Napoli with the Cleveland Indians in 2016
|First baseman / Catcher / Designated hitter|
October 31, 1981 |
|May 4, 2006, for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim|
(through 2016 season)
|Runs batted in||678|
|Career highlights and awards|
Michael Anthony "Mike" Napoli (born October 31, 1981) is an American professional baseball first baseman who is currently a free agent. Previously a catcher, he has played in Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and Cleveland Indians.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Minor league career
- 3 Major League career
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Born in Hollywood, Florida, Napoli attended Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Another notable Flanagan High alumnus is current Detroit Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez. Napoli was drafted out of high school by the Anaheim Angels in the 17th round (500th overall) of the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft.
Minor league career
Napoli began his professional career with the rookie-level Butte Copper Kings, but sat out most of the year after suffering a lower back strain. He returned in 2001 with the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes before transferring to Single-A Cedar Rapids. In 2002, he returned to Cedar Rapids, hitting .251 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI as the Kernels' primary designated hitter. He also started at catcher for 37 games. After being transferred to Rancho Cucamonga in 2003, Napoli only played 47 games after injuring his right shoulder.
In 2004 Napoli hit .282 with 29 home runs and 118 RBI, ranking seventh in RBI and ninth in walks in all of the minor leagues. In 2005, Napoli was promoted to Double-A Arkansas, finishing second in the league in extra-base hits and fifth in runs scored.
Major League career
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Napoli made his Major League Baseball debut on May 4, 2006, against the Detroit Tigers in Comerica Park, and proceeded to hit a home-run in his first Major League at-bat off starting pitcher Justin Verlander. With solid offensive and defensive numbers, Napoli worked his way to become the Angels' regular starting catcher. In 2006, Napoli hit .228 with 16 home runs in only 268 at-bats.
Napoli began 2007 as the Opening Day starting catcher, and split time with José Molina through the first half of the season. The second half of the season was injury-marred for Napoli, as he suffered a sprained ankle on a game-winning play at the plate during the final game before the All-Star break, causing him to miss 12 games. He then suffered a strained hamstring only 5 games after returning, causing him to miss all of August as a result. For the season, Napoli ended up batting .247 with 10 home runs, despite appearing in only 75 games.
Napoli again was the Angels Opening Day starter at catcher, and after fully recovering from his 2007 injuries, began the 2008 season on a torrid pace, belting 6 home runs in the month of April. Despite his impressive hitting performances, Napoli continued to share time behind the plate with Jeff Mathis, who had assumed the back-up duties after the Angels trade of Molina during the 2007 season. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit Napoli again in July, causing him to miss 28 games with shoulder issues. However, after fully recovering from the injury, Napoli exploded down the stretch, leading all of Major League Baseball with a .457 batting average in the month of September. For the season, Napoli tallied a .273 batting average and 20 home runs, both career highs. Napoli also amassed an incredible .960 OPS (On-base + Slugging percentage), which would have placed him in the top 5 in the American League in that category, had he accumulated enough at-bats to qualify for the league leaders. Napoli's production helped the Angels win the 2008 American League West Division championship, with an impressive 100–62 record.
Napoli also posted one of the greatest individual post-season performances in Angels history during the 2008 American League Divisional Series against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. In Game 3 of the series, with the Red Sox holding a 2–0 series lead, Napoli unloaded 2 mammoth home runs against Red Sox Starting Pitcher Josh Beckett, helping extend the game into extra innings. He then singled and scored the game-winning run in the 11th inning, preventing the Red Sox from sweeping the series.
Napoli continued to compete with Jeff Mathis for the leading catcher spot in 2009. He also started 18 games at designated hitter as teammate Vladimir Guerrero could not fulfill that role because of an injury. Still, despite his platooning of playing time with Mathis, Napoli continued to thrive at the plate. In his first injury-free season since his rookie year, Napoli set or matched career highs in virtually every offensive category, including games played (114), at bats (382), runs scored (60), hits (104), doubles (22), and Runs Batted In (56). He also finished the season with a .272 Batting Average and again hit 20 home runs for the second season in a row. On defense, he led AL catchers in errors, with 8.
He went into spring training with a bigger glove and worked on fundamentals in hopes of getting more playing time as a catcher.
However, Napoli wound up playing the majority of the 2010 season at first base. He made his first major league start at first base on May 30, after regular first baseman Kendrys Morales broke his lower leg in a walk-off celebration. With the loss of Morales for the season, and the return of fellow catcher Jeff Mathis from the disabled list, Napoli started 70 games at first base, posting a .989 Fielding Percentage. Napoli set career highs in several categories, most notably home runs (26). He was 7th in the AL in strikeouts (137), in 453 at bats. Napoli also became the Angels all-time leader in home runs by a catcher during the 2010 season.
On January 21, Napoli was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays along with outfielder Juan Rivera in exchange for outfielder Vernon Wells. Four days later, he was traded by the Blue Jays to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Frank Francisco.
On May 29, he was involved in a controversial game-ending play at home plate in the ninth inning in a game against the Kansas City Royals. Napoli was at first and Elvis Andrus was up against Joakim Soria. Andrus hit a shot past Eric Hosmer that got into right field. Napoli was sent home by the third-base coach. Hosmer threw the ball to the plate. Brayan Pena tagged Napoli on the upper shoulder, but Napoli was called safe by the home-plate umpire, giving the Rangers a walk-off win. Pena was enraged and arguing with the umpires with manager Ned Yost. Replays showed that Pena did not block the plate, but tagged Napoli, who got his feet in just before the tag. In his first season with the Rangers he batted .320 with 30 home runs (10th in the American League) and 75 RBIs, while improving his defense (throwing out 36% of base-stealers; 4th-best in the league). He had a .631 slugging percentage in 369 at bats.
