Scouting Yankees Prospect #37: Gosuke Katoh

The Yankees selected second baseman Gosuke Katoh in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Rancho Bernardo High School in California. Seemingly well on his way to a breakout season after a strong debut in 2013, he struggled mightily for a good portion of the 2014 campaign. He used it as a learning season, however, and has spent his entire offseason re-tooling his entire game.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Gosuke Katoh
Position: Second Base
DOB: October 8, 1994
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

He bypassed the short-season leagues entirely after a dominating debut season in 2013 that saw him hit .310 with six home runs in the Gulf Coast League but wound up hitting just .222 with three home runs as a 19-year old for low-A Charleston last year.

"I obviously wanted to do better than I did but looking back at the season it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me," he said rather optimistically. "I wanted to get out of it and I hated it but it was a great learning process. I think I learned a lot from it."

Aside from getting used to the various nuances of learning how to be a professional ball player, from dealing with the bus rides to playing in front of actual crowds and such, he learned a lot about himself.

"You just have to keep making adjustments," he said. "Ultimately it's not where I am right now that matters or where I start next year, it's how fast and how long you can stick in the big leagues, and I think my struggles last year really helped with that."

One of the things he quickly learned was that the load in his swing was a little too long. He worked on shortening his swing towards the second half of the season and it began to pay off as he hit a more respectable .251 after the All Star break [he hit just .190 before the break], and he further worked on shortening his swing at Instructional League this offseason.

"I worked on that a lot during the offseason and I think I've got something really good going on right now. I'm just ready to test it with some live pitching. I'm really looking forward to that.

"I just thought about making my load smaller and being quicker to the ball. I looked at a lot of film of Major League guys and minor league guys that I know. I just broke down stuff that they do well and they're all short to the ball, from where they land to where they make contact, and I just worked on stuff I saw from videos and we'll see how it goes."

Finishing second in the entire South Atlantic League in walks [71] last season, he also finished seventh in total strikeouts [142] too. Looking back at it he believes he might have been a little too passive in his approach.

"I talked to Greg Bird about that [the other day] because he's at this Captain's Camp thing with me and he told me it's part of the process and that you've got to keep learning wherever you are, no matter how your day goes. I'm pretty patient at the plate but he did say I was a little too patient and it's just picking the right pitches to swing at the plate and at the right times and in the right situations.

"I obviously want to cut down my strikeouts and some of that will come with staying short [to the ball]. I had a lot of swings and misses, and I was late on some pitches, but I think I've taken a really big step forward from last season."

He has shortened up his load and his swing, and he plans on being a bit more aggressive earlier in counts so he's not letting so many pitches get by him in the name of drawing walks. Another aspect of his game he plans on altering somewhat is his opposite field approach.

"All of my home runs were to the right side but all of my doubles were to the left-center gap and that's one of the aspects I want to work on, driving the ball to the right side more," he admitted. "I don't want to be so 'oppo' happy, 'oppo' heavy. If I get an inside pitch I want to be able to drive it out of the park."

Rail-thin when he was first drafted, he gained 17 pounds last offseason in preparation for his first full season last year. He recognized, however, that he still needed to get stronger and he once again set his mind to the task of adding strength this offseason.

"Yeah that was the thing, when I left Instructs the Yankee trainers gave me a meal plan for every single day of the offseason; what I had to eat, when I had to eat it, and I gained 30 pounds this offseason," he revealed. "At the end of the year last season I was at 175 pounds and I got up to 205 during the offseason. I've slimmed down to 200 pounds [recently] and I think this is going to be my playing weight now.

"I don't feel stronger necessarily but I feel like I have more control of my body, just being able to control the bat, being able to control my core, and turning double-plays, those small things I really noticed. I haven't really taken a lot of BP on the field yet but it's one of the things I'm looking forward to."

It remains to be seen if the added weight will result in more in-game power or not. He did, however, put on weight with the entire goal in mind of not losing any of his noted speed.

"That was the main goal, putting on weight but not losing speed," he insisted. "I think one of the reasons why I got drafted [so high] was because of my speed and it's one of the biggest tools I have. If there's no speed to me that's really not my game so I made sure I was running a lot and gaining weight at the same time.

"I'm actually faster than I was last year. I don't know how that works after gaining 30 pounds. I don't know the science behind it but it's happened. The miracle has happened."

Almost completely reinventing himself since his debut season two years ago, Katoh admits to being somewhat disappointed with his showing last year but at the same time he can't help but believe it ignited something inside of him.

"I didn't really go into last season with high expectations but I definitely wanted to put up some big numbers. I feel like if it had went well then this [coming] season would have been bad too.

"I can't tell the future and it's still just [the offseason] so I don't really know but I've made some big adjustments for this year. It was bound to happen at some time and I learned you've just got to keep making adjustments. If you don't you're going to be left behind."

Adjust he has. He has a new shorter load and swing, a new physique that is both stronger and faster, and he plans on stepping up his aggressiveness at the plate. He has no idea what the future has in store for him but whatever happens he knows it won't be from a lack of trying.

"I'm really excited because I obviously worked really hard on my body and my swing, and this is kind of an experimental year because I've never really been so big. I'm obviously going to have to make adjustments along the way and I changed my swing a lot too so we'll see. I'm very excited and we'll see how it goes," he concluded.














2014 Charleston .222 383 19 3 37 58 20 71 142 .345 .326
2013 GCL Yankees1 .310 184 11 6 25 28 4 27 44 .402 .522

Batting and Power. At his core Katoh is an extremely patient hitter with advanced pitch recognition and plate discipline. He even has above average bat speed too with quick hands and excellent hand-eye coordination. His problem to date had been a minor hitch in his swing that caused his load to be longer than it should and the fact that sometimes he's overly patient, often times letting good pitches go by in the name of making pitchers work more. He is very adept at using the whole field, almost to a fault. He is trying to find the correct balance of pulling the ball more on inside pitches and going to the opposite field with outside pitches, and being aggressive when he should and taking pitches when he's not getting what he wants. He's basically learning to be a more consistent hitter but he had the requisite skills and intelligence to be a high average hitter with average or better power potential.

Base Running and Speed. Just as is the case with his hitting, Katoh is still learning the nuances of the running game. He can flat-out fly, posting 60-yard dash times in 6.3 seconds, but he still needs to reach pitchers' moves better to be a more effective and efficient base stealer. He has the wheels to be a 30-plus stolen base threat each year, especially as he gets on base more consistently.

Defense. A former high school shortstop, Katoh has above average or better arm strength at second base, he shows good hands, and his excellent speed gives him top-notch range. Like the other areas of his game, he's still learning so while there will likely be some growing pains as he gets accustomed to second base there is some long-term plus defensive potential.

Projection. With plus speed, plus defensive potential, advanced plate discipline, average or better power potential, and off-the-charts makeup, Katoh has nearly everything in place to eventually develop into a difference-making big leagues starting second baseman on both sides of the ball. Because he entered the professional ranks with a rather slender frame, however, and therefore needed to put on some useful weight [which has begun doing], his development could take some time to materialize as he gets used to an ever-changing body and mechanics. In short, there are going to be some inevitable growing pains along the road but the ceiling is quite vast. There are a lot of realistic comparisons to a taller version of St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong if he can find a consistent short loading swing path.

ETA. 2018. Katoh surprised some by making the jump to low-A Charleston last year. While his somewhat disappointing numbers should have him most likely beginning the 2015 season back in Charleston, it would not be surprising to see him get some ample playing time in high-A Tampa later in the year if he can prove his numerous adjustments are legitimately effective.

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