Mike Napoli Providing Production and Protection for Boston Red Sox

By Jonathan Cullen
Mike Napoli
Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports

Who leads all of major league baseball in runs batted in so far this season? Why, it’s the Boston Red Sox’ first baseman Mike Napoli, leading the league with 27 runs knocked in so far and most of that occurring with David Ortiz on the disabled list.

See the guy that he is slapping hands with in the picture? That’s Ortiz, the man with the .500 batting average and two home runs in his first six games back. That combo should be very productive provided they both stay healthy.

It may not be Manny Ramirez and Ortiz in their prime, but it will certainly be enough for this new look Red Sox team to generate offense and score runs.

It’s exactly the way the Red Sox envisioned it when they signed Napoli to man first base this season. Napoli was always a hitter who crushed Red Sox pitching in the past, so it is great to see him playing with Boston for a change.

Napoli has played extremely well around the first base bag, giving the Red Sox infield much better defense and protection than expected. Instead of being a liability around the first, Napoli has looked and shown that he is able to play the position at a league average level.

In addition to Napoli quick start in runs batted in, he also leads the league in doubles with 13 and is currently hitting .283 with combined OPS of .909. Once the weather warms up at Fenway Park, it is easy to image that Napoli will start to pepper the wall and benefit from the short wall in Boston.

Another positive sign is that Napoli has made use of all parts of the field, hitting the ball to right and right-center and center instead of trying to pull everything.

The only real downside to Napoli’s performance so far has been his walk to strikeout ratio this season of only five walks to 32 strikeouts, meaning Napoli is striking out roughly one out of every three at-bats. That number is likely to adjust now that Ortiz is back and the lineup is deeper. But keep in mind, it is in-line with his 125 strikeouts last season in just 352 at-bats.

So far, Napoli has been exactly as advertised and the Red Sox just have to hope that he can continue to be a force for the entire season.

Jon can be reached: Twitter: jcullen71, Rant SportsJonathan  CullenGoogle Plus: Jonathan  Cullen

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