In Game 5 of the 2011 World Series, he hit a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Rangers a 4-2 lead. The Rangers held on to win and take a 3-games-to-2 lead in the series, though they eventually lost the World Series Championship to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games.
On February 11, 2012, Napoli signed a one-year, $9.4 million deal to avoid arbitration with the Rangers. Napoli filed for $11.5 million, but the Rangers countered with $8.3 million. He received the second highest raise for anyone in their third or fourth time through the arbitration process, with Prince Fielder taking the top spot. He became a free agent after the season.
Boston Red Sox
On December 3, 2012, Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, pending a physical examination. Following a six-week period during which the status of the deal was in question after his physical showed signs of a hip issue, Napoli came to terms with the Red Sox on a one-year, $5 million deal with incentives that could make the deal worth $13 million. The incentives were to stay on the active roster for at least 165 days (which Napoli achieved), or get up to 625 plate appearances with at least 120 days on the roster.
On April 22, 2013, Napoli hit his fourth career grand slam off of A. J. Griffin in a 9-6 win over the Oakland Athletics. At one point of the season, Napoli was tied for second in RBIs with Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder. On September 15, 2013, Napoli struck out for the 178th time of the season, passing Mark Bellhorn to be the new Red Sox franchise leader in strikeouts in a season. Upon his franchise-breaking strikeout, Napoli threw his bat and helmet in frustration and argued with home plate umpire Ron Kulpa and was ejected for the first time in his Major League career. For the 2013 season, Napoli batted .259 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, and struck out 187 times that set a new Red Sox season record.
Although Napoli played more games at catcher than at any other position in each of his seasons with the Angels and Rangers, he did not catch a single game for the Red Sox in 2013, playing the field entirely at first base with a few games as a designated hitter. During Games 3, 4, and 5 of the 2013 World Series, with the DH rule not in effect per National League rules, regular DH David Ortiz played first base and Napoli was taken out of the lineup rather than moved to catcher. After 6 games against the St. Louis Cardinals, Napoli got his first career championship ring as the Red Sox won their 8th World Series pennant. He agreed to re-sign with the Red Sox on a two-year deal worth $32 million on December 6, 2013.
During 2014, Napoli dealt with injuries throughout the season. Napoli broke his finger in an early season game vs the Chicago White Sox. Napoli returned, but finger problems and sleep apnea took him out of the lineup for much of the late season.
Napoli struggled in 98 games for the Red Sox in 2015, hitting just .207 with 98 strikeouts, 13 HRs, and 40 RBIs.
Second stint with the Texas Rangers
On August 7, 2015, the Texas Rangers acquired Napoli and cash considerations from the Red Sox for a player to be named later. Manager Jeff Banister used Napoli against left-handed pitching and played him in left field. He played 35 games for the Rangers in 2015, making 91 plate appearances and batting .295 with five home runs, 10 RBI and a .513 SLG.
On January 5, 2016, Napoli signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Cleveland Indians. During the season, Streetsboro, Ohio resident Nate Crowe coined the popular phrase "Party at Napoli's", creating a t-shirt with the slogan that was gifted to Napoli. Upon wearing the shirt during a post-game interview, demand for the shirts was high. Subsequent sales of the shirt have raised over $200,000 for the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital. Napoli batted .239 while setting career highs with 34 home runs and 101 RBIs.
In game three of the 2016 American League Championship Series, Napoli's home run off of Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman made him the fifth player to hit a postseason home run for four different teams, joining Ron Gant, John Olerud, Reggie Sanders, and Russell Martin.
- "Mike Napoli Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
- Cameron, Dave (December 17, 2009). "Is Matsui a Potential Problem". fangraphs.com.
- DiGiovanna, Mike (February 25, 2010). "For catcher Mike Napoli, the glove may hold the answer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010.
- Gilbert, Steve. "Angels-Yankees matchup: Catchers". MLB.com: News. MLB Advanced Media. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Blue Jays trade Vernon Wells to Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera". Toronto.bluejays.mlb.com. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
- Stephens, Bailey (January 25, 2011). "Napoli dealt to Rangers for Francisco". MLB.com. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
- Nicholson-Smith, Ben (February 11, 2012). "Rangers, Mike Napoli Avoid Arbitration". MLB Trade Rumors.
- Cafardo, Nick (December 3, 2012). "Red Sox, Mike Napoli agree to terms on three-year deal". Boston.com Extra Bases - Red Sox updates and insights.
- "Red Sox Sign 1B Mike Napoli to One-Year Contract". Retrieved 2013-01-22.
- Boston holds off Tigers 1-0 behind Lackey, bullpen cbssports.com wire reports, 15 October 2013.
- "Mike Napoli returning to Red Sox on two-year deal". USA Today. December 6, 2013.
- "Indians sign Mike Napoli". Cleveland.com. Retrieved January 5, 2016.
- "How 'Party at Napoli's' and Cleveland Indians postseason run are helping sick children". Cleveland.com. Retrieved October 17, 2016.
- "Mike Napoli brings Indians closer to party time". ESPN.com. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
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