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Making Sense out of Mike Napoli

Mike Napoli seems to have taken firm hold of the Angels catching job, pushing aside the more-heralded Jeff Mathis. Let's take a look at Napoli and see if this is going to last.

First, here is what I wrote about Napoli in the 2006 Baseball Prospect Book:

That's a fairly positive comment all things considered. Here is some more on Napoli, this time from the July 31st, 2005 edition of the John Sickels Baseball Newsletter, written after watching Napoli play several games in Double-A:

Mike Napoli, C
Hitting .238/.382/.482, 20 homers, 72 walks, 101 strikeouts in 101 games, 328 at-bats. An excellent example of a power-patience-low-batting-average hitter. Napoli is very patient, works the count extremely well, and is difficult to fool more than once with the same pitch, at least on the outer half. His swing is "long," and he can be tied up inside, but he punishes mistakes out over the plate. He is an extreme pull hitter, and also an extreme fly ball hitter with loft in his swing. Even his outs tend to be deep (or high) fly balls. His defense is in the "good enough if he hits" category, but he'll never win any Gold Gloves, and would likely fit best as a 1B/C/DH platoon type guy. The question here is batting average. Even if he draws lots of walks and keeps his OBP at a reasonable level, he might not hit much higher than .220 at the Major League level, and it's hard for a guy like that to get playing time. But he is very interesting to watch, and I'd sure like to see what he can do with 500 at-bats.

Baseball America rated Napoli as the Number 11 Angels prospect heading into 2006, writing in their Prospect Handbook that Napoli "is streaky and not polished enough defensively to warrant every day play as a catcher. . .".

So, here we are in late June, 2006. Napoli is currently hitting .295/.435/.581 for the Angels. In 105 at-bats, he has 8 homers, 24 walks, and 38 strikeouts.

How sustainable is this?

In 1649 career professional at-bats entering 2006, Napoli had 301 walks and 515 strikeouts. His BB/AB ratio was .182, his K/AB ratio was .312. In Double-A in 2005, his marks were BB/AB .200, K/AB .319. His comparable marks in the majors this year: BB/AB .229, K/AB .362. In the majors, he is both walking and striking out more than he did in the minor leagues.

Now, I don't know what that means, to be honest. My guess, from having watched him play in the minors and on TV this year, is that we will see his batting average drop as the pitchers adjust to him, but that his power and walks will remain strong. I still expect him to be a Mickey Tettleton-type.. And Mickey Tettleton was a fine player.

I don't have a feel for Napoli's defense this year and would be very interested in comments from Angels fans or others who have seen him play a lot. Are the Angels happy with his glove? If his hitting tails off, how patient will they be with him?