When Mike Napoli was traded by the Los Angeles Angels to the Toronto Blue Jays (who curiously moved him to the Texas Rangers) ahead of the 2011 season, he was a part-time catcher whose salary had risen too high, too quickly through arbitration for his team’s taste. Not helping matters was the general lack of support he received from Mike Scioscia and the rest of the Angels coaching staff who seemed more concern with his defensive inefficiencies than his offensive abilities.
After two seasons in Texas, and ahead of his first foray into free agency, he’s emerged as one of those rare catcher/first baseman/designated hitter utility players that’s not only useful to his team, but deserving of being mentioned in the same breath as Joe Mauer.
The biggest difference between his time in Anaheim and Arlington was simply about being given the chance to play every day. In other words, there was a very valuable baseball player that came up through the Angels system and was a member of their roster that they failed to properly appreciate. And just in case the team would like to forget about their inability to recognize his talent, Napoli seems to rather enjoy the opportunity to remind them.
For example, last night, with a playoff spot on the line, Napoli had a massive game against the Angels, going three for three with two home runs, a double, a walk and six runs batted in. It was an incredible performance, but far from out of the ordinary for Napoli when he faces his former team.
Over 134 plate appearances against the Angels during these last two seasons, Napoli has accumulated a .396 AVG/.500 OBP/.829 SLG slash line with a dozen home runs and an OPS+ over 200. But perhaps more importantly to the Rangers in 2012, he has begun to get hot at the right time. After struggling with injuries through much of this season, Napoli has caught fire in September, hitting six home runs and putting up a .293 AVG/.383 OBP/.780 SLG slash line with a .473 wOBA and 199 wRC+ in 47 plate appearances.