Ball Star

A closer look at Norichika Aoki

Updated: 2013-12-06T05:44:25Z

By PETE GRATHOFF

The Kansas City Star

After the Royals traded for Norichika Aoki on Thursday, I asked Milwaukee Journal Sentinel baseball writer Tom Haudricourt for some insight on the newest Royal.

Here is what Tom wrote in an email:

“Aoki is a great guy with a good sense of humor. Doesn't speak much English and uses a translator but fits in quickly. Like most Japanese players, is very fundamentally sound. Has a good, accurate arm. Plays deep because doesn't like going back to wall that much. Not a power hitter but really works the count, fouls off tough pitches, gets on base and actually hits LHP better than RHP. Steals bases but not really that fast and gets thrown out some.”

Haudricourt said the Brewers traded Aoki because he’ll be a free agent after the season and was looking for an extension. Milwaukee is probably going to play Khris Davis, who made his major-league debut this past season, in left field and likely move Ryan Braun to right.

Bob Dutton had some great background on Aoki in his story in Friday’s editions of The Star.

I also found this 2010 interview with Aoki at japaneseballplayers.com. Aoki, who played for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows from 2004-11 in Japan’s Central League, was asked which player he admired most.

It’s Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

“He's a guy who always plays hard and is just focused on winning,” he said in that interview. “That seems to be all that is important to him and I admire that attitude.”

Aoki was also asked what he’d be doing if he wasn’t playing baseball.

“That's a tough one,” Aoki said. “I've only ever focused on being a baseball player, I've never even thought about doing anything else.”

A few other items:

**Aoki was second in baseball in groundout-to-flyout ratio(2.03) among qualifiers. Former Cardinals third baseman David Freese was first (2.13). Billy Butler was third (2.02).

**Per Baseball Reference, Aoki was first in the National League with 14.9 at-bats per strikeout.

**Aoki had some trouble last summer with tendinitis in his right knee.

**He was teammates with former Royal Aaron Guiel at Yakult for five seasons.

**And here’s a video the Journal Sentinel did on Aoki this spring:

To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4330 or send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/pgrathoff

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