01/05/82, Miyazaki, Japan
Height:5′ 9″, Weight: 170
While the big news this week was The Yu Darvish Sweepstakes going to the Texas Rangers. The Milwaukee Brewers made a move to bolster their outfield in 2012.The Brewers will pay $2.5 million to the Yakult Swallows to negotiate with outfielder Norichika Aoki. Milwaukee has 30 days to settle on a contract with Aoki’s agents. So what does this 29 almost 30-year-old (Birthday January 5) bring to the table?
This year he hit .292, 4 HR, 44 RBIs in 144 games for the Yakult Swallows. He has won 3 Batting Titles and has a career batting average of .329. Aoki could be a wise move to replace a possible loss of Ryan Braun. While he doesn’t have the power that Braun he is a proven on-base threat. Melvin said this in an interview following the announcement, in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “We looked around at some other outfielders. I can’t say it was specifically tied to (Braun’s situation). There might have been some thought of that.” He continued, “I think what you read is he’s(Norichika Aoki) someone who doesn’t have extra-base power, more of an average-type hitter. He is very typical of most of the Japanese players in that regard. Pretty good defender.”Doug Melvin’s other options in left-field are Nyjer Morgan who is likely to split time with Carlos Gomez in Center Field.
Other options include prospects Logan Schafer, the 2009 Minor League Player of the year or Caleb Gindl. The Japanese Central League star has been compared to another batting champion, Ichiro Suzuki who played for the Orix Blue Wave, with his ability to slap hits to the opposite field. While he doesn’t have the raw power potential of prized Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, the lefty would likely fit near the top of the line-up if both sides can agree on reasonable compensation.
Aoki is a good contact hitter who knows how to get on base. His career OBP of .401 is excellent. He sprays the ball to all fields and in Ichiro Suzuki fashion, can turn a single into a double. He’s developed a little pop in his time with the Swallows. Aoki has a unique approach. While scouts consider him a very polished and patient hitter, Aoki has no problem changing his stance or position in the batting box to get him self going; he’s not one to stay in an extended slump. A very intelligent hitter – but with a declining skill set.
Aoki runs great routes to the ball and has pretty good range. His arm however, is below average and on the decline. He will not patrol centerfield i Milwaukee. Left field is his most likely spot. He won’t make a lot of errors, but then he also won’t be gunning anyone down at home.
For all the comparisons to Ichiro Suzuki, Aoki is lacking. Even with Ichiro being in his declining years, he’s still a better player than Aoki. Aoki is likely heading for a platoon situation, even with the potential of Braun being out for 50 games. If Aoki can hit .280 with 5 HRs and 10 SB the Brewers should be happy. He’s a team player, and you can expect him to drag a bunt when asked to, pinch hit, and pinch run. That’s assuming that he takes the contract the Brewers will offer him. He certainly could end up back in Japan if the money isn’t there. My guess would be that Brewers get it done and Aoki will enjoy some success at Miller Park, which despite the success of Fielder and Braun, isn’t a launching pad. It’s a park that plays well for a line drive hitter, and Aoki is exactly that type of player.
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