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Norichika Aoki proves to be a big find for the Brewers

Jun 7, 2012, 6:08 PM EDT

Norichika Aoki

Norichika Aoki‘s third big-league homer — coming six innings after his second — was a walkoff blast in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday, giving the Brewers a 4-3 victory over the Cubs.

Aoki ended up with his second straight three-hit game today, making this something of a coming out party against the Cubs.

Aoki, a three-time batting champ in Japan, received very little interest from anyone other than the Brewers after saying he wanted to jump to MLB last winter. Even the Brewers might have passed if not for the looming threat of Ryan Braun‘s pending 50-game suspension. Milwaukee signed the 30-year-old to a two-year, $2.5 million contract that didn’t even promise him a roster spot coming out of spring training.

Aoki went on to make the club, but he still started all of three games in April. More playing time came last month with Carlos Gomez on the DL and Nyjer Morgan struggling, and while Aoki didn’t take advantage at first, he’s been one of the Brewers’ best players the last three weeks. With Corey Hart often at first base as a result of Mat Gamel‘s season-ending knee injury, Aoki has stepped in as a right fielder against right-handers and hit .343/.389/.582 in 67 at-bats since May 17.

It’s the power that’s a surprise. Aoki hit as many as 20 homers in a season in Japan, but he was all of the way down to four last year in his final season the Yakult Swallows. Imports with similar power production in Japan have tended to be singles hitters in MLB. Aoki, though, has 13 extra-base hits already in 119 at-bats for the Brewers.

The Brewers signed Aoki with the idea that he’d be their fifth outfielder. Now he may well get a shot to be a full-timer. Both of his homers today came off righties, but he’s actually hitting .341 in 41 at-bats in lefty-lefty matchups. Hart should get used to playing first base going forward.

  1. orourkean - Jun 7, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Aoki has been a great find. He has basically been a starter for awhile. Its hard to keep him out of the lineup when he just keeps hitting.

  2. mgv38 - Jun 7, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    If you don’t love Aoki and Altuve, you don’t like baseball.

  3. redux23 - Jun 7, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    how about gregor blanco?…similar player to aoki but dominating him in nearly every category…and making only $500k/yr with a .830 ops. no one wanted him in the offseason. i would say that is a GREAT value find.

    • biasedhomer - Jun 7, 2012 at 9:34 PM

      The article is about Aoki

  4. shaggytoodle - Jun 7, 2012 at 10:14 PM

    Not only is bat been on fire, he made two throws from the outfield today that where SPOT on one to 2nd and 1 to home. His defense is Aoki dokey too.

  5. blarry21 - Jun 7, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    Now Roenicke has to bat him in the leadoff spot every game. He should be starting in right field every day. We’ll just wait to see what happens… With fingers crossed.

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