Time to Move on From Mike Napoli?

Mike Napoli

The Boston Red Sox 2015 campaign is in full force and their lineup has been pretty much what we expected it to be to this point. One guy who just hasn’t been able to come around at the plate, and continues to punch out almost two times a game, happens to be Mike Napoli.

Napoli’s struggles this year aren’t anything new, but they come as a bit of concern. Napoli batted .248 last season which was the second lowest average of his careerMike Napoli dating back to 2007. Napoli also accumulated a slugging percentage of .419 which was the lowest of his career. There was no hiding it—Mike Napoli struggled big time in 2014, but so did a lot of Red Sox hitters. The concern that I have is that Napoli had facial reconstruction during the off season to help cure his sleep apnea issue that has been haunting him for much of his career. Napoli decided to get the surgery during the off season because his struggles at the plate were magnified by the Red Sox struggles as a team. Napoli seemed like he had turned the corner, and was ready to really break out in 2015 as he hit above .300 this spring with a couple of home runs, but he’s back to the same.

Napoli is currently hitting .132 on the season with no home runs and no runs batted in and is posting a .267 on base percentage to go with a .184 slugging percentage. Yes, Napoli is great with his glove and draws a lot of walks, but he’s hitting in the heart of the Red Sox order and is being called on to drive in runs which he is not.

My solution to this would be giving Allen Craig a shot at first base for a series or two. I am higher on Craig than a lot of people, I think. Craig to me is a star sitting behind an aging veteran who is just not getting the job done. Baseball fans seem to forget that while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013, Craig hit .315 with 14 home runs and 96 runs batted in. The year before that Craig hit .307 with 22 home runs and 92 runs batted in. Both years Craig was in the middle of a heated NL MVP candidacy, but lost out. I don’t know how many Red Sox fans I speak for, but I think it’s time to give Craig a shot; if he can be half of what he used to be I’ll take it.

Why Conrad Gregor Would Be A Nice Fit For Boston

conrad gregorOut of all of the different types of prospects, developing ones who can hit for power are definitely the most difficult. Sure, some guys have plenty of power (Mike Hessman), but they may not be able to make contact. Of course, the opposite is true where a player may be able to get hits, but might not ever hit a home run (Joey Gathright).

For the Boston Red Sox, luckily, they are in a position where they do not need young guys to come up and hit for power — right now. In 2016 however, Boston may need to find themselves a new first baseman granted that Mike Napoli is set to be a free agent. With this in mind, Boston may want to save some money with a cheap and effective option at first base; trading for a prospect may be their best option.
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A team that is loaded with prospects, especially those of the first base sort, is the Houston Astros. With Jonathan Singleton, A.J. Reed, Telvin Nash, and Conrad Gregor in their system, odds are they would be willing to spare a man or two. Of these men, Conrad Gregor is certainly the best option.

Gregor, 22, is one of the most disciplined players around at the plate. Hitting .311/.404/.509 between three levels this year while clubbing 16 home runs, the fourth round pick in the 2013 MLB draft made it clear he can play the game.
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Based off of his Cape Cod League numbers, it was hard to believe Gregor was not a first round pick. The reason why his stock fell was due to a lack of power his junior year. His plate discipline on the other hand, was outstanding as always.

Now though, Gregor is proving he can hit for power — against more advanced pitching. He tends to draw more walks than anything against a low-quality opponent because he is so patient at the plate. 16 home runs is nothing to scoff at in 124 games, especially since he should be able to club a few more next year.
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In 2015, it seems likely Gregor would start his year in AA, but finish it in the Majors. He shot up from low-A all the way to AA this year, which is almost unheard of. Many players make the jump from AA to MLB in a season — Mookie Betts did it this year and both Brandon Workman and Drake Britton did it the year before, although they all had a short stint in AAA before making it to the show.

Conrad Gregor could prove himself as the successor to Mike Napoli and if he does not, at least he provides depth at first base. He has also seen some time in the outfield, making him a viable option to fill a role similar to that of Mike Carp.