Major League Baseball has been expanding world-wide for several years now. The Milwaukee Brewers are thankful and have taken full advantage of the overseas market for professional ballplayers. Last year, the Brewers reaped the benefit when they signed 30-year-old rookie Norichika Aoki.
Japanese professional baseball has been a major reservoir of talent. The league is very competitive, and they have expanded to major and minor leagues. Aoki is a product of a good system that recognizes and rewards talented ball players. He spent eight years with the Yakult Swallows.
When the Swallows “posted,” or put Aoki up for bid with MLB teams, the Brewers won the auction and signed him to a two-year contract with an option for the third year. The seasoned Swallow was an instant success and received a lot of playing time due to injuries and the move of Corey Hart from right field to first base.
Aoki played 151 games and firmly locked down the starting role in right field. He finished fifth in Rookie of the Year balloting and had sensational stats: a .288 BA, .355 OBP, and a .453 SLG percentage combined with 10 HR and 50 RBI. That’s incredible for a leadoff hitter. Aoki also had 30 stolen bases and a .990 fielding percentage.
The Brewers are happy, happy, happy, that Aoki has moved to the U.S., and they realize he has greatly improved the top of the order in Milwaukee. If Aoki follows his incredible rookie season with similar statistics, the Brewers will pick up his option and maybe see him become an All-Star.
Either way, Aoki is already a talented leadoff man.