If there was one position that was secured in 2013, right field was it for the Milwaukee Brewers. This past season, Norichika Aoki was one of the Brewers’ most consistent players and helped solidify one position for a year so riddled with injuries.
That said, how did Aoki fare on the grade scale in 2013?
When Aoki first came to America in 2012, nobody really knew how well he would perform. Less than a year later, he was the Brewers’ starter in right field. Aoki earned his job by some solid work in 2012 and in 2013, he helped create one of the most lethal outfields in all of baseball.
As a lead-off hitter, Aoki’s numbers across the board were solid as he hit .286/.356/.370 which is what you want out of a guy at the top of the order. Now obviously, Aoki isn’t going to run into many chances to drive in runs besides the occasional sacrifice from a pitcher as he only drove in 37 runs, but RBIs are such an arbitrary stat. Runs wise, Aoki scored 80 times and overall held a wOBA of .326 to cap off a great offensive season.
The best thing about Aoki is his patience at the plate, which led to his high on-base percentage. In 597 at-bats this year, Aoki only struck out 40 times or 5.9 percent, which in itself is rather impressive. Aside from a low-strikeout rate, Aoki posted a walk percentage of 8.2 with 171 hits, so he was always finding ways to get on base.
In the outfield Aoki is a pretty average defender, but he’s still a competent player that drew much trade interest back in July. Aoki had a fielding percentage of .990 with an UZR of 3.2 this year, but he’s really only a right fielder and nothing more. That isn’t to cut down Aoki per say, but with Milwaukee he’s never going to play in center on a frequent basis, mainly because Carlos Gomez has that spot locked down.
At the end of September, Brewers’ general manager Doug Melvin announced that the team would exercise the option on Aoki’s contract for 2014. That said, this looks more like a ploy to trade the 31-year-old with the emergence of Khris Davis. The Brewers could land a nice haul with Aoki’s quiet, but solid production. If Aoki is traded, I’d expect it to be sometime in the Hot Stove months. Personally, I would hate to see Aoki leave, which is why I believe the Brewers will keep him for next year to see how well Davis pans out.
Aoki’s final grade: A