For at least 2 more years Mike Napoli will remain with the Boston Red Sox, where this will be a common sight:
The beard is coming back to Boston!!! Couldn't be happier!! #Bstrong #beards #Ilovethiscity pic.twitter.com/mb2pDxq4tL— Mike Napoli (@MikeNapoli25) December 7, 2013
He endured a strange free agency experience in 2012 when he received no qualifying offer from Texas, then signed a a 3 year-$39M contract with Boston that was subsequently voided after health concerns were raised about his hip. As a result he signed a one-year deal last season to play for $5 million, where he put up a .259/.360/.482 slash with 23 HR and 92 RBI in 139 games (3.9 WAR), so today represents his long-awaited (and well-deserved) pay day.
How does this affect your fantasy team? Let's check under the hood to see what we've got here:
The first thing you'll notice, unfortunately, is that Napoli will no longer qualify at catcher. And that, my friends, is too bad because that is exactly the position that afforded him the most value. He's 32 and coming off one of his most productive years as a pro (outside of his mammoth 2011 with the Rangers). However, he will be relegated to the ranks of a very deep position next year and so his value drops precipitously because of that.
Additionally, his K-rate has skyrocketed the last two years to come in at a career high of 32.4% in 2013. Those kind of numbers don't bode well for the aging 1B/DH, as his plate discipline numbers indicate a spike in swinging-strike rate along with a decrease in contact rate which is typical for aging players. His O-swing rate has also increased the last three years, which means that Napoli just can't seem to lay off the bad pitches.
It's not all bad news, though. He was able to increase his LD% over 5 points to 24%, and his GB-rate dropped almost 3% (along with a slight drop in FB%). Additionally, over the last three seasons (2011-13) Napoli is the #9 overall wOBA leader in the majors (.386), slotting between Prince Fielder and Carlos Gonzalez. Furthermore, during that same time he's put up 140 wRC+, good enough for #14 in the league, between Robinson Cano and Allen Craig. That's not bad company.
His strong walk rate (12.3% last year) makes him a little more valuable in leagues that count OBP, and despite his age and K-concerns, he remains a fringy top-10 1B. Add in the fact that he hits in the middle of a great lineup (even without Jacoby Ellsbury) in a park that seems tailor-made for his approach then you still have a viable piece of your fantasy team who could get spelled at DH from time to time, provided David Ortiz is getting a breather.
I'd slot him at the back end of my top 10 1B, and he would definitely someone I'd target in a redraft league as he will most likely come cheaper than Prince Fielder or probably even Eric Hosmer. Dynasty league owners will probably be less likely to nab him because of his age, but for at least another year if he can at least keep the Ks in check a bit, I think he can come close to repeating last year's production. Where there's a beard, there's a way.
Will Napoli be useful throughout his new contract for the Sox? Opine below and take the poll. Follow me on Twitter @agape4argentina.