Who Will Play First Base for the 2016 Red Sox?

The recent departure of Mike Napoli to Texas opened up fresh questions about the Red Sox’ immediate future. While the slugger is enduring an awful 2015, with a poor .207/.307/.386 slash line through 98 games with the Red Sox, he at least figured to be in the team’s conversations for next year, despite being a free agent. However, by cutting Napoli loose, the Red Sox displayed their willingness to move on, which raises questions about the team’s first baseman in 2016 and beyond.

Red Sox

In recent times, Boston has enjoyed great continuity at first, with Napoli, Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis holding down the fort for the past decade. However, such certainty at the position is no longer possible for the Red Sox, who face some difficult decisions in recruiting a new first-sacker.

Initially, the front office will likely consider all internal options at its disposal, which immediately draws attention to Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, two expensive free agent signings who have really struggled this year. Hanley’s transition to left field has been an unmitigated disaster, with the former shortstop ranked by Fangraphs’ metrics as the worst defensive player in all of baseball. Moreover, Sandoval has shown a shocking lack of range, and he is rated as the fourth-worst fielder presently playing in the Majors.

If the Red Sox are to compete moving forward, this situation just has to be rectified. Ramirez is clearly incapable of playing left field, while Sandoval is plainly awful at third. To seriously contend in 2016, Boston needs new players in those positions. That’s an irrefutable fact. Therefore, in an ideal world, either Sandoval or Ramirez would move to first base, a far less challenging position, where they wouldn’t hurt the team as much.

However, Red Sox management can be stubborn and, though it’s plainly obvious for the world to see, they likely won’t admit their mistakes in signing Hanley and Pablo. Quite incredibly, Ben Cherington has already said that he doesn’t foresee a position change for either player, which leaves Brock Holt and Travis Shaw as other organizational options for the first base gig next year. Holt’s greatest value is as a super utility guy, while Shaw doesn’t inspire much long-term confidence, despite a strong performance this season.

Thus, with a lack of strong internal candidates, Red Sox may once again be forced into the free agent market, which is always an adventure with this front office. Yet, aside from Napoli, the only available first baseman of note is Chris Davis, who is too inconsistent to be worth a large financial investment.

Red Sox

A few first basemen may be available via trade over the winter, with Joey Votto and Pedro Alvarez being the most intriguing chips, but the Red Sox have been hugely disinclined to move any of their top prospects in recent years, so that would also be an unlikely move.

Ultimately, the Red Sox should use the remainder of this desperately disappointing season to evaluate their internal candidates at first base, with Ramirez and Sandoval and Holt sharing time with Shaw. If they stumble upon some success, that’s great. But if they discover that none of those options are viable antidotes to the first base conundrum, at least Ben Cherington will know that it’s time to go shopping again this winter.

Mike Napoli’s Vivid Dreams a Positive Sign

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This past off season, Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli underwent surgery to correct a sleep apnea condition that got so bad at one point, he even considered walking away from the game.
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After he got his problem fixed, not only was Napoli able to sleep well again, but he also was able to dream— something he had not done in quite Mike Napolisome time.

Although he had not dreamt in a while, his dreams came back in a vivid manner.

“I was roller skating with old school roller skates, headband, jean shorts, tank-top, old school earphones with the cassette player, skating through a city,” Napoli told Rob Bradford of WEEI. “Like dancing skating. Through cars, buses going by. I went by the Ritz and an NBA basketball team was checking into the hotel. Then all of a sudden I ended up being in a mall, skating around the mall, just dancing around and going around and around the mall.”
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“I woke up and told my friend Blacky, ‘You won’t believe this dream I just had.’ He said, ‘You had a dream?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it was the [expletive].’ I don’t know why I remembered it, but I did. I had to tell somebody. I don’t know why I was roller skating seeing an NBA basketball team.”

While that dream may sound odd, it was not the only one he had.

“I had another dream that I was a hockey player, me and my friend, Mathis,” he said. “We were becoming hockey players and we were in a Sam’s Club and that’s where we all stayed and lived in all one big area. There was nothing but 1,000 boxes of cereal and that’s all we ate was cereal.”
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Apparently, Napoli is enjoying his new found dreams. Red Sox fans can hope that maybe his dreams will help him on the field— probably not though. What can be taken from this is that Napoli has a healthy sleep cycle with plenty of REM sleep if he is able to remember his dreams.

Sleep apnea was the demise of former Red Sox top prospect Craig Hansen, so it is encouraging to know that Napoli will not fall down the same road.

