With the depth that the New York Yankees have at the middle infield positions in the organization, it is easy for someone to get lost in the shuffle, especially someone who was once picked in the First Round of the MLB Draft. That has to be considered the case for infielder Gosuke Katoh.
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 Katoh, a second baseman out of Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California
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 IM 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.”
With the Double-A Trenton Thunder this past season, the 24-year-old had a slash line of .229/.327/.335 with five home runs, 35 RBIs, and 27 doubles throughout 118 games. He played in at least 15 games at second base, shortstop, and third base. Plus, he had some experience playing in the outfield as the Yankees try to find a role for him.
Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights Katoh has had during his six seasons with the Yankees:
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.
The 2015 season 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 Dunedin, 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.
Last year, Katoh was the best doubles hitter on the Thunder despite not having a high batting average. While he put up strong extra-base hit numbers, he was also second on the team in strikeouts (123). Also, he had 11 stolen bases for the second consecutive season.
Katoh had six games last year in which he drove in two or more runs. In two of those games in July, he drove in four runs. On July 22 against Binghamton, he went 2-for-5 with a triple and four RBIs. Three days later against Hartford, he went 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs. Plus, he had four games in which he had three hits.
July had to be considered Katoh’s best month for run production as he had 17 RBIs. That was the only month in which he drove in at least ten runs. At the end of the season, the infielder struggled at the plate as he had a .147 batting average in 21 games during the month of August.
The Eastern League proved to be a tough adjustment for Katoh as his batting average was drastically down from what it was with the Advanced-A Tampa Tarpons (.293). He showed good patience at the plate with a team-high 62 walks, but the consistent production at the plate wasn’t there outside of the walks and doubles.
With that being said, the Yankees know how much potential and talent that Katoh has and it is clear by the number of positions that they are trying to play him at. At just 24 years old, there is still time for him to have a breakout season. While he may have to repeat at Trenton in ’19, this is a player that has utility potential going forward for his defense as he had six errors all of last year.