After a very disappointing 2015 season, the Mariners have made several moves to improve their chances at making the playoffs in 2016. One of those moves was to bring in oldie but goodie Nori Aoki. Aoki is 34 years old and nearing the end of his career. He has battled injuries the last couple of years and given his age it wouldn’t be unsurprising if he misses time this year. However, if he does manage to stay on the field he can be a pretty valuable late round pick.
Last year in San Francisco, Aoki put up a line of 5 HR, 42 R, 26 RBI, 14 SB, a .287 AVG and a .353 OBP in 93 games. Believe it or not, Aoki is actually heading to a neutral power park for LHB and while he won’t hit 15 HRs, double digits might be possible. Double digit HRs would make Aoki just that much more enticing. He likely won’t do anything well enough to warrant being a full time starter on your fantasy team (unless your team is incredibly deep) but he could be an excellent injury fill in.
The two things Aoki has always done well have been hitting for average (.287 career) and getting on base (.353 career). Both of those are likely to continue even in his advancing age. Aoki doesn’t hit fly balls (19.9% last year). His goal is to put the ball in play which has worked well for him. His career K% is 7.8 which is excellent and his career BB% is 7.7 which isn’t special but acceptable enough. He maintains his high OBP purely by putting the ball in play and squeezing out hits. Even with his advancing age, he should still be able to pull that off. His BABIP last year was .298 which is right in line with his career number of .303. I would expect next year’s number to be very in line with his career numbers.
Where Aoki might have some upside is runs. Currently Aoki is projected to leadoff for the Mariners. The lineup behind him will likely be Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. That is not a bad group to follow a high OBP guy like Aoki. Last year the Mariner’s leadoff spot scored 76 runs which was good for dead last in the majors. Why were they dead last? Because they had a whopping .307 OBP. Aoki should blow that number out of the water and with the lineup behind him, he has a pretty high ceiling on runs. If he can play 135 games 80+ runs is well in play. That would be quite good from a guy who is going 80th for OF according to NFBC ADP.
Steamer is projecting Aoki for 6 HR, 63 R, 43 RBI, 15 SB, a .270 AVG and a .332 OBP in 128 games. I think Aoki can stay a little healthier and I’ll give him 10 HR, 79 R, 53 RBI, 15 SB, a .285 AVG and a .348 OBP. Aoki is a guy I’ll be targeting late and looking to stash on my bench for an injury replacement. In a 16 team league where 80 OF are rostered, I’d be more than happy to leave the draft with Aoki as my 5th OF.