Sep 22, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki hits a double to drive in a run in the second inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

What Norichika Aoki Brings to the Royals


Aug 14, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki (7) attempts to steal second base during the seventh inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Texas won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

When news broke that the Kansas City Royals had a new outfielder, it was difficult to restrain those visions of Carlos Beltran dancing inside one’s head like a sugar plum on Christmas Eve. However, Beltran is not returning to Kansas City, at least not yet. Instead, the Royals parted ways with the Will Smith who makes a living as a pitcher, not as a rapper/actor/former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, for Brewers center fielder Norichika Aoki.

What the Royals acquired with Aoki is someone that can step in and become a true leadoff hitter. As good as Alex Gordon has been batting leadoff, having someone that not only gets on base, but actually has an element of speed as well, could make a major impact upon the lineup. Gordon, with his ability to put the ball in play and get on base, profiles better as a second hitter in the lineup. Having two on base machines in front of Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Billy Butler and a hopefully resurgent Mike Moustakas could go a long way towards helping the Royals anemic offense be able to better support their pitching staff.

Aoki is also a solid defensive outfielder, having ranked among the defensive leaders in right field during both of his years in Milwaukee. He also has one of the better arms in right, ranking in the top five in assists. Yet, Aoki is not just a right fielder; he has also appeared in 21 games in center field over the past two seasons as well. In fact, prior to coming stateside, Aoki was primarily a center fielder for the Yakult Swallows. Should he remain in right, the Royals could have a truly great defensive team, with potentially Gold Glove caliber players everywhere except for second as the team is constructed presently.

The acquisition of Norichika Aoki also does not necessarily mean that the Royals are out of the running when it comes to Beltran. Beltran would still fit the need for a power bat in the middle of the lineup, and help deepen the Royals lineup. If that signing does occur, Lorenzo Cain may be moved to better spot as a fourth outfielder. However, now the Royals may not need to sign Beltran, at least as much as it seemed they would have a need for him even a day ago.

Norichika Aoki may not be an exciting name to most people, but he fills several major needs on the Royals. Not only could he be the right fielder they need, but Aoki is also the fast leadoff hitter they have not had since the days of Johnny Damon. Although he is only under contract for 2014 due to the contract he signed coming over from Japan, Aoki could be a candidate for a reasonable extension, potentially making the trade that much better. Getting that type of a player for a pitcher who may not have even cracked the Royals roster for the next couple of seasons may turn out to be a steal for the Royals.

What Aoki brings to the Royals is an element that they have not had in years – a true leadoff hitter.

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Tags: Kansas City Royals Norichika Aoki

  • jimfetterolf

    According Cot’s Contracts he is an FA after this year, probably something to do with coming from Japan. BR shows arb eligible. in ’15.

    • cardsfanatik

      His agreement with the Brewer’s when he signed with them, makes him an unrestricted FA after next year.

    • Dave Hill

      I saw conflicting reports on that as well. More sites say free agent, so I’m changing that to reflect the consensus.

  • jimfetterolf

    Took a look at fangraphs, Aoki logged 1.7fW in twice the at bats as the 2.4 Lough and comes in about 15 Def below Lough. Aoki looks a good lead off man, so that is positive if his OBP stays high batting ahead of Hosmer and Gordon, but I think the K will hurt his slightly below average defense. Not a clear win or lose, but that’s why they play the games.

    I admit I like Lough and like Will Smith. Also means we’ll lose Lough to Omaha if he has an option and one of Dyson or less likely Maxwell to trade or release.

    • Otis26

      Jim, I’m sorry about your obsession with Lough. He’s a nice 4th outfielder and that’s it.

      • jimfetterolf

        The numbers say different, OBP is only weakness and that can improve. His glove more than makes up for it. Rang up as much fW as the rookie of the year and nearly as much as Aoki and more than Beltran did in full seasons.

  • moretrouble

    My first reaction was “I guess they’re probably not gonna get Beltran.” Dayton says they’re still interested, but now they really do have too many outfielders. If I’m Maxwell or Dyson, I’m on the phone with my agent today asking them to call Dayton and find out what’s going on. If I’m Lough, I’m asking myself what does a player have to do to make this ball club because 50 BA points higher than the 3rd baseman must not be enough.

    However, if I’m a Brewer fan, I’m real happy this evening because my team just got a lefty starter for someone who doesn’t figure to be more than a 4th outfielder next year with only a year left on his contract.

    • Otis26

      Lough struck out 53 times in 335 PAs. Aoki struck out 40 times in 674 PAs. Aoki is an OBP machine and Lough is not. If you look at Lough’s average as the season progressed it steadily went down. He hit in the low .200s in July and Aug. Lough is a nice player. But he’s not a leadoff man. Aoki is. And as the article states, getting a legitimate leadoff hitter on the bases in front of Gordon, Hos, etc. is paramount to scoring more runs.
      We’re missing opportunities when Gordon is leading off. You want him hitting with people on base every time. As far as Will Smith goes – meh. Potential back-rotation starter. We’ve got several of those lined up – Ventura, Zimmer, and Duffy. Hell we could even make Hochevar a #5 if we needed to.

      • moretrouble

        No offense intended, but I laughed reading your comment because that’s why I said in my comment maybe they believe they don’t have a shot at Beltran. So, they go out and improve a different way. You’ll get no argument from me that KC hasn’t had a bonafide lead-off hitter.

        But, Aoki is an OBP machine? Butler had a higher OBP; Hosmer was at .353; Bonifacio at .352 – are you calling them OBP machines, too? (Aoki was .356)

        If K’s are such a big negative, how can Joey Votto have a .435 OBP with 138 K’s? How can Mike Trout have a .432 OBP with 136 K’s?

