Over the last two years there have only been 22 MLB players to have a season where they collected 150 hits, stole 20 bases and scored 80 runs. (Ryan Braun did it in 2012. Carlos Gomez did it in 2013.) Of those 22 players, though, only seven players have done it twice in the last two years. Check out this elite company:
- Mike Trout
- Andrew McCutchen
- Shin-Soo Choo
- Jason Kipnis
- Elvis Andrus
- Alex Rios
- Norichika Aoki
Odds are most people won't compare Aoki to Trout or McCutchen very often. But he is a surprisingly valuable player, especially when you consider the price.
After signing Aoki for just $3.25 million in guaranteed money, the Brewers have gotten a player who has appeared in over 150 games in each of the last two seasons. Over that time he leads the team in hits (321), runs scored (161) and HBP (24) and is among the team leaders in doubles (second with 57), walks (second with 98) and stolen bases (third with 50).
Aoki's power numbers declined a bit in his second MLB season, with his extra base hit count dropping from 51 to 31 and his slugging declining from .433 to .370. He's still great at getting on base, though, as his .356 OBP was second only to Aramis Ramirez on the team. His reckless baserunning is a concern, but it's not enough to negate the value he carries at the plate and in the field.
Despite all of that, though, Khris Davis' emergence as a power hitter and Ryan Braun's 2014 return from suspension leave Aoki's future with this team in question. The Brewers could hold onto him and let him compete with Davis for playing time, but they could also choose to deal from a position of strength and try to improve their organizational depth going forward. Aoki turns 32 in January and is cheap next season on his club option, so it's possible his value will never be higher than it is right now.
Aoki had three or more hits in 14 different games this season, but the first of those may have been his best performance. He went 4-for-6 against the Diamondbacks on April 7, driving in two runs with a third inning double and scoring the game-tying run as the Brewers rallied in the ninth. The Brewers eventually lost the game in eleven innings, but Aoki also scored a run in that frame as the Brewers fell just short.
Here's Aoki's third inning double:
And the ninth inning single:
The Brewers also gave out Aoki bobbleheads on this day, so his timing was excellent.
The Brewers have already announced they plan to exercise Aoki's contract option for 2014, and for good reason. He'll make just $1.5 million next season, with the opportunity to add slightly more than a million more in incentives. Even if he maxes out financially, he's unlikely to be more than the ninth highest-paid Brewer.
Previous MVBrewers posts can be seen at the links below: