoli really struggled against offspeed pitches in 2012. He had 22 fewer hits and 21 more strikeouts in at-bats ending in the “soft stuff” compared to 2011, despite seeing 43 more offspeed pitches.
There is some optimism that Napoli can regain his 2011 form based on his strong finish last year. In 16 regular season games in September and October, he hit seven homers and led all players with a .706 slugging percentage during that span (min. 50 PA).
If Napoli can find his power stroke again in 2013, he should give a much-needed boost to a Red Sox lineup that got a .402 slugging percentage from its right-handed bats last year, which ranked 10th out of 14 AL teams.