Katoh Eyes Fresh Start In Pulaski

Pulaski, VA-- Since being drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Pulaski Yankees second baseman Gosuke Katoh has already suited up for three of New York’s minor league affiliates. While the 6-foot-2 inch infielder is only 20, Katoh has gotten some early exposure to the unpredictability of the road to the show.

Katoh starred at Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California. While there were early indications that Katoh would stay in southern California to play collegiately for UCLA, the Yankees selected him 66th overall in 2013. Katoh elected to forgo his collegiate career and signed with the Yankees for a reported $845,700.

Katoh began his Yankees career playing for the Gulf Coast League Yankees. As an 18-year-old, he registered a .310 batting average through 50 games played with the team.

With respectable numbers in the GCL, Katoh was assigned to low-A Charleston of the South Atlantic League for the 2014 season. 2014 provided Katoh with his first full season competing against prospective Major League talent. He posted a .222 batting average with three home runs, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 121 games, numbers that secured his spot in Charleston for the start of the 2015 campaign.

In his return season to Charleston this year, Katoh sought to build on the progress he had made the year before. While Katoh had the advantage of facing Class-A competition before, his numbers through 39 games were less than impressive; his batting average sat at just .161.

“I was going back, so I knew a lot more than most of the guys that were there for their first year,” Katoh said. “I knew most of the pitching too. The numbers just weren’t there for me. I ended up going back to Extended [Spring Training] to figure out my swing a little bit, which I did, and I feel a lot better at the plate right now.”

Katoh entered the 2015 season hoping to shorten his swing, something he believes he accomplished in this spring.

“The only reason I went back to Extended (Spring Training) to work with our hitting coordinator was to pretty much just shorten up the swing a little more,” he said. “I feel like I’m a lot quicker to the ball and have more time to react to the pitches, so I feel a lot better.”

As Katoh hopes to perfect his hitting technique in his first year in Pulaski, there’s another new face in town to help him along the way.

First-year Pulaski manager Tony Franklin had previously been the skipper of the Double-A Trenton Thunder the past eight years. Franklin, like Katoh, had essentially undergone the same lateral movement within the organization.

“I was in Trenton for eight years. I’m here in Pulaski, and I don’t see it as a demotion,” said Franklin, adding, “I’m sure that Gosuke would feel like it’s a demotion. It’s just not the way he wants to go in his career. But hopefully, we can help him with his thinking in terms of, ‘I’ve got an opportunity to play, and get better. Let me approach it this way and see if I can reverse the direction I’m going’.”

“When I first heard I was coming here, I was obviously a little disappointed,” Katoh admitted, “but its part of the process. It’s definitely a new start for me. Now I just have to prove myself and keep hitting. That’s the bottom line.”

While coaching in Trenton, Franklin admittedly didn’t get to see much of Katoh, however, he doesn’t believe that the infielder’s rocky start in Charleston will hinder him further.

“I’m not deterred by the .161 average. Maybe Gonzo [hitting coach Edwar Gonzalez] can find something that’s going to help him,” Franklin said. “Maybe it’s not anything physical. Maybe it was something that was bothering him there, in Charleston, that didn’t allow him to perform. All I can do is approach it from a baseball standpoint, a manager’s standpoint, and see if we can’t help this kid get back.”

One of three second basemen on Pulaski’s roster, Katoh will look to make the most of every opportunity Franklin and the coaching staff gives him in 2015.

“He’s got an opportunity to play here now,” Franklin said. “He’ll be in there almost every day, and we’ll see where he stands at the end of the year.”

“I just want to have fun and enjoy the game,” Katoh added/ “I’m going to try to not be too stressed about baseball. We have a really good park here and probably the best fans out there, so I’m going to just try to enjoy baseball as much as possible.”

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