Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market: Norichika Aoki

by Nicholas Minnix on September 21, 2012 @ 12:38:33 PDT's Fantasy Baseball Diamond Market gives you candid reviews and ratings of fantasy baseball players making MLB news in your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball leagues. Are they trade bait or worth your FAAB dollars in your fantasy baseball games?

Norichika Aoki, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

OF Kosuke Fukudome
Fukudome: an unfair comp?

The ownership level of the Brew Crew's imported outfielder hasn't done much besides rise steadily for months. At this stage of the season, even in the shallowest leagues, Aoki is nearly universally owned.

It's understandable: He's hit .293 with nine home runs, 46 RBIs, 71 runs and 28 stolen bases in 532 plate appearances. Perhaps more impressive is that he's been pretty steady since he forced his way into the starting lineup in May. The 30-year-old has performed admirably in his initial exposure to North American baseball.

Is Aoki an exception to the rule to which fantasy owners began to subscribe about Asian hitters? Most roto managers have been averse to drafting batters who've had success in the Far East because those players' numbers have translated poorly to Major League Baseball. In most cases, more poorly than any forecaster projected.

Fangraphs' Bradley Woodrum argues that, although it may seem to be an easy comp to make, Aoki already appears to be a better investment than Kosuke Fukudome was for the Chicago Cubs. (And he notes that Fukudome wasn't such a bad player, which is true. He was just seriously overpaid.)

The batters are similar in that each has posted a very good BB/K (0.76 for Fukudome, 0.85 so far for Aoki). Each posted greater rates in Japan, too, so forecasting such control of the strike zone in America wasn't difficult. Each regularly hit for a high average in the Japanese Central League, naturally.

Aoki, however, consistently posted greater BAs in his seasons in Japan. The big differences between each man's plate discipline is that one tended to take fewer pitches. Aoki walked less frequently than Fukudome, but he also struck out less often, and those characteristics have held up here.


Fukudome hit for more power in Japan than did Aoki. The former's style and goals at the dish were just a bit different from those of the latter, obviously. We've clearly seen that power translates very poorly from Far Eastern leagues to the majors. Fukudome's lifetime .136 ISO is slightly worse than Aoki's .146 in 2012, although the former has homered every 45.9 at-bats here, whereas Aoki has done so once every 51.9 times at bat.

Perhaps Aoki is giving us a model of an Asian player whom we can most confidently project in the U.S: The outstanding ability to put the ball in play so often mixed with a strong stroke, but not a power stroke. Plenty of other hitters who've come from the continent across the Pacific and failed to impress us tended to strike out more often than Milwaukee's true find.

In future seasons, Aoki may not create as many opportunities to run and probably won't run as often (35 times so far) or with as much success as he has in his rookie campaign. His age suggests that, as well as history. But he's a true find because of his price tag, and because we could be beginning to understand the skills that best translate from Asia to North America.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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