Sleeper: Mike Napoli, 1B Boston Red Sox


Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get started, just take a second to admire that beard.

Alright, let’s get to it.

Mike Napoli of the Boston Red Sox left a lot of fantasy owners wanting more in 2014. Those who nabbed him in the middle of their drafts to be an inexpensive source of power ended up with a guy who had his lowest home run total (17) since 2007 along with his lowest run (49) and RBI (55) totals since 2008. As a result, Napoli has absolutely plummeted in 2015 drafts, he can currently be had in the 28th round according to Or in other words, he’s going 40 picks after Joe Mauer and Yasmani Grandal; 60 picks after Steve Pearce and over 110 picks after Matt Adams.

Mike Napoli is definitely in the waning part of his career but I believe he is a very strong candidate to at least have a minor bounce back season in 2015. The hate has gone too far; there is value to be had here.

Injuries have always played a large role throughout Napoli’s career, and there is absolutely zero reason you should expect 150+ games out of him this year.  There is one malady in particular that Napoli had surgery to correct this offseason, and I think it’s going to benefit him greatly. In November, Napoli had a facial surgery to help alleviate his battle with sleep apnea. It’s a condition that he’s been dealing with for a while, but this quote he sent to helps put into perspective how bad it finally got last season,

“I’ve tried numerous things and none of them worked. Dental mouth piece, CPAP machine, medicines… It’s just gotten to the point where I have to get this done.”

For those of you who don’t know what it is, sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops while you’re asleep. It’s a brutal condition that completely disrupts your sleep, which makes me wonder, when was the last time Mike Napoli got a good night’s sleep? My father deals with some minor sleep apnea and he wakes up some mornings just completely drained, like he hadn’t slept at all.

If Napoli’s condition was so bad that he had to resort to a surgery where they actually move both your upper and lower jaws forward on your face I can only imagine how he must have felt when he woke up each morning.

Typically I rely on stats, I love using cold, hard numbers to support an argument. I am using almost zero stats here, this is an argument based on logic.

Baseball season is long, it’s a game of attrition. These guys play 162 games in 180 days right in the middle of the hottest time of the year, and mixed in with all of that is a whole lot of traveling. Studies have proven that athletes function better when they sleep well the night before an event; a full rested athlete is more alert, more energetic and is in an overall better mood.

So would it not it make sense that a serious sleep apnea condition would have some serious effects on a 32 year old baseball player who has to play in the blistering sun day-in-and-day-out, is constantly having to travel and is also dealing with other nagging injuries?

Scott Miller from Bleacher Report was able to talk to Napoli about the procedure and this is what Napoli had to say about how he is feeling a little over five months post-surgery.

“It’s night and day. Just me waking up and getting my day started. I actually come here and get my workout in in the morning. I actually want to work out. Where before, I’d get here and I’d be so tired I’d get through a couple of sets and not feel like doing anymore.”

There is just no way that the apnea did not have an impact on his performance. I know how sluggish I feel the day after I do not get enough sleep. I cannot imagine what it must be like to routinely sleep poorly and then have to go out into the blazing sun and hit a 94 MPH fastball.

There is no denying that Napoli’s prime years are past him but would you really be shocked if he went out this year and replicated his 2013 season where he hit .259 with 23 home runs, 79 runs and 92 RBI? Even with his struggles last year, he was still a well above-average hitter in terms of wOBA (his .353 mark was over 40 points higher than the league average) and his 124 wRC+ was also still well above league average.

His ISO has been on a downward trend since 2011, but could that not be partially explained by the sleep apnea? Would it not it make sense that waking up day-after-day with less and less energy would eventually take a toll on your ability to hit major league pitching with authority?

I absolutely love where Napoli is going in drafts so far in 2015 and I’m looking to land him in the latter rounds anywhere I can. Do not underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.