When it comes to hype surrounding a Japanese star baseball player's arrival in the United States, the needle moved very little when it came to buzz when the Milwaukee Brewers signed speedy outfielder Norichika Aoki to a free agent contract. At 30 years old Aoki was no spring chicken and the Brewers themselves didn't seem too excited to have him aboard as they began the 2012 season with him in a bench role. Aoki quickly proved to be worthy of everyday duty however and as quickly as he gets from home to first in sprinting out of the box, eventually proved to be a very smart fantasy baseball addition who made a nice impact in the second half of the season. The speed was as advertised as Aoki stole 30 bags but he also showed some pop with 10 home run in 520 at-bats which was expected to be part of his production. In short, Aoki quickly showed himself to be a terrific leadoff hitter who could do a little of everything when it came to contributing to all five of the fantasy baseball categories and who now is a sought after commodity as drafts get underway this season.
Looking a bit closer at Aoki's potential 2013 impact, the easiest part of his game to forecast are the runs and stolen bases. Hitting atop a very solid Brewers lineup with stud power hitters Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez batting behind him, Aoki will be put in position to score a bunch of runs and also to steal a nice amount of bags. It is not out of the question that Aoki will score 100 runs now that he will be playing out of the leadoff spot from the get-go and 40 steals is also in play due to the additional at-bats he will get this season. While not Ichiro Suzuki in his prime when it comes to his batting average, Aoki is no slouch there as his strikeout rate is very solid and he makes nice contact. Think somewhere in the .280-.300 range.
Now for the home runs. Aoki was not known for much in the way of home runs while in Japan but he was not a zero there by any means as a rookie last season with 10. Again he will be 31 this season so he is well into his power prime so not much more growth if any can be expected there but any help he supplies there should be looked at as a bonus since he does so many other things on a very solid basis. I would sign up for another 10 homers and 15 would be about as good as you can expect there.
Put it all together and Aoki is one very solid fantasy baseball outfielder 3 who could produce like a 2 if all breaks right. He is well in my sights when it comes to the Experts Draft and his immediate outlook looks very intriguing indeed this season.
2013 PROJECTION: .290 95 R 11 HR 62 RBI 34 SB