Brian Hines (@JonLestersGhost) Contributing Writer If you’ve watched the Red Sox this year, you've realized Mike Napoli isn't the same. Flashback to the 2013 season. Napoli’s first year with the Sox, he hit .259 with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs. He, and his large beard, was a key contributor all year and helped the Sox win the World Series. It seems like yesterday he was hitting solo shots off Verlander in the ALCS, but that was 2 years ago. This is now. After a great start to spring training, Napoli looked to be back to his 2013 self, but that didn't happen. Napoli is batting .192 as of tonight with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs. Other than the one week back in May, Napoli has been atrocious at the plate.
So with Napoli becoming a free agent, and the Red Sox more likely than not won’t bring him back, it got me thinking of who will replace him. Ideas of Sandoval moving to first has been brought up, Obviously Farrell isn't scared to put players in a new position (Hanley), and Sandoval was spotted taking grounders at 1st before a game last week. Another idea was Holt. As Pedroia will likely be returning from the DL after the All-Star break, Holt could take on full time duties at 1st base. Whatever the Sox decided will be a big decision, and should be made correctly.
If I was Farrell here, my short term plan is if Napoli doesn't heat up, Holt will take over at first and call up Allen Craig. I still believe Craig can be a valuable player for this team, and its time to prove it. Before he was traded here he was a .300 hitter and hit 10-20 home runs and 90 RBIs in back to back seasons. He played well enough the Cardinals gave him a 5 year contract worth 43 million. But as injuries occurred his swing changed and he never got it back to normal. If the whole thing Craig thing fails, we put Holt there for the rest of the season.
So Holt and Craig (maybe) cover us for the rest of this year. Whats the learn term plan? Now the fun starts. As we enter the offseason the Sox have options at first base. Lets say Allen Craig didn't play well and Holt was better as a utility man, not as a regular day first baseman. What do we do? I look at Blake Swihart. The Red Sox have two young catchers for the future in Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart, but these two have opposite playing styles. Vazquez is made for behind the plate as he's a great defensive player. Swihart is known for more of his bat, but is also a great athlete. So why not play the “Next Yadier Molina” (Vazquez) behind the plate and teach the young, athletic Swihart the ways at first base. If done successfully the Sox can utilize both top prospects, and still hold a valuable backup experienced catcher in Hanigan.
If Swihart (above) could figure out first base, the Sox could use him and other
top prospect Vazquez behind the plate
Thoughts, questions or comments? Let me know below or ask me on twitter @JonLestersGhost