        What you’re saying is Aoki gets on base a lot and is fast. I agree with that as far as it goes. I believe his addition helps the team slightly. But, they’ve got him for exactly one year. If he plays well, they can’t sign him – if he doesn’t, they don’t want to sign him.

        The Royals played well once they closed the holes in RF and 2B. It’s not Lough’s fault KC kept Francouer out there. Lough played pretty darn well – and I’m sure he’d understand if KC got Beltran. But, Aoki? I’m pretty sure Lough would consider himself to be as good – and have more potential – as Aoki. And, he would be right.

        • DISQUS

          lough as good as aoki? surely your kidding right?

          • DISQUS

            aoki has performed at the same level for 8 seasons now as a professional…6 with the swallows and now 2 with the brewers and his numbers across the board are very good year after year…high obp, steals some bases (but is going to have to not run into so many outs for us) plays a high level of defense in RF and can play center, is the hardest hitter to strike out in the majors and he hits left handed pitching so he is NOT a platoon player as lough IS….c mon man lets be honest….we fell in love with him when he replaced the dumpster fire that was frenchy and it was easy to like the kid…heck I like him….but he is not a major league starter and at best is a 4th outfielder…aoki gives us so much more as a complete player and some versatility…all this for giving up a guy who might not have made our roster in will smith…..
            ahem….this was a good baseball move….well done Dayton…we got better as a team yesterday….so did Omaha…

          • moretrouble

            Glad you like Aoki and are happy with the trade. As I said before – which you probably skipped over in your excitement about posting – was that KC lacked a lead-off hitter and the Aoki trade helps their offense.

            But, Lough’s first season was very good. He got ROY votes. He’s a different kind of player than Aoki. And, yes, he’s as good as Aoki right now; he’s younger; he’s under team control for 6 years.

          • DISQUS

            he got a vote for rookie of the year…lets not make that out to be more than what it is…A VOTE…
            in what way is he a different player?
            1.) a better stolen base guy? nope he was 5 stolen with 2 caught.
            aoki has 50 steals in 70 attempts…
            2.) a better hitter? nope, both hit .286 but aoki had 55 walks to lough 10. aoki had a 5.9 K rate compared to lough at 15.5
            3.) ooh lough must be a much better power slugger right? nope, both slug right about .400
            both guys have speed elements to their game, don’t hit for much power at all (which is a waste in the K anyway) and play above average defense… aoki has a better arm than lough….
            aoki is a lead off hitter period….which is what we needed as much as than anything…and lough’s value to the team? a 7 or 8 hitter that has very little power? that is just a position filler if you ask me….makes us a very avg to maybe below avg team….aoki helps us become above average….
            the only thing lough is better than aoki is younger…he is still under team control, but fortunately for us that team is gonna be Omaha……
            your just too blinded by him being a fan favorite bc of his hustle and having a good 3 months…not a great 3 months and ROY of the year in puig or myers, but just a good 3 months…it is this kind of “fan” thinking that gets teams in trouble….way to go your a great fan but have such little grasp that this guy makes us better…
            as will lough make Omaha better….
            I would really love to read your insight as to how he is a different player than aoki in a way that makes the royals a better team…..

          • DISQUS

            ooh yeah aoki got 11 ROY votes last season….

          • DISQUS

            ooh yeah and another element separating lough and aoki…lough is only valued as a defensive player…offensively he is not of much value according to the numbers…anyone will tell you a high strike out guy with very low walk rates is not a good investment for regular playing time… if your only value as a hitter is dependent on hits which are mainly of the single and double variety your not gonna stay in the show for very long…you have to take walks…he can’t sustain his value with being a hitter…
            but that gets me onto another decade old problem with the royals…walk rates among our players is so sad…
            I sure hope your not pinning your value of lough on being a great defender….ooh yeah value in being a 4th outfielder…hahahahahaha

          • moretrouble

            I can see you’re all worked up about this – ready to argue. Go argue with one of your friends. Have a nice day.

          • DISQUS

            not all worked up at all…you just state stupid information…I love talking baseball….just not to the moronic fan….aka you

          • moretrouble

            Thanks for making my point, better than I could have, LOL.

          • DISQUS

            mor trouble the only point made was that your a tool….I presented so many valid points as to why your an idiot and all you have is “I can see your all worked up” classic……galactically stupid……now go log in at the rocko clubo school for typewriter repair and get back to work….

          • moretrouble

            Very classy response.

          • Matt Owens

            “You’re” .. “You are” or, hell, even “U R an idiot”.. not “your”.. when trying to insult someone’s intelligence it’s best to have a grasp on the most basic fundamentals of the language YOU’RE speaking..

          • DISQUS

            ok thanks, ill complain to my high school English teacher just for your benefit…moron…its a message board not an English paper….

          • moretrouble

            No, I’m not kidding.

        • DISQUS

          please don’t post such garbage moretrouble…the reason votto and trout as you referenced as having high strikeout numbers…and value
          ummm well slugging percentage and homeruns, they draw triple digit walk totals….drive in 100 plus runs…simply they mash the freaking ball….
          a slap hitter who does not mash the ball and strikes out a lot with virtually NO walks….he better play a great deal of defense….which is lough’s only true value to our team…

    • DISQUS

      and just one more thing…if your view of will smith is as a lefty starter your even more of a “fan” than a baseball guy..smith only had value based as a reliever….we have lots of those guys under our control….he is not a major league starter…might have a few good games but with a large sample size I am quite positive he will have little value as a starter…..again numbers bear this thought out…

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