Tag Archive > Norichika Aoki

A Brief Commercial Break

» 09 March 2012 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

For the third consecutive year, my friends at Rotowire invited me to contribute to their annual Fantasy Baseball Guide. Given my schedule constraints over the offseason, my Rotowire article wound up being the most complete analysis of all the Japanese MLB newcomers for this season.

Of the three articles I’ve contributed to Rotowire, I think this one is the best, so I hope you’ll check it out. Rotowire’s 2012 Fantasy Baseball guide is on newsstands across the US now, or can be purchased online.

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Changes for 2012: Yakult Swallows

» 11 February 2012 » In npb » 1 Comment

Coming: Lastings Milledge, Orlando Roman, Kenta Abe, Tatsuo Kinoshita, Itsuki Shoda

Going: Norichika Aoki, Aaron Guiel, Hirotoshi Ishii, Osamu Hamanaka, Ryo Kawashima, Josh Whitesell

Staying: Wladimir Balentien, Tony Barnette, Chang Yong Lim

First a admission: whatever I write here won’t be as good as what you’ll find at TokyoSwallows.com. That site’s entirely in English, so click the link without fear. It was tempting to not write this at all and just stop with that link, but onward I shall press.

Yakult’s offseason boils down to this: Norichika Aoki out, Lastings Milledge in.

In fulfilling Norichika Aoki’s long held wish and sending him to MLB via the posting system, Yakult waved good by to one of the statistically best hitters in team history, but a guy who’s OPS fell from .944 to .718 with the introduction of the new ball. Milledge might not take over center, but he’ll step in to an outfield spot left open by Aoki and should bring a bit more power, a bit less contact, and a bit less defensive prowess.

And that’s pretty much it for offseason moves for Yakult. I thought they could have used another starter, but there weren’t too many on the market. Orlando Roman provides some interesting pitching depth, but he’ll have to beat out Tony Barnette for roster time, as foreigners Milledge, Wladimir Balentien and Chang Yong Lim have secure roster spots. Perhaps that other starter is already on the roster, in the from of improvement from sophomore Yuki Shichijyo, a return to health from Yoshinori, or a return to form from Kyohei Muranaka.

Will the Swallows compete in 2012? They finished second in 2011, but it seemed like they got there by getting off to a hot start, and then playing enough games to hang around for the rest of the year. Instinctively an Aoki-less 2012 Yakult feels similar to Hiroshima, though with more power. Like the Carp, Yakult has front-rotation strength (Yakult has Shohei Tateyama and Masanori Ishikawa), a strong foreign closer (Lim), and some mid-rotation and middle relief question marks. Only the presence of Yakult’s power bats of Balentien, Kazuhiro Hatakeyma and probably Milledge seem to differentiate. So, yeah, it’s a cop-out, but this feels like a middle-of-the-pack roster that could compete with regression from the rest of the league or break-out performances, or could suffer from the inverse.

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Attanasio on Aoki

» 14 January 2012 » In mlb prospects » 1 Comment

Update: Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt has more.

Sponichi got Brewers owner Mark Attanasio on the record about Norichika Aoki on January 12. Here’s what Attanasio had to say:

“It certainly wasn’t a tryout. It was an opportunity for our GM and manager to directly see what type of player he is.”

“Defensively he was terrific and he’s a professional with an established track record, so he took it seriously.”*

*Note: translation of a translation.

Sponichi expects the Brewers and Aoki to reach an agreement by the start of the week. The two sides have until the 17th to work out a deal.

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Aoki Works Out For The Brewers

» 08 January 2012 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » Comments Off

Nikkan Sports has reported that Norichika Aoki has completed a workout for the Brewers. The trial lasted for 75 minutes, and included catch, long toss, batting practice and base running. Eight members of the Brewers’ organization, including GM Doug Melvin and field manager Ron Roenicke, were present for the workout. Apparently there were no comments from anyone involved immediately following the workout.

Milwaukee’s negotiating window with Aoki expires on January 17th.

For more on Aoki, check out TokyoSwallows.com‘s excellent English-language write up of his status.

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Nakaji Comments

» 06 January 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

The Seibu Lions have released statements from Hiroyuki Nakajima and team president Hajime Igo (thanks yakubaka.com — couldn’t read that one).

Nakajima:

“Although it’s very regrettable that we failed to agree on a contract, I appreciate the Saitama Seibu Lions for allowing me to be posted, and the New York Yankees for bidding on me.”

Igo:

“Nakajima pursued his Major League dream, but unfortunately he couldn’t realize it at the point. With a feeling of renewal, in the 2012 season we’d like to have him contribute to a Japan championship as a core member of the Saitama Seibu Lions.”

Along with Hiroki Sanada, we’re now 0-2 on postings this year, with Norichika Aoki and Yu Darvish pending.

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Top Ten From 2011

» 01 January 2012 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

I really wanted a list of 11 things, but I could only think of ten things I wanted to include, so here we go… the top ten events from 2011.

10. Hideki Irabu commits suicide

Obviously a very sad event and something I wish didn’t have to be on this list.

9. The Central League MVP award goes to… a setup man

Chunichi’s Takuya Asao, to be specific.

8. Mass departure of veterans to MLB

Yu Darvish, Hisasahi Iwakuma, Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Munenori Kawasaki are MLB-bound, though only Wada has signed so far. In with the new

7. That whole thing with Yomiuri and former GM Hidetoshi Kiyotake

Shortly after the season, there was a bust-up between (now former) Yomiuri GM Kiyotake and chairman Tsuneo Watanabe, over Watanabe’s meddling in coaching personnel decisions. I didn’t write about this one at all, so I’ll rely on the Japan Times’ run down of it. The row eventually led to Kiyotake’s dismissal, which is a shame because he did a pretty good job with the Giants, setting up an effective development program and poaching mostly the right guys from other NPB teams.

