Norichika Aoki has long been a very underrated player. He has bounced around seven teams since his debut in 2012 with a .285/.350/.388 career slash line. His most recent stop was with the Mets and since joining the Amazin’s, he has been worth every penny of his league-minimum salary.
In his first eight games in New York, he has hit .303/.361/.424 with ten hits, four doubles, and one stolen base. He is currently riding a 12-game hitting streak spanning back to his time with the Toronto Blue Jays. He is a league-average defender in the corner outfield positions as his ever-consistent bat has anchored the two-spot in the lineup.
Before this season, he had never hit lower than .283 and never higher than .288 in a season. His lowest on base percentage was .349 and his highest was .356. You know exactly what you’re going to get with Aoki, and if the Mets are planning on contending next season, this would be a strong audition to be a backup outfielder for the Mets in 2018.
Aoki is fun to watch. It seems like he enjoys the game, he hustles on and off the field, and gets on base. What I’m about to say is nothing against him; Under different circumstances I would completely support his playing every day.
2017 is lost. Starting a 35-year-old outfielder every single day takes valuable at-bats and innings away from youngsters that need developing — youngsters that could help the team years after Aoki is gone. Start Brandon Nimmo, Juan Lagares, and Travis Taijeron every day with Aoki being the fourth man. Those three need the at-bats more than the very consistent journeyman Aoki.
Further, Terry Collins has hit Jose Reyes leadoff and Aoki second almost every day since his arrival. Meanwhile, Nimmo and his .416 on base percentage belong at the top of the line-up. When it comes to 2018, Nimmo is far and away the strongest candidate to lead off. He should be atop the line-up every single day for the rest of the season leading off if not batting second.
Again, Aoki is a solid, consistent player who definitely could have a place on the 2018 roster. That place is not as a starter but as a backup, the same role he should be playing for the remainder of this season.