The 20-year-old Gosuke Katoh was born in Poway, California to Japanese parents. While he did spend some time living in Japan as a child, he was mostly raised in Southern California, where he attended Rancho Bernardo High School. High school second baseman are usually not considered top prospects, but Katoh made himself the exception to that rule with both his bat and elite defense. He hit .411/.524/.711 in 135 career games at Rancho Bernardo, slugging 25 homers and driving in 114 runs in 566 plate appearances. He also displayed great speed and range in the field, with a lack of arm strength putting the only black mark on his defensive report card.
The