Why is Mike Napoli Still Playing?

As Red Sox fans try and grapple with the fact that the team did not score a run in 8 calendar days, many have to begin to question the moves the team has made and the lineup card that John Farrell continues to roll with on a regular basis.

The 2015 Red Sox are a prime example of the need for youth on your roster. Although Mike Napolithey have some future stars in Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have had trouble developing prospects at certain positions, the main one being first base.

Mike Napoli continues to get at bats as the team hopes some team will see something before the trade deadline so the Red Sox can sell high on him. Although he had two hits in the second game of Monday’s double header, Napoli was still pinch hit for by Brock Holt late in the game. Napoli had recently sat out a week while the Red Sox went as far as putting David Ortiz at first base and Hanley Ramirez served as the DH.

Napoli is in the second year of a two year deal that pays him $16 million, there is no question he will not be in a Red Sox uniform come 2016, so why are they continuing to throw him out there? Dustin Pedroia is back from the disabled list so, Brock Holt could play first base. Holt did start Saturday night at first with Napoli getting the starts in the other three games of the Angels series. Holt does not profile as a first baseman for the long haul though with limited power.

The Red Sox have two players who are under performing defensively and could make the move to first base—Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Sandoval, a catcher coming up, could make the move to first more easily than Ramirez in my opinion as the move to left did not work out with Ramirez. He continues to look worse, with a ball sailing over his head in Monday’s afternoon game, after he froze on the ball off the bat. If this is David Ortiz’s last year, I want Hanley as my DH and Pablo at first and find a third baseman. The Sox could even play Travis Shaw at first for the rest of the year to see what they have in Shaw as he has seemed to have proven himself in the minor leagues.

Mike Napoli’s days with the Red Sox could be numbered but with them being in last place and likely sellers at the deadline will anyone take him? Napoli is hitting .197 on the year with 83 strikeouts in 83 games played. A player who was a hero for the 2013 World Series team and a man of the people on the streets of Boston, just no longer is producing at a high level, worthy of a spot in the Sox order, but when will John Farrell and Ben Cherington finally pull the plug?

Red Sox Mid-season Report Card

The first half of the season is now over, and it’s time to look at who has been impressive so far for the Red Sox, and who hasn’t been as impressive. Spoiler—a lot of the players fall under this category. It’s just been that kind of season for the Red Sox so far at 5 games under .500, and 6.5 games out of the AL East.

The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Red Sox closed out theRed Sox first half winning 10 of 15, so they could be poised to make a run. But, for now, back to the first half. Here are the guys who have been the most disappointing.

Rick Porcello: Given that Red Sox ownership gave Porcello a 4-year, $82 million contract at the start of the season, I expected a lot more than a 5-9 record and a 5.90 ERA from Porcello. He’s been pretty bad so far, especially giving up home runs (16, which is already up near his average of 17.6 since 2010). It’s been tough to watch him pitch this year, and he’s focused on just salvaging his season at the moment.

Grade: F

Mike Napoli: Despite briefly making a breakthrough in June, he is hitting .193 this season, resulting in a loss of playing time recently. I hate to see him in such a slump, but he has been slumping. I don’t know if he can turn this around, but I would love to see him do it. If he can’t, he may be looking at a trade or being designated for assignment.

Grade: D-

Pablo Sandoval: He hasn’t been terrible at the plate, but, with a .265 average and 7 home runs, you expect a lot more from a guy the Red Sox gave nearly $100 million to in the off-season. Plus, he’s committed 10 errors so far, while he committed 11 all of last season. Like Porcello, I expected a lot more from a guy the Red Sox gave a big contract.

Grade – D

Most Impressive:

Dustin Pedroia: Dustin was on a hot streak before he went down with an injury (.350 in June), and playing the game like he always does – with grit and determination. I fully expect him to come back and not miss a beat.