6. Softbank wins its first Japan Series since buying the Hawks from Daiei, immediately suffers pitching exodus

Softbank’s years of consistent competitiveness were finally rewarded with its first Nippon-Ichi since 2003, when the team was still the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. Then three-fourths of its core rotation hit the road, with Tsuyoshi Wada joining the Orioles and Toshiya Sugiuchi and DJ Houlton departing for Yomiuri.

5. Chunichi dismisses the manager that oversaw the most successful period in team history, Hiromitsu Ochiai

Apparently five Nippon Series appearances in eight years wasn’t good enough. Worst baseball decision in franchise history?

4. The new, standardized NPB ball renders wood cylinders known as baseball bats largely useless

I don’t think I did a post dedicated to the new ball, but it was a big enough story for the NY Times to cover. Six starting pitchers finished with sub-2.00 ERAs, plus Hirokazu Sawamura and Shohei Tateyama right behind at 2.03 and 2.04 respectively.

3. DeNA buys Yokohama, immediately injects some life into the franchise

I haven’t written about DeNA yet, but there is more buzz and excitement around the BayStars now than there has been since the Bobby Rose days. Hopefully it translates into competitive baseball at Yokohama Stadium.

2. Yu Darvish finally moves to MLB via the posting system

He has yet to sign, so it’s not a done deal, but Darvish is certainly the most widely-anticipated Japanese import in MLB history.

1. The Great Tohoku Earthquake

Hopefully this goes without saying, but like the Irabu item, I wish this one wasn’t on the list. While the earthquake was probably the single most devastating event in 2011, it was still only one of many significant events in a turbulent year. I hope 2012 will bring global recovery and a greater level of peace.

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Looking at Aoki’s Case

» 30 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 9 Comments

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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NPB Bullet Points: Okajima, Pinto, Aoki, Whitesell

» 27 December 2011 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 14 Comments

A couple of hot stove notes for the evening…

  • Sanspo reports that Milwaukee started negotiations with Norichika Aoki in in the backup player range, around $1-1.5m. Additionally, since the Brewers lack a scouting presence in Japan, they intend to work Aoki out at their Arizona facility before making a decision on him.
  • Sports Hochi reports that Hideki Okajima is in the final stages of negotiations with the Yankees on a minor league deal with a non-roster camp invite. Hochi cites a source familiar with situation as saying the two sides could “reach an agreement as soon as around the New Year.”
  • Sponichi reports that Softbank is working on acquiring lefty Reynel Pinto. Pinto would be a rotation candidate for the Hawks, who have said goodbye to starters Toshiya Sugiuchi, Tsuyoshi Wada and DJ Houlton this offseason.
  • Also via Sponichi, The Chiba Lotte Marines have announced that they have signed Josh Whitesell. Whitesell spent the last two seasons with Yakult.

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Changing of the Guard

» 22 December 2011 » In npb » 18 Comments

This is a big year for NPB imports into MLB, with as many as seven front-line players poised to be wearing MLB uniforms in 2012. While all of the these players will be missed, their departures do collectively open spots for younger talent to fill. Here’s a look at who we might see stepping up in the next year and beyond.

  • Hisashi Iwakuma (Rakuten) – Masahiro Tanaka took over as Rakuten’s ace in 2011, and the presence of Satoshi Nagai and Takahiro Shiomi softens the blow of losing Iwakuma. For me, the question of who inherits the title of Japan’s best groundball pitcher remains open.
  • Wei-Yin Chen (Chunichi) – I’m not sure I see an immediate successor on Chunichi’s roster, though they do have young lefties Toshiya Okada and Yudai Ohno. And although he might be a year or two away, I’m looking to Yusei Kikuchi to emerge as Japan’s next top hard-throwing lefty starter.
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu) – Hideto Asamura played his way on to the Lions’ opening day roster in 2011, and was a tough out all season. He should move to shortstop in 2012, though he’ll have to fend off competition from Esteban German.
  • Munenori Kawasaki (Softbank) – Softbank has young infielders Kenta Imamiya and Tu-Hsuan Lee waiting in the wings. It’s probably unrealistic to expect either to have the same kind of impact that Kawasaki did though. And it seems like the Kawasaki will be back at some point.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada (Softbank) – Tadashi Settsu established himself as Softbank’s ace in waiting with a strong 2011. The losses of Wada and Toshiya Sugiuchi mean that there will be more pressure on guys like Kenji Ohtonari, Sho Iwasaki, Shota Ohba and Shingo Tatsumi to pitch quality innings at the ichi-gun level. We’ll see who steps up in 2012.
  • Norichika Aoki (Yakult) – So far, Lastings Milledge is set to replace Aoki on Yakult’s roster. Softbank’s Seiichi Uchikawa would currently get my vote as Japan’s top contact hitter, though he lacks Aoki’s plate discipline. I’m not sure I see any Aoki-type prospects on the horizon… I’ve read some good things about Orix’s Shunta, but he needs some time to put it together.
  • Yu Darvish (Nippon Ham) – In terms of public stature and marketability, Yuki Saito is certainly Darvish’s heir as the face of the Fighters. Saito is no replacement for Darvish on the mound, and I don’t think Nippon Ham will really have a true successor for him for a long time. Rakuten’s Tanaka seems poised to begin his tenure as Japan’s ace.

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My Prediction For Aoki’s Destination

» 12 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 12 Comments

I don’t have much to say here, I just think that Norichika Aoki will wind up with the Rays.

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