July 8, 2012 posted by Chuck Anderson

Position Battles: Milwaukee Outfield

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Norichika Aoki, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

It was around June 1 when Corey Hart moved from right field to first base.  This was necessary because the tandem of Travis Ishikawa and Brooks Conrad (surprise!!) failed to deliver acceptable offense.  Now there are three players manning the two spots not taken by Ryan Braun.  Since the shift emotional sparkplug Nyger Morgan has played in 22 games with 76 plate appearances.  Defensive whiz Carlos Gomez appeared in 25 games with 87 trips to the plate.  Finally, seven time NPB All Star Norichika Aoki leads the way with 30 games and 126 plate appearances.


Morgan was a solid player in 2011 and his “T-Plush” persona earned him some national attention.  His career stats show that he needs at least a .350 BABIP to have a decent batting average and OBP.  This is not a huge stretch considering his speed and over 70% of his balls in play are grounders or line drives.  It will not happen every year either, and in 2012 it is .277.  He is particularly unlucky on ground balls.  His BABIP was .286 on them last year, is .241 over his career, but only .157 in 2012.


Along with a decreased average Morgan has lost most of the pop in his bat.  His ISO is .051 compared to 2011’s .116.  Another way of looking at it:


  Hits Singles Extra Base Hits
2011 115 85 30
2012 45 39 6


Another issue for fantasy players is Morgan’s steals have dried up.  He stole 74 in his first two big league seasons but only has twenty since coming to Milwaukee to start 2011.  There are signs that the batting average will turn for the better but without any power his other categories will be deficient.


Carlos Gomez steals more bases and has more power than Morgan but a low BB/K ratio contributes to his .290 career OBP.  His 39.2% fly ball rate is high for a speed first player and is a large part of the reason his BABIP is just .302.  Both his contact rate and swinging strike rate have stagnated over the last three seasons.  His ISO is on the rise, however, and with 26 runs and eighteen RBI he is far outproducing Morgan.  Gomez is better for now but Morgan has a higher chance of improving in the second half.


Aoki has been the best hitter of the three, demonstrated by his 128 wRC+.  He owns a 10.3% strikeout rate along with a credible .148 ISO.  A platoon split it not highly apparent on the surface but his BB/K against left handed pitching is only 0.10 while it is 0.94 against righties.  He will not fare as well facing southpaws going forward.


Aoki has a .333 BABIP on ground balls, well above the typical league average.  He also needs to survive once the league sees him a second and third time.  So far he is being challenged with fastballs, seeing them more often than 85% of batters.  He has a 2.42 wFB/c so he should expect to deal with more off speed pitches in the second half.  He has eleven steals and a strong 6.8 speed score so he should continue on that pace.  As he is seventeenth in fantasy production over the last month he is the player to get presently.  Despite some warning flags he could be worth starting the rest of the season.


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