Grade: B+

Xander Bogaerts: This guy should have been an All Star, plain and simple. He hit .312 in the month of June, and .304 overall. He has finally come into his own after struggling mightily last year, which should continue after the All Star Break.

Grade: A

Brock Holt: The guy that did make All Star team for the Red Sox, his versatility has always impressed me. He can play just about every position, and he can also swing the bat pretty well. One of the (few) highlights of this season was the game Brock Holt hit for the cycle.

Grade: A-

Those are the guys that have stood out for me as the most disappointing, and the most impressive. It was much harder to pick out a few who stood out as the most disappointing, because this whole season has generally been pretty disappointing, minus the past couple of weeks. Hopefully that changes, and the team can get their stuff together in the last couple of months. I hope the Red Sox at least make a push towards winning a weak AL East division, but my hopes aren’t too high.

Boston’s Mike Napoli Problem

The Red Sox have a decision to make regarding one Mike Napoli. Mike has been struggling pretty mightily at the plate all season long, posting a .192 average and a .294 OBP. He’s one of only 2 players (out of 116 qualifying players) to post a sub-.200 average and a sub-.300 on base percentage. The other? Our old friend, Stephen Drew. That’s some pretty elite company there. So, what do the Red Sox do with him? That’s a tough one to answer.

Short-term, the answer was put David Ortiz in for his first start at 1B at home sinceMike Napoli 2005. According to the Boston Globe John Farrell & co. still view that as a one-time thing, and not a long term solution, in spite of Nap’s struggles. Regardless, the team faces some tough decisions, especially regarding Mike Napoli. Right now, the Red Sox don’t have many good options.

As I see it, one option is that you could put David Ortiz in there on a regular basis, but I have some concerns about his age (39), and his lack of consistent time at first base over his career. That would mean Hanley Ramirez (at least in my mind) takes over at DH, which would be a good thing, but David Ortiz’s fielding ability long-term worries me.

Another option is putting Hanley at 1st, but his defense in left field has been so bad it’s scary at times, and I don’t think he’d be much better at 1st.

The last option, and my personal preference, would be to give Brock Holt some time at first. You can’t leave him out of the lineup—he’s way too valuable at the moment. That way, you don’t lose what David and Hanley can bring offensively, and you don’t have to worry so much about 1st being a defensive problem.

So, what about Mike himself? Maybe he just needs a few days to get his stuff together, but if the Red Sox do look at getting rid of him, the best option would be to DFA him because his trade value is at an all-time low.

If they get rid of him, it will definitely be hard to say goodbye, but it might be for the best at this point.

Daniel Nava Begins Rehab Assignment with PawSox

The PawSox got yet another player added to their roster for a rehab assignment this week as Daniel Nava was sent to Pawtucket to play starting on Thursday night. Nava was really lost in the shuffle with the Red Sox roster early on in the year and only collected 73 plate appearances, and has been on the disabled list since May 26 with a thumb bruise.

Nava had a great year in 2013 platooning in left field with Jonny Gomes but struggled last Daniel Navaseason even being optioned to Pawtucket in early May. Nava eventually made his way back to the major league roster but became more of a bench player. The versatility Nava serves is something that does not go unnoticed by Red Sox brass as he plays left and right field well and mixes in first base. Playing the left field wall as many have realized this year with Hanley Ramirez out there is not something that can be taken for granted.

The roster crunch will continue as Shane Victorino just finished up a rehab stint and is expected to be activated this weekend. Ryan Haniagan was activated in time for Thursday night’s blowout against the Blue Jays likely meaning a catcher will lose their roster spot. Which makes me you think, will Nava even have a roster spot when his rehab stint is over?

The chances are likely no but an injury could always occur and have Nava taken advantage of an unfortunate circumstance for someone else. Hanley Ramirez does not look like he will be going on the disabled list soon after a week off with a bruised wrist from a line drive. Shane Victorino hasn’t been healthy for much of his time with the Red Sox, so he might not be on the roster for long. Alejandro De Aza is someone who needs to stay on the Red Sox team as he looks to have provided some sort of spark for the team even if he is just a fourth outfielder on a good team he is a veteran.

