2014 Statistics: .222/.345/.326, 20 SB, 96 wRC+
2014 Level/Roster Status: Low-A/Non-40
Second base quickly went from an area of great strength for the Yankees to an area of concern when Robinson Cano decided to take his talents to the Space Needle last winter. The development of talent at second base is now a top priority within the organization and coming into this season there was probably no more promising prospect than 2013 second round pick Gosuke Katoh. After tearing up the Gulf Coast League during a 50-game stint in 2013, Katoh began 2014 with Low-A Charleston. However, adjusting to higher quality pitching in the South Atlantic League proved to be more challenging for him than was anticipated.
As a left-handed batter with a wiry frame and slap-hitting style, Katoh has been described as an Ichiro Suzuki-type hitter with perhaps a bit more pop. Unfortunately, his slaps rarely found holes and his pop was nowhere to be found in his sophomore year. By the numbers, his batting average dipped by nearly 90 points and his slugging percentage plummeted by about 200 points compared to his successful rookie campaign. On top of that, he used his excellent speed to steal 20 bases but was also caught 10 times, meaning his work on the base paths actually hurt his overall production. While it would have been nice to see him climb the organizational ranks at least up to Tampa in 2014, this kind of year will likely result in the Yankees being cautious with any promotion even in 2015. Baseball America also did not think much of Katoh, noting in the end-of-season SAL chat "The less said about Gosuke Katoh, the better."
All is not lost for the young second baseman though. He was drafted with the reputation of being a great fielder and that reputation is still intact thanks to a fine year with the glove. He also showed improvement at the plate as the year wore on. Even if his final slash line was nothing to write home about, it was right around average compared to his peers, and his second half line (.251/.382/.337) looks much better than his first half (.191/.302/.315). Furthermore, those numbers prove that he can maintain a solid on-base percentage even when his batting average dips thanks to his high walk rate. That's a very good sign that he can turn things around offensively. If you still need a reason to be optimistic about Katoh, look no further than his birth date. He just turned 20 years old and isn't finished growing into his six foot two frame yet. With more bulk should come more power and he has plenty of time to improve his plate skills before anyone could consider him a lost cause. Let's hope 2014 was just a small bump in the road for Katoh.