The 2013 MLB Draft for the New York Yankees was highlighted by the selection of Aaron Judge with one of the team’s three first round picks. One round after the trio of first rounders, New York took a second baseman out of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California named Gosuke Katoh.
After being drafted by New York with the 66th pick, Katoh signed with the team for $845,000. Back in 2013, he was named a Top 10 prospect in the Yankees organization, but he is not up there five years later. Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because New York’s farm system has grown so much over that duration of time.
While the Yankees have a lot of depth in the middle infield in the minor leagues, Katoh isn’t a player that should be overlooked, especially since the organization took him with a high draft pick. He was drafted as a second baseman, but has played a little bit of every position in the infield during his minor league career.
As for how he plays the game, Katoh talked about that with our own Joseph Dixon in October 2016 while he was with Low-A Charleston:
“At the plate, I like to be really aggressive. I swing at a lot of first pitches when I’m feeling really good. I like to grind out at-bats. I feel like I’ll never really be that three or four guy that drives in runs in the gaps or hit home runs, so I like to really just grind out at-bats and help the team win by getting on base and stealing some bags.”
Last season, with the then Tampa Yankees, the 23-year-old had a slash line of .293/.376/.440 with six home runs, 43 RBI’s, 11 stolen bases, and 20 doubles. His 20 doubles were the most of any player on the team and in the top 15 in the entire Florida State League.
Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights Katoh has had in the Yankees organization so far:
After signing with the Yankees, Katoh played the 2013 season with one of the two Gulf Coast League teams. While he was there, he made an instant impact with the bat. In 50 games, he had a slash line of .310/.402/.522 with six home runs and 25 RBI’s.
On that team, Katoh had the most home runs, hits (57) and was tied for the most triples (five) with Abiatal Avelino. Also, he was fourth in doubles and tied for fifth in RBI’s.
During the month of July, Katoh hit .313 in 23 games and had a pair of four-hit performances. On July 12, he was 4-for-4 with two doubles against the GCL Blue Jays. Ten days later, he was 4-for-4 with two runs scored against the GCL Tigers.
While in the field, Katoh made four errors in 42 games at second base. Due to his great performance in the GCL, he was named a postseason All-Star by Baseball America.
Katoh got to play his first full season with the Yankees organization as a part of the Low-A Charleston Riverdogs. But, the season did not go as he had hoped. In 121 games, he had a .222 batting average, hit three home runs, drove in 37 runs, and struck out 142 times (seventh most in the South Atlantic League).
With that being said, his second half numbers in the SAL were drastically better than his first half. Before the All-Star break, he hit a mere .190 in 57 games. After the break, his batting average went up to .251 in 64 games and the on-base percentage went up from .302 to .382.
Despite the down year, he was tied with Dustin Fowler and Tyler Wade for the most triples on the Riverdogs (six) and was fifth on the team in hits (85). Also, he was one of four players on the team to steal 20 or more bases. However, he did get caught stealing ten times.
Defensively, the errors piled up for Katoh in 2014 as he made 14 errors in 108 games.
2015 didn’t start well for Gatoh in his second stint with the Riverdogs. In 39 games, he hit .161, only scored seven runs, and struck out 50 times. He did have four multi-hit games while with Charleston, but the success was few and far between.
Once the Rookie season began in Pulaski, Katoh was their starting second baseman and the success at the plate came back. In 59 games, he hit .287 with five home runs, 22 RBI’s, and had an on-base percentage of .426.
July was Katoh’s best month in the Appalachian League. In 25 games, he hit .326 with two home runs and 12 RBI’s. On July 16, he hit a grand slam in the first inning in Pulaski’s 10-3 win over the Burlington Royals. Six days later, he had his lone three-hit game (3-for-5, two RBI’s) against the Kingston Mets.
At the end of the season, Katoh was one of three Pulaski players to be named to the Appalachian League postseason All-Star team. In total, the defense was better as the error total went down from 14 to 12 and he turned 21 double plays with Pulaski at second.
Katoh was back in the South Atlantic League in 2016 for the full season. In 65 games, he had a slash line of .229/.320/.335 with one home run and 25 RBI’s. His season didn’t start until May 23 because he was taking part in extended Spring Training.
In his first at-bat of the season, he hit a home run against the West Virginia Power and went 3-for-5 in the game. That three-hit game was one of three Katoh had for the entire season.
After hitting .316 in the month of June, Katoh’s numbers slipped as he hit .205 in 22 July games and .183 during the month of August (19 games).
On defense, the Riverdogs used Katoh at third base and shortstop after he was only a second baseman for his minor league career. Here is what he told Pinstriped Prospects that year about trying new positions
“I never knew how hard it was to field a bunt from third base until I actually did it. You know hitting wise and obviously from the second base side, the more you know about every position in the game, the more you’ll succeed. It was good to know about the bunt stuff from the third base side too.”
In 2017, Katoh got to move up to High-A and play for Tampa. In the second half of the season, he hit .298 with four home runs and 32 RBI’s in 59 games. Plus, he had 17 of his 20 doubles after the Florida State League All-Star break.
On July 14 against Dunedid, Gatoh went 2-for-4 and drove in four runs (season high), including a three-run home run in the bottom of the second inning.
While with Tampa, Katoh was primarily the third baseman, but he did play double-digit games at second base (14) and third base (17). Plus, he played a few games at shortstop and a game at left field.
With the depth that the Yankees have in the middle infield, it remains to be seen where Katoh will start the season, but maybe another stint in the FSL with the Tarpons is the most likely option.
As Katoh continues to improve on his offensive game, defensive versatility will be the key to his success as a player. You never know when a prospect will find his game as he develops. Maybe the second half of 2017 is where Katoh starts his breakout as that highly acclaimed prospect from back in 2013.