Much has been made of Mike Napoli’s struggles this year and John Farrell has said they will stick with him as he has been dropped to as low as 8th in the lineup on some occasions. Nava could take advantage of some playing time if he can get it with Napoli continuing to hit under .200 and striking out a prolific rate as he continues to think the umpires are out to get him with the strike zone.

Daniel Nava began a rehab assignment with the PawSox on Thursday night, but a spot on the Red Sox roster when he is ready to be activated might be his for the taking.

Ben Cherington Won’t Start Fire Sale Yet

The Red Sox chances of turning things around this season are slim to none, but Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is still looking to add a few major league pieces before the trade deadline according to NESN.

“I think the more general statement is that we’re going to work to get to a good team, get to the team that we believe we are actually closer to than many believe, as quickly as we can,” Cherington said. “So I foresee a scenario where we would even be interested in acquiring major league players, adding to the major league team.
It makes sense in a way, and if the Red Sox can get a few good pieces without Ben Cheringtonmortgaging their future, then I’d be for it, but it’s easier said than done. If Cherington wants to add major league pieces, he’ll have to be careful. A deal for a Cole Hamels, for example, could be potentially damaging to our future if it doesn’t work out.
If Cherington wants to go that route, then he should look at trading a veteran player or 2 for these major league pieces. Clay Buchholz is a guy that comes to mind, as he seems to have come around an is currently pitching great and could fetch a good price in return, should the Sox decide to trade him. Another guy could be Mike Napoli, but that would be much harder, given the way Mike has been struggling this year.  If you want to add major league-ready pieces, then dealing Mike Napoli wouldn’t be the way to go. Cherington would be better off dealing Clay Buchholz, as he would probably fetch more in return at the moment.
As bad as this season has been, I don’t believe a fire sale is the answer. Ben tried that last year, and that didn’t get us very far. The fire sale of 2012 only paid off for 2013, which was obviously a great year, but it didn’t carry over beyond that one season. I don’t think it’s in the Red Sox best interests to go through that again. We’ll see, though. Unfortunately it’s not up to me.

Mistakes Kill Red Sox Momentum

Yesterday’s loss was ugly enough to make even the most optimistic Red Sox fans, like me, cringe. The Red Sox blew a 4-run lead en route to an 8-4 loss.

But, is it really that surprising? No. This season has been like that for the Red Sox. They Red Soxseem to take 2 steps back every time they take one forward. They have been doing that all season, and it’s tough to watch. A few days ago, I pointed out on here that they could save their season by being more consistent, and I stand by that, but I wonder if that’s possible for this team. Like I said above, this has been a “1 step forward, 2 step back” type of season for the Red Sox, and it’s really tough to watch.

I want to believe the Red Sox can still turn this around, but after yesterday’s game, I find it hard to believe the Red Sox have it in them to play consistently enough to make a run at the division. There have been a few bright spots as of late, like Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, but they have yet to put together a string of convincing performances as a team, and that’s what worries me at the moment.

Yesterday epitomized their season in many ways: They started well, with Steven Wright going 6 innings, giving up only 3 runs on a Torri Hunter home run. The offense gave Wright runs to work with, behind some sloppy Twins defense and 2 home runs, one each from Dustin Pedroia and Blake Swihart. But then it all unraveled because of bad fielding, and bad baserunning. Pablo Sandoval make 2 costly errors and Mike Napoli was thrown out attempting to score. It’s those kinds of mistakes that have kept the Red Sox from maintianing any consistency so far this season.

I would love to believe that the Red Sox can get hot, and maybe they still can, but it would take a gigantic effort from 1-25 to turn things around. And, with the way things have been going, I’m having a hard time believing it’s possible.