Speculation will continue to swirl about the Angels being in the market for a veteran first baseman thanks to Kendry Morales’ broken ankle, but for now Mike Scioscia is giving career-long catcher Mike Napoli a shot to grab hold of the position:
Mike’s going to get a lot of looks at first. We have some depth at the catching position which is going to let us use his versatility at first and contribute offensively. We’ll probably mix in some other guys, but we’ll try to keep his bat in the lineup.
Napoli hadn’t played a single inning at first base in the majors prior to Morales’ injury, but Jeff Mathis coming off the disabled list yesterday frees him up to move out from behind the plate.
Napoli admitted that moving to first base “felt a little strange” initially, but he’s by far the Angels’ best option offensively and did play there some in the minors. In fact, this could be Napoli’s best chance at everyday playing time, as Scioscia has often gone with Mathis’ glove over his bat when choosing his starting catcher.
Napoli has a lifetime .848 OPS, which is above average for big-league first basemen, and he’s averaged 30 homers per 500 at-bats for his career. Assuming he can be somewhat passable defensively, Napoli is very capable of giving the Angels the same type of production they’d get from a midseason pickup like Paul Konerko.
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius had another fantastic night last night. He went 3-for-3, hitting a home run for the fourth game in a row, had an RBI single and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances in New York’s 7-4 win over Minnesota.
For the year that gives Gregorius a line of .372/.470/.833, putting him atop the American League in average, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. He also leads the league in total bases (65) and RBI (29). He leads all of baseball in fWAR at 2.2, edging out Mike Trout despite the fact that Trout has played in two more games. He’s second behind Trout in homers with nine.
After last night’s game he insisted that he is not a home run hitter:
“I do have a lot of home runs, but it’s not like I am going out there to try to hit them . . . I’m not a power guy like Judge and Stanton, who hit 50 to 60 and up. Those are the guys who actually hit home runs. One year, let’s say, I hit five — then you ask me where that part went . . . if they go out, they go out. I’m just mostly trying to barrel it up and get a good swing . . . I try to hit line drives and if you check most of my home runs they were line drives,” he said. “It’s not like I am going up to hit deep fly balls.”
Given that he hit 25 homers last year and 20 the year before, he’s being a bit modest, even if he’s not likely to keep up this torrid pace. That modesty is not stopping some people from getting a bit carried away, of course:
We’ll forgive Bob for the hyperbole. Didi has been fun to watch.