by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There was hope when Norichika Aoki landed in Seattle for the 2016 campaign, but it resulted in a lost season that included time at Triple-A (24 games). Ultimately he hit .283 with 4 HR and 7 SB for the Mariners, but that was hardly enough to warrant them bringing him back. Instead he was recently claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros, where he’ll get a chance at a fresh start.
The question, obviously, is if he can carve out a role and produce value for fantasy owners?
Obviously George Springer is entrenched in right field, but after that there are questions hovering over the other two spots. There are numerous options available to the team, though Aoki joins a group that will certainly battle for playing time:
Clearly there’s no guarantee that Aoki earns every day AB, but there is a chance given the other options the team has. Considering his makeup is significantly different than most of their roster, there’s promise.
While Houston often features free swinging hitters, Aoki brings a controlled approach with a career SwStr% of 4.2% and O-Swing% of 26.7%. Sure he’s not a slugger, but the Astros have plenty of those. Aoki is a contact hitter who has some speed and can get on base (the Astros were in the bottom half of the league, with a .319 OBP overall, and their LF owned the third worst mark at .283).
While it hasn’t been the case for much of his career, last season he did have a dramatic split in his numbers:
Maybe that means forming a platoon with someone like Hernandez (who slashed .278/.381/.500 against southpaws in his brief time in the Majors). While Aoki would be on the favorable side of things, he does have little power and it’s not like he’s going to steal 25+ bases while playing in a timeshare.
Could he reach 25 SB with full-time AB? Perhaps, but he’ll be 35-years old prior to the start of the season and it’s a hard number to bank on. At this point, even in the new locale, figure Aoki for a short-term fill-in if the schedule is full of weaker RHP but not much more than that.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com
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