Napoli's strikeout problem
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is both driving in runs and striking out at a prolific pace this season.

He leads the majors in RBIs with 25, and is sixth in strikeouts with 26.

Fantasy owners are likely paying closer attention to the first number, but the strikeouts could play a big part in Napoli's stats going forward.

He struck out 125 times in 417 plate appearances last season, a 30 percent strikeout rate. He has a 31 percent strikeout rate this year.

The difference is that Napoli also walked in 13.4 percent of his plate appearances last year, while this year he has just four walks.

The first baseman is hitting .278 so far (22-for-79), but that has come with an unsustainable .367 BABIP.

Napoli's career BABIP is .301, and if he ultimately settles there while still putting up the same strikeout, walk and home run percentages as he has over his first 84 plate appearances this season, the slugger can be expected to hit around .238.

Napoli's fantasy potential this season is ultimately higher than it was last season in Texas. Playing first base or DH every day instead of catching will prevent him from wearing down and also will require fewer days off.

And after hitting seventh or eighth in 90 of his 102 starts last season as part of the Texas Rangers' stacked lineup, Napoli is batting fourth for the Red Sox. That will allow him to drive in and score more runs per plate appearance than he did last year.

But Napoli has never been a particularly transcendent hitter with men on base or with runners in scoring position. He has a .247 career average with runners on and a .248 average with RISP. This year he's hitting .333 in 48 at-bats with runners on and .370 in 27 at-bats with RISP.

As the strikeouts pile up, he'll fail more with runners on and his overall average will plummet.

If you're buying Napoli, just be aware that you aren't getting a .270 hitter or anything close to it.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at