Aoki likely to lead off for Brewers

A year ago, the Brewers knew little about outfielder Norichika Aoki beyond some video from Japan and a brief tryout camp. Today, they like him enough to make him the club’s leadoff hitter.

Stressing that things can change, manager Ron Roenicke indicated on Thursday that he’s leaning that way, saying Aoki would begin the year batting leadoff with second baseman Rickie Weeks in the two-hole.

“And then we’ll see how it goes,” Roenicke said. “[Aoki] can do a lot of different things. He sees a lot of pitches, which is really important for me. He’ll walk. He stole a lot of bases last year. All of those things are important in the leadoff spot, but the biggest thing, really, is getting on base.”

Aoki, who was greeted with hugs and smiles upon reporting to camp on Thursday morning, is coming off a solid debut season in which he batted .288 with 10 home runs, 37 doubles, 30 stolen bases and a .355 on-base percentage. He also adjusted to a new language, culture, clubhouse and style of play.

“He really had an impressive year last year,” Roenicke said. “Last year, he came in here knowing he had to show us something. This year, that’s a little different. Because of the type of person he is, I know he’ll still go about it that way, but there is a difference. I think he should enjoy it more.”

Weeks has started 595 career games in the leadoff hole and owns a .356 on-base percentage from that spot. He has appeared in 122 games as a No. 2 hitter with a .225 average and a .313 on-base percentage.

By batting him second in front of left fielder Ryan Braun and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers would try to induce a more steady diet of fastballs for Weeks, a good fastball hitter.

Braun would follow in the three-hole, then cleanup hitter Ramirez. With Corey Hart sidelined at least the first month by a knee injury, catcher Jonathan Lucroy is a candidate to hit fifth, followed by first baseman Mat Gamel. Center fielder Carlos Gomez and shortstop Jean Segura will cover the seventh and eighth spots, depending on whether Roenicke is comfortable with a young player like Segura hitting in front of the pitcher.


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1 Comment

I am as big a Lucroy fan as there is and think that he would slot well in the 5th slot, but I hope that they flip Gomez and Gamel in those 6th and 7th spots. Gomez’s power numbers seemed to me that they were relatively legitimate last year and he has been on a steadily improving trend and I’d rather him get more at bats as well as greater RBI opportunities. I actually wrote an article on him (I write for as I truly believe that he can be a 25 HR talent this year. We’ll see of course.

I like putting Weeks second as he will definitely get those fastballs to hit, as you mention. I think 30HR potential is very real here given that his wrists are feeling alright this season. I’m curious to see how the lineup will shake back out once Hart comes back into the mix – if he’ll immediately get his 5 spot slot back or if he will be eased in at the 6th or 7th positions.

Of course there’s no better determinant of how the batting order should be than after seeing some real production as the season starts. Right now it’s mostly guess work, but it doesn’t make it any less fun.

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