#47 - MIKE NAPOLI - C
The pre-eminent offensive catcher in Angels history was never a top prospect and only got his shot when the first month of 2006 featured a Jose Molina-Jeff Mathis catching combo that was the anemic black hole in the slow-starting team's lineup.
Napoli was called up for a day game after a night game on the road. Unlike the touted Jeff Mathis, king of many a prospect list, Napoli was an afterthought, a strikeout-prone roster-filler.
And then he homered in his first major league plate appearance. Off Justin Verlander. After Rex Hudler had called it prior to the At Bat to lead off the top of the third inning. Napoli ended up with the most playing time at Catcher for the 89-win 2006 Angels and the second best offensive output - as measured by hi 110 OPS+ - by a regular.
And for that he was thrown into the saddest playing time controversy in team history. Throughout the next four seasons he played with the team, Napoli's job was never secure and never day to day despite being a leading offensive player. His nemesis was his friend, roommate and fellow Floridian Mathis. Manager Mike Scioscia swore by Mathis and supplicant old media sportswriters sucked up the sludge he was serving in justifying putting Napoli on the bench.
Meanwhile, Mike Napoli put up one of the best Angels careers ever.
Despite some seasons of less than 300 Plate Appearances, he never had an OPS+ below 107 and was as high as 148. He finished with an OPS+ of 119 ranking eleventh all time for Halo batters with more than 1,500 PA with the team.
And his much-maligned catching skills were actually not terrible - nor were those of his nemesis Mathis so stellar that they warranted benching Napoli. The biggest crack in Scioscia's armor was his blind benching of Napoli in favor of Mathis when there was no demonstrable reason other than, like, it was just Scioscia's opinion...
When Kendrys Morales was injured in a freak home plate celebration in May of 2010, Napoli grabbed a 1B glove and took over for him, producing at a 115 OPS+. His reward? Unceremoniously traded for a contract albatross of no use to the team, Vernon Wells. An astoundingly stupid moment an one that seemed to reek of some retribution for ...well for Napoli being Napoli on the field and in the batter's box. Mathis had an OPS+ of 37 that season but he would be given all of 2011 to catch and delievr a 38 OPS+. If you don't know anything about advanced stats that is two of the worst offensive seasons by any Angels player ever. And it was deliberately manipulated into existence by Mike Scioscia out of nothing but a blind arrognat privileging of Catchin defense - as he (not actual statisticians who measure and quantify catching defense) judged it.
Mike Napoli's defense was below average - in his five seasons and 1,804 PA he lost 2 WAR because of it, finishing his Angels career with 10.9 WAR. HE had 12.9 Offensive Wins Above Replacement. His .346 On Base Percentage ranks in the club's top 20 and his .485 Slugging Percentage ranks in the top ten. His .831 OPS is in the top 5.
He hit the most home runs by an Angels Catcher and blasted 92 overall plus two in the 2008 ALDS against the Red Sox. He scored the winning run in extra innings in game three, the first postseason Angels win against the Chowds since 1986, ending a sickening eleven game postseason winning streak.
No Angels player was ever held back more, to the detriment of his team winning, than Mike Napoli. And still that didn't stop him from being the 47th greatest Angel of them all.