Nori Aoki is not the Answer for the Royals in 2015
By David Hill
Right field is generally considered the biggest weakness in the Kansas City Royals lineup. With Nori Aoki a free agent, it is expected that, of all the positions on the roster, right field may be the easiest to upgrade. Should Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas use their postseason performances as a springboard for the 2015 season, bringing in another potential power hitter for right could make a tremendous difference in the Royals offense next season.
Yet, it is thought that the Royals may be interested in bringing Aoki back. It would, in a way, make sense for Dayton Moore to want to return with as much of last year’s team intact as possible – after all, they were one Madison Bumgarner away from winning the World Series, and who is to say that he doesn’t slip on the dugout steps next year? However, given that the Royals offense was, at times, completely anemic last season, Aoki may not be the best option.
There are certainly quite a few things that Nori Aoki does well. He is good at working the count, has excellent speed and does a good job of making contact. He is even a solid defensive right fielder, even if his routes resemble more of a circle than a straight line and he makes one hold their breath whenever a ball is hit his way. Yet, even though Aoki does a good job of getting on base, his power is virtually nonexistant. Do the Royals really need to keep the slap hitting singles machine?
Should the Royals feel the need to keep another speedy singles hitter in the lineup, they already have one on the roster. Jarrod Dyson has proven that he can be a catalyst at the bottom of the lineup when given the chance, and an outfield of Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Dyson would be virtually impossible to get a hit against. In fact, that was the alignment used last year in close games, when Ned Yost would pull Aoki from the lineup.
Perhaps it was just that the Royals happened to have the best defensive outfield in baseball when Dyson was in the lineup, but Aoki appeared to be considered a defensive liability. Add that to his decreasing power and his less than stellar stolen base success rate, it seems as though he would not fit in with the Royals needs.
Nori Aoki is still expected to have a strong market, even with these negatives. There are plenty of teams that could use a leadoff hitter, and despite his adventures in the outfield and on the basepaths, Aoki still gets on base at a solid rate. In fact, that ability to get on base is a major part of why he is projected to earn a two year, $16 Million contract by Baseball-Reference.
if the Royals are to spend that type of money on an outfielder, it would not be Aoki. Should that truly be the type of market that develops for his services, Aoki will be as likely to play right field for the Royals next year as I would be. At least I would cost a lot less.
There may be a bit of sentiment for bringing back Nori Aoki, but he just does not fit the Royals needs. And at that type of contract, he will be playing elsewhere in 2015.