Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Norichika Aoki finished fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting which was conducted on Monday, November 12. However, the Japanese player’s ascent in the Major Leagues has already won him praise.
Since the Chicago Cubs’ Kosuke Fukudome – who was the last rookie to finish in the top 10, Aoki along with Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish were the only Japanese players to be in the Top 5 of Major League Baseball this year.
His offensive prowess did not go unnoticed as he became one of the regular contributors for the Brewers in a year which was not particularly encouraging and impressive when it came to overall performance.
Remaining the Brewers’ Player of the Month in September and October, he maintained .306 batting average, smashing four long balls and scoring 18 RBIs. In the same months, he led the Major League with 18 extra-base hits which was earlier a feat achieved by the Brewers’ George Scott in 1975 and Corey Hart in 2007.
“I don’t know whether it’s confidence, where you just let it go and swing,” Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke said. “I don’t necessarily know that it’s something physical. He’s played well all year, but [late in the season] he was really driving the ball. Early in the season, he was rolling over a lot of balls. I know I was doing a lot of bunting with him. Now he stands up there waiting for a good pitch and he’s driving it all over the field.”
There are already talks that suggest he will be the club’s Opening Day right fielder in the 2012 MLB regular season. That is a quite a meteoric rise given the generally competitive nature of the Major Leagues.
While he was faced with equally talented rookie rivals, Aoki was key both offensively and defensively when it came to the Brewers’ considerations.
Brewers will look to this player for equally impressive performance next year. With the presence of competition-oriented teams in the National League Central, players like Aoki remain endearing assets for the club and strong weapons in their arsenal.