December 21, 2012
The Keeper Reaper
Outfielders for 12/21/12
In his first MLB season, the 30-year-old Aoki surprised almost everyone with 10 homers, 30 steals, and a .290 average. His end-of-year line was rated 90th overall by our PFM, turning a nice profit for those who invested a buck or late-round pick to own him. Despite being expected to fill a fourth outfielder role for Milwaukee when signed, Aoki managed to carve out 588 plate appearances for himself with his productive play. Beyond normal aging concerns for any player past 30 though, there is reason to be skeptical that Aoki can retain his top 100 status for next year.
Most suspicious is the power output of 10 home runs that he accomplished, which includes one inside-the-park home run. As Derek notes in this write-up of Aoki, all of his home runs were pulled just over the right-field fence, and looking at his Hit Tracker page confirms this observation. His 354 foot average True Home Run Distance was one of the lowest in the league, indicating he was lucky to hit as many over the fence as he did. As long as Aoki avoids getting traded to the Yankees, it is fair to assume he won’t have as many cheap-o’s sneak into the right field bleachers next year.
Home runs aside, Aoki does appear primed for another productive year. He is slated to start in right and bat leadoff for the Brewers like he finished last season doing. With his good contact and on-base ability, batting around .290 with 25 steals should be within reach. Overall though, his limited ceiling prevents him from being valued higher.
In his last year as an Angel, Hunter had another nice year, batting .316 with 16 home runs and nine steals. Beneath otherwise consistent surface numbers were inconsistent peripherals, most notably a .389 BABIP and declining contact rate that indicate tougher times are ahead for the now 37 year old. It’s overwhelmingly likely his meteoric BABIP will fall in line with his career norm, lowering his batting average back into the .270-to-.280 range. With an expected 15-to-20 homers and no more than 10 steals, Hunter is a player hard to get excited about.