By Nathan Petrashek
Norichika Aoki is a Japanese professional baseball player. I know that because it says so on this here Wikipedia page. But Aoki isn’t content to let a website tell you that; oh no. He’ll show you in person if you give him the chance.
Aoki has done nothing but hit since joining the MLB during the offseason. Some questioned how his bat would translate after his ho-hum 2011 season in Japan, but Aoki has answered in every way possible. His .304/.357/.487 slash line is a welcome addition to a club beset by injuries, and has really opened up the long-term possibility of moving Corey Hart to first base. Roenicke, to his credit, is finding ways to get Aoki in the lineup; after starting only two games in April, Aoki has started twenty in May/June, mostly in right field.
Through two months, Aoki looks like one of Doug Melvin’s finest offseason signings. Aoki is guaranteed only $2.5 million over his two years with the Brewers, and the club holds an option for a third year at $1.5 million that will almost certainly be exercised if Aoki continues to hit like he has. The contract is heavily incentive-laden, though, and that could push its total three-year value to just over $8.6 million.
Even if he hits all the incentives, the total contract value still looks pretty appetizing if he can win games like he did yesterday. Aoki slugged his first two outside-the-park home runs in the Brewers 4-3 win over the Cubs, one of which walked the Brewers off in the bottom of the tenth inning. He’s not going to showcase that kind of power all the time; in fact, his current ISO of .185 is probably as high as it will get all year. But as Alec Dopp breaks down, what Aoki brings to the table a better-than-average all-field contact profile. Given his hitting style, his current BABIP of .330 is probably sustainable. He doesn’t have the speed of a prototypical leadoff hitter, but on a team without one, Aoki is probably the closest we’re going to get.