Josh Ockimey Looking to Impress in 2015

josh ockimey

Last year in the MLB draft, the Boston Red Sox snagged two of the top power hitting first baseman available— Sam Travis and Josh Ockimey. While Travis established himself as a first baseman by playing well in the Cape Cod League and at Indiana, Ockimey was a little more unknown, drafted out of high school.
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Arguably possessing the best raw power tools in the Red Sox farm system, Boston swooped up Ockimey in the fifth round after hearing about his 420-foot home runs in high school while hitting from the left side of the plate.josh ockimey

A top recruit of Indiana University, Boston not only took away their star first baseman, but their first baseman of the future. Attending high school in Philadelphia, it makes sense why Josh Ockimey drew comparisons to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard.

“I think I have always been considered a power hitter,” Ockimey told Yawkey Way Report. “Even throughout my little league and high school days.”

At 6-foot-3 230 pounds now, Ockimey has the frame of an excellent power hitter and could even stand to put on more weight over the years to build power.
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Playing high school baseball in the north, Ockimey was forced to make a huge jump to professional baseball when the Red Sox assigned him to the Gulf Coast League.

“The toughest part of the transfer from high school to professional baseball was realizing that it’s an ‘everyday job,'” Ockimey said reflecting on the season. “I mean that as that it is my profession I chose to ‘live it’. Also consistency— in order to move higher in the minor leagues you have to be more consistent in your game.”

Making the transition to the pros was challenging for Ockimey, like it is for many young talents who struggle at first. Hitting .188 this past summer, he did manage to draw 14 walks, showing the potential for plate discipline.
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The first year of professional ball is never easy for young prospects. For example, Bryce Brentz hit .198 in the Lowell Spinners back in 2010 and the next season, he hit 30 home runs. Typically, pro players fare much better in their second pro seasons. Putting in extra work in the off season allows them to compete at such an elite level.

“What I worked on most this off season was overall body strength and conditioning. Also, I worked on consistency in my swing.”
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For Ockimey, it is his bat that will carry him through the ranks of the Red Sox farm system. Possibly slated to begin the 2015 season in short-season Lowell, he will have a chance to prove himself there and Boston is confident that he could develop into an excellent big league power hitter down the road— if all goes according to plan.

“My goals this season are to improve my game offensively, defensively and mentally. Offensively by being more consistent with the bat, defensively by making more plays and being quicker around the bat and mentally by having a more experienced professional approach to the game.”

Could The Boston Red Sox Use A Backup First Baseman?

mike napoliIt is no secret — when Mike Napoli gets hot, he is one of the most feared hitters in the game. Some of the time however, he is not a major threat.

He finished the year respectably hitting .248/.370/.419 in 415 at-bats while clipping 17 homeruns. Although his .370 OBP is great and his power is not too shabby either, the Boston Red Sox may want to consider getting a backup first baseman once again.
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In 2013, and for most of 2014, Boston had Mike Carp as their backup first baseman. Carp was effective in 2013 hitting .300/.367/.537 in 190 at-bats against right-handed pitching. In 2014, he proved ineffective against everyone.

There are a few simple reasons as to why Boston may want to get Mike Napoli a backup.

First of all, he is inconsistent. Looking at his batting average by month, he hit .301 .186 .311 .257 .175 .212 in each month respectively. He hit just .216 after the All-Star break despite still managing to slug seven homers.
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Second of all, he has an injury history. Dealing with a number of injuries including ones on his finger, toe and back, it seems certain he will not be able to play 162 games next season. Not to mention he is dealing with sleep apnea on top of that. Injuries explain his late season struggles, but it was clear Boston would not be prepared to lose him in regular season action next season.

Finally, there are his splits. Napoli destroys left-handed pitching and hit .300/.450/.473 off southpaws and just .230/.339/.400 off northpaws which is not too bad, but Boston could do better — especially when he is slumping.

On the other hand, a player who Boston may potentially sign who plays first base as his secondary position crushes right-handed pitching. Slashing .317/.363/.461 off northpaws, perhaps he sees some reps at first if he puts on a Red Sox uniform.
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Regardless of whether or not Boston does sign Sandoval, they will need another first baseman. Mike Napoli is no Iron Man meaning the team will need someone else to fill in every once in a while.

Even if it is the second coming of Jeff Bailey who they keep in their AAA stockpile, Boston needs that depth at their disposal.