Looking at Aoki’s Case

» 30 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb »

After a little discussion about Norichika Aoki on an earlier post, I thought I’d break down the speedy outfielder’s case in a little more detail. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

The case for:

  • Was among the best hitters in Japan from 2005-2010, four times hitting .340 or higher (via npb.or.jp/eng)
  • Strong plate discipline mostly survived the new ball
  • Continued to make contact in 2011, career low strikeouts
  • Speed doesn’t slump
  • Rangey in the field, led Japan’s center fielders with a 2.45 range factor in 2011 through July 20 (via Baseball Lab)

The case against:

  • Performance decline in 2011 — from a career-best .358/.435/.509 to a career worst .292/.360/.358 (via Pro Yakyu Data Freak)
  • No power with the new ball; perilous drop from 44 to 18 doubles from 2010 to 2011
  • Weak throwing arm
  • 22.9% of his hits in 2011 were infield singles (according to Pro Yakyu Nuru Data Okiba)
  • In 2011 he hit .382/.452/.520 in 115 plate appearances against Yokohama, padding his stats by bashing Japan’s worst pitching staff (also via Pro Yakyu Nuru Data Okiba)
  • “Aoki’s plate discipline seems to have regressed” — me, August 5, 2011.

I’ve flip-flopped on Aoki as a prospect quite a bit this season, though I haven’t written much. I was extremely bearish early on, and had kind of written him off as a prospect, then I came around a bit to a more glass-half-full view. Now I’m backing off a bit a again. I think the specific numbers that I’ve keyed in on paint a rather negative picture.

I think Aoki has enough transferrable skills to be a useful MLB player, but there some real limitations to his game, most notably his lack of power. I still think my Juan Pierre comparison is not such a bad one, with the caveat that Aoki probably won’t get enough playing time to rack up 200 hits like Pierre was doing in his prime.

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