When I say that the Milwaukee Brewers should keep outfielder Norichika Aoki, I believe that places me in a minority of fans who think that way. Aoki is essentially the consummate baseball player you would want for your team and with the bargain of a contract he has, it would almost be a shame to trade him.
Here’s why I believe the team should keep him for at least another year.
Aoki does a lot of the right things in baseball that really seem undervalued. First and foremost, he’s one of the better lead-off hitters this team has seen for a long time and his ability to get on base only speaks volumes about his overall value to the team. In particular, Aoki hit .296/.366/.395 out of the lead-off role (538 at-bats) this season and picked up 159 hits, which made up the majority of his 171. Lead-off batters who get on base consistently don’t just grow on trees and I think that’s one of Aoki’s most undervalued skills.
Not only is Aoki a great guy to have at the top of the order, but he’s one of the toughest outs in the line-up. Aoki only struck out 40 times while walking 55 times this season in 597 at-bats. This by far made him one of the absolute hardest players to get out this season when compared to nearly every other starter in baseball.
Sure, Aoki only drove in 37 runs, but for a lead-off man that’s not exactly a fair argument. A majority of the time when he came up to bat this year, there was no one on as 435 of his at-bats happened without a runner on base. With runners in scoring position, Aoki came through as he hit .289 and drove in 28 runs. He doesn’t have much of an opportunity to hit with runners on base, which is why an argument against him for having a low number of RBIs is ridiculous.
Perhaps the main reason why I don’t want the Brewers to part ways with Aoki is Khris Davis. Honestly, I don’t think Davis is ready to be a starter and I think his decline (granted he did get injured) in September proves that. Unlike rookie second baseman Scooter Gennett, Davis cooled off tremendously, which makes me concerned about his status as a starter. I’m not discrediting Davis, but why trade away Aoki when it’s clear Davis only had two months of productivity whereas Aoki has been producing from the get-go.
The Brewers are only paying Aoki $2 million for 2014 and that is by far a steal. Aoki rewards the Brewers with his play on the field and while his defense is pretty average, I believe his bat more than makes up for that. I’m probably in the minority that believes Davis should be benched for the time being, but who knows what will happen. Davis has the makings to be quite a tremendous player, but I don’t believe a small sample size is enough to boot Aoki out of Milwaukee.
So for the time being, Aoki should continue to be the starter in one of the corners of the outfield. I feel rushing Davis out into the role will only be a train-wreck, which is why I believe he has definitely earned the job as the fourth outfielder and will become the starter when he’s ready. For now, the Brew Crew should continue on with Aoki instead of trying to shop him because that would be a move to regret sooner than later as he is a valuable asset in Milwaukee.