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.
Two things fantasy players sometimes overlook need to be taken into account though. First, Hunter is extremely durable with just one DL stint in the last seven seasons. Next, Hunter is surely to accrue fantastic run and RBI totals, likely batting second in Detroit’s potent lineup.
Batting second in the Angels’ potent lineup last year, Hunter was able to post the 71st most valuable fantasy line. With a regressed average, he should fall outside the top 90 for next year, but could still be a useful third or fourth outfielder on most teams.
After seven productive years, Victorino cashed in free-agency this offseason, signing a three year deal with the Red Sox. Last week Derek went over the impact of moving to Boston on Victorino. In summary, he may lose some power as a result of the transition, but his average and stolen base attempts are likely to benefit. While potentially increased steals for a player who swiped 40 last season sounds terrific, there are reasons for concern.
As commenter DarinRuf18 pointed out in my column last week, the switch-hitting Victorino has developed a fairly pronounced platoon split over the last few years. Last year his wOBA vs righties was a putrid .280, while against lefties it was an elite .390—a 100 point split he’s consistently shown the past three years. Despite this dichotomy, for a multitude of reasons—the first being the $40 million the Sox just paid him—Victorino is unlikely to be platooned to any extent this season, and therefore, I would simply value him by his overall numbers. Last season, by our PFM, those were still good for the 70th best line in fantasy.
With expected increases in runs and RBI batting second in the Red Sox lineup and a rebound in his batting average, it’s easy to see how Victorino will maintain top 90 status in 2013 and potentially be a top 60 player.