Nov
06

Prospect Profile: Gosuke Katoh

By
(Jeff Gross/Getty)

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Gosuke Katoh | 2B

Background
Katoh was born but not raised in Tokyo — his family moved from Japan to Southern California when he was a child. He got into baseball when his parents enrolled him in Little League to help him learn English and socialize. Katoh starred at Rancho Bernardo High School — he hit .451 with 12 doubles and eight homers as a senior — and really jumped onto the prospect map during the Area Code Games last year. He was a very good student with a strong commitment to UCLA.

Prior to the 2013 draft, Baseball America (no subs. req’d) ranked Katoh as the 39th best draft prospect in California and the 189th best draft prospect overall. The commitment to UCLA had many clubs thinking he was going to be a tough sign, but the Yankees rolled the dice and selected Katoh with their second round pick, the 66th overall selection. He signed within two weeks of the draft for a straight slot $845,700 bonus.

Pro Debut
The Yankees assigned Katoh to one of their two Rookie Gulf Coast League affiliates after signing and he absolutely mashed. I’m talking a .310/.402/.522 batting line while leading the league in homers (six) and OPS (.924) in 215 plate appearances. Among the 2,144 players to have at least 200 plate appearances in the minors this season, only 16 bested his 171 wRC+. Just one of those 16 players was younger than Katoh.

Scouting Report
High school second basemen usually aren’t serious pro prospects, but Katoh is a rare exception. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 180 lbs. and stands out for his high-end athleticism, which allows him to play the defense at a well-above-average level. His hands and range are both outstanding, as is his throwing release. The only thing holding him back from playing shortstop is his arm strength, which is below-average. I don’t know if a throwing program can fix that, but the Yankees reportedly may give him time at short in the future just to see what happens.

Offensively, Katoh is a natural right-handed hitter who learned to hit left-handed at a young age because he idolizes Ichiro Suzuki. He is strictly a lefty hitter and I doubt becoming a switch-hitter is a realistic possibility at this point. Katoh has a very level swing geared for contact and line drives to the opposite field. He doesn’t pull the ball all that much and his power is surprising for his wiry frame but still just okay in the grand scheme of things. His bat plays up because of a disciplined approach. Katoh has speed and he uses that to his advantage both on the bases and by pressuring the defense on ground balls. As you might suspect, the Yankees love his makeup and work ethic.

Video

There is a bunch more video on YouTube, all from high school this spring.

2014 Outlook
The Yankees tend to be conservative with their high school position players in their first pro seasons, holding them back in Extended Spring Training before assigning them to one of the short season leagues. The last guy they bumped up into a full season league right away was Dante Bichette Jr., who tore the GCL apart just like Katoh. Bichette has been a disaster but I’m not sure if it’ll be a deterrent. New York has a ton of middle infielders at the lower levels, enough that I expect them to take it slow with Katoh and hold him back in ExST.

My Take
Nothing gets people excited about a prospect quite like a dominant pro debut, but it’s important to put the performance in context and not read too much into it. Heck, I mostly ignore short season numbers all together. That said, Katoh is better than I realized at the time of the draft because he has an elite carrying tool in his defense. The vast majority of prospects don’t have an elite anything. I underrated Brett Gardner as a prospect for the longest time because I overlooked his defense. Katoh has the defense part of the game figure out, now he just needs to work on the offensive side. He’s a classic old school two-hole hitter who handles the bat well and uses his speed, though I’m curious to see what happens as he climbs the ladder and starts facing fastballs that can knock the bat out of his hands.

Categories : Prospect Profiles

33 Comments»

  1. Chip says:

    Will…..not…..get…..excited…..about….short….season….stats

    • Wolfgang's Fault says:

      He needs to add drag bunting to his offensive skill set. If he can properly & routinely drag the ball past the pitcher, he’ll not only get on base numerous times that way, but he’ll force the infielders to play him up & honest, which should enable him to get considerably more hits past them on the right-side. Likewise, push bunting & hitting/spraying the ball to the opposite field makes him a player capable of getting on almost at will. If he can routinely spray the ball around AND push & drag bunt, Katoh could prove to be a very valuable piece in the not too distant future. That he has some pop only adds to his value. We’ve got the chance to have a really quality player in this kid.

  2. PioneerBob says:

    If you close your eyes and listen carefully you can almost hear the Boston trolls chanting “Go Suck A Cat– OH!”

  3. TheEvilUmpire says:

    He sounds like the kind of guy scouts would label as a “grinder.” I see potential though between that and his defense. Perhaps he’ll be ready in time to push an ageing Cano over to 3b. One can only hope…

    • I'm One says:

      Perhaps he’ll be ready in time to push an ageing Cano over to 3b. One can only hope…

      That, fortunately or unfortunately, seems to be so far off, if Cano re-signs. But I’ll keep my fingers (and toes) crossed along with you.

      • Havok9120 says:

        It’d be pretty great if the guy can make a case for it in three or four seasons. I remember having this problem with Montero, and it was a nice problem to have.

  4. Eselquetodolosabe says:

    Swing comparisons ? Tony Gwynn, Don Mattingly ? Yeah, a little lofty, I know.

  5. Jack says:

    “I’m curious to see what happens as he climbs the ladder and starts facing fastballs that can knock the bat out of his hands.”

    You mean like Rob Dibble was able to knock the bat out of Ichiro’s hands?

  6. Bryan says:

    I hope the Yankees don’t ruin his development. Start him out at Short Season and if need be move him up to Charleston to get a taste of A ball if he mashes again.

  7. jjyank says:

    I know, I know, don’t get too excited over GLC stats. Still though, better to see the guy mash than not mash. From the scouting report, it sure seems like he’d be a fun player to watch. Best of luck, kid.

  8. Andrew Brotherton says:

    He has such an easy effortless swing, no excess motion and the fact that he is already a plus plus defensive second basemen makes him an intriguing prospect.

  9. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    I guess Gosuke will get the bat knocked out of his hands if he doesn’t get stronger, but i’m assuming he has not reached his peak physical strength at 18

    • Preston says:

      The question is can he fill out enough to get some pop while not losing the mobility that makes him a plus defender. Only time will tell, until then he’s an exciting guy to follow.

    • Eric says:

      It is amazing how all these pitchers just can’t knock the bat out of the hands of the 5’8″ 170 Dustin Pedroia.

      “Knocking the bats out of the hands” is my new most hated stupid thing bloggers now say when they want to sound like scouts.

  10. dkidd says:

    i can’t think of another major leaguer player who was already at second base in high school

    hurry up and make the bigs so i can start posting “pink panther” clips

  11. Havok9120 says:

    So have we decided whether we today feel the developmental problems are because we’re rushing guys or holding them back? I know the thinking on this changes on a near-daily basis.

    I kinda want to see what he can do in Low-A unless there’s something specific the team wants to work on with him.

  12. Kentucky Ed says:

    Nice swing, tho the game footage shows one contact, a foul ball. Otherwise K and BB in 2 long at-bats. Obviously ready for a Yanks-Sox game right now. :) Funky throwing motion, I would imagine that’s being worked on. For a skinny HS kid, looks very nice. Body type recalls Jeter at same stage, not that I’m going there.

    • MannyGeee says:

      And… dare I say it… he moves like a young Jeter in the field.

      I could get behind this kid getting some reps at SS as well. There is a TON of value in nice defense at middle infield who can run and make contact, even if its not at Jeterian levels. You know, like… the opposite of Eduardo Nunez

  13. RetroRob says:

    He’s a natural right-handed hitter who is strictly a left-handed hitter?

  14. Wayne says:

    Katoh is already 180 lbs at 18 years old. They should put him on a rice And beans with lean meat And vegetables food regimen and build up from small to moderate to alot of swings in the batting cage everyday in the offseasons. He will be solid if he repeats that process and he will mature physically by the time he turns 23 and will have improved much more than he is now, offensively.

  15. bpdelia says:

    I like him allot and think he should be given a shot at as. But I just want to point something out. My senior year in high school I was 6’2″ 181. On my 38th birthday this year I am 6’2″ 180. This had not changed regardless of steaks of working out alternating with years long crash diets consisting of milky way dark and double cheese burgers. Some people don’t thicken up as they age and looking at this kids body it looks allot like mine in my collegiate baseball years. I my ass and gained 6 pounds in four years.

    • Kentucky Ed says:

      Good point. I remember people writing about 1997 or so that all we had to do was wait a while for Jeter to pack on muscle and we’d have a 30 HR shortstop. Some, maybe most, body types don’t change that radically.

  16. bpdelia says:

    Phone autocorrect fail but you all are intelligent folks capable of context reading. It’s a game!

  17. Eselquetodolosabe says:

    Is this young man a switch hitter ? From what I’ve read, he’s a natural right-hander, who is now a full time lefty at the plate.

  18. Juan Chulo says:

    “…knock the bat out of his hands.”
    Really Mike?

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