What Houston Astros Fans can Expect from Nori Aoki

In a busy off-season, Nori Aoki remains one of the most under the radar signings for the Houston Astros.

The acquisition of Nori Aoki was the first move of the offseason for Astros General Manager Jeff Lunhow, quietly claiming the 35-year old off waivers in November. For some, Aoki may be the least exciting transaction thus far, however he can contend as the dark horse candidate for signing of the offseason for the Houston Astros.

Who is Nori Aoki?

Aoki is a left-handed batting outfielder whose professional career has spanned across the globe. Born in Japan, Aoki played his first eight seasons of professional baseball for the Yalkut Swallows. In that time he batted .329 with 385 RBIs, in 984 games.

In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Aoki batted .329 as Japan’s number three hitter with seven RBIs and helped lead Japan to their second consecutive WBC championship. Due to his performance, Aoki was named to the All-Tournament Team.

In 2012 Aoki signed a two-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers to begin his Major League Baseball career. Aoki has spent time with Milwaukee, The Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, and The Seattle Mariners posting a .286 batting average over five seasons, never batting below .283. 

While he may be getting a little long in the tooth, and things will change as players will get older, Aoki has a very solid .992 fielding percentage. According to baseballreference.com, in his professional career, Aoki has never made an error in Left Field in nearly 1000 innings (hint hint, AJ Hinch).

What Can Astros fans expect out of Aoki?

The answer is simple: consistency. If Aoki remains healthy and can thwart off father time, The Astros can expect a consistent and effective outfield bat. You are not going to get 15+ home runs out of Aoki, but you will get hits. You are going to get a batter at the bottom of the lineup that can produce much more than other Astro outfielders did in 2016.

Without a significant drop off, Aoki will be a much needed boost to the Astros lineup over the 2016 tandem of Colby Rasmus (.206), Carlos Gomez (.210), and Jake Marisnick (.209). There is very little drop off in defense, and in two of those cases he is an upgrade to the defense.

Aoki with fit into the lineup in either the eight or nine hole and he will not be an “automatic out”. Instead, he will be a player that Astros fans can trust from an offensive standpoint. He is one of the best left-handed hitters in the league at getting on base, which is something that Jeff Luhnow wanted to improve in his ball club for this upcoming season. Aoki certainly does not fit the old Astros "strikeout or home run" model during the 2012-2015 years. 

Aoki may not be a sexy name like Carlos Beltran, nor was not acquired in a blockbuster trade like some marquee pitchers for other teams were this offseason but I believe by season’s end Astros fans will be applauding Luhnow for his under the radar acquisition of Aoki. It will be interesting to see exactly what Aoki's role will be on this 2017 Houston Astros team. 

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