Who’s on First
Mike Napoli played 68 games in the minors at first base, including 36 with Rancho Cucamonga in 2004.
Tom Kotchman warned this would happen.
A few years ago, I listened as the Orem Owlz’ manager warned his young players never to jump on home plate to celebrate a dinger. Kotch told of an opposing team’s batter who did just that, slipped and broke his leg, ending his season.
Kendry Morales wasn’t there for the lecture (he began his career at Rancho Cucamonga), but it certainly came to mind when I heard that Morales broke his lower left leg celebrating a walk-off grand slam to give the Angels a 5-1 10-inning win over the Seattle Mariners.
You can see video of the injury on the MLB.com web page reporting the game.
Media reports suggest Morales is probably done for the season, so the question now is one posed decades ago by Lou Costello — who’s on first?
The initial answer is probably Robb Quinlan.
The veteran left as a free agent last winter, found no takers, returned to the Angels in spring training on a minor league contract and is currently at Triple-A Salt Lake. With prospect Mark Trumbo getting most of the playing time at first base, Robb has seen action at third base, designated hitter and a little left field in addition to first. His AVG/OBP/SLG are currently .253/.323/.322, not particularly inspiring numbers but he’s a known quantity.
Quinlan is on the 40-man roster, as is Trumbo. I want to see Mark in Anaheim as much as he does, but it’s probably not his time yet. His AVG/OBP/SLG are .275/.320/.522, but as I demonstrated in Friday’s blog on Salt Lake offense numbers his performance in PCL super-hitter friendly parks somewhat distorts his numbers this year, as usually happens with Bees hitters. In neutral or pitcher-friendly parks, Mark’s numbers are .227/.237/.493 in 75 at-bats.
One option out there might be Jeff Mathis, once he heals from his broken right wrist. No, Matty wouldn’t play first base, but Mike Napoli would. Nap had occasional time in the minors at first base, most significantly in 2004 with Rancho Cucamonga. Napoli missed much of 2003 after surgery to repair a tear in his right labrum. He played 36 games at first base for the Quakes in 2004, and was at first for 68 games overall in his minor league career. Mike underwent surgery again on his right shoulder in late October 2008, suggesting that he might not hold up over the long haul to catching every day.
MLB.com reported on May 26 that Mathis took test swings with a bat on Wednesday, suggesting a rehab assignment might be on the horizon. That might put him about a month away from returning, near the end of June.
At that point, if the Angels haven’t made another move, Mathis could assume most of the catching time with Bobby Wilson as the backup, and Napoli at first base.
The Angels could pursue a trade, of course, but they’re not likely to cough up top talent for what would amount to a short-term rental.