The Kansas City Royals are coming off their best season since 1989, and are looking to improve on their 86 wins in 2013. Going forward, we are going to take a closer look at the players that should play significant roles for the Royals in 2014, as they try to make their first post season appearance since winning the World Series in 1985.
If you want read the other completed profiles, just click here. This link will be updated as we add more profiles over the upcoming weeks.
Up next: right fielder Norichika Aoki.
For all the negatives people perceive about Dayton Moore, acquiring Norichika Aoki from the Milwaukee Brewers by trading away some of the wealth he had in the bullpen, may be the best move Moore made this off season.
At just $1.95 million, the Royals have an every day right fielder who fits in very well with their ball park and their budget. He most likely won’t break the bank in arbitration over the next three years if Kansas City chooses to keep him around until some of the minor league talent comes of age.
Aoki, like so many Royals, isn’t the flashiest player you will ever watch. What he can do is get on base, and bat lead off, two things the Royals desperately need. In his first two seasons in the major leagues, he has a On Base Percentage of .355, and it is a consistent .355 at that. It was .355 in 2012, and .356 in 2013.
In those first two years with the Brewers, Aoki walked 98 times and only struck out 95 times, and in 2013, he struck 15 times fewer than he struck out. In fact, he struck out just 40 times in 674 plate appearances last year. In this day and age, that is pretty amazing.
There are a couple of worries though. His Slugging Percentage plummeted from .433 in 2012, to .370 in 2013. We shouldn’t care a lick about his home run production. If he hits 8-10 like he did in his first major league seasons, that will be just fine.
His doubles production though, dropped from 37 his first year to 20 last season. The Royals would certainly like to see his doubles return to somewhere in the thirties this year.
Aoki is an extreme ground ball hitter, as you might imagine. According to Fangraphs.com, he hits the ball on the ground 58.1% of the time. His Fly Ball % is 24.5%, but that dropped nearly 6 percentage points from 27.7% in 2012, to 21.9% in 2013. He is not much of a line drive hitter at all, hitting a rope just 17.3% of the time.
It is very difficult to hit doubles when the ball is seldom hit in the air. That does not mean Aoki should lengthen his stroke; it just means he would be more productive if he could hit more line drives on a more consistent basis.
If Alcides Escobar can get on base at all this season (a big if), Aoki would be a nice candidate for some hit-and-runs assignments. If he can move the speedy Escobar from first to second, it might create some pressure on defenses, and some runs for the Royals.
In his career with the Brewers, he stole 50 bases and was caught 20 times for a 71.4% success rate, which is decent. In 2013 however, he was successful on just 20 of 32 attempts, for 62.5%. He will get a chance to to run in Kansas City. It is a big part of their game plan. The Royals have to hope he is closer to his 78.9% success rate in 2012.
Finally, a big part of his game is bunting, which should make Ned Yost so very happy. Again, according to Fangraphs.com, Aoki 47 times in his first to years, getting 16 hits, for a .340 average when bunting. That is very good, and is a big part of his ability to get on base in different ways.
Aoki is not a star by any stretch, but he is an upgrade to Jeff Francoeur. He allows Alex Gordon to move down to the middle of the batting order, and helps to stretch out the line up. He will do a lot of the little things. He should fit into what Ned Yost likes to do, and he is a bargain basement price.
If he can come closer to his 2012 rookie season, it would be a gigantic boost for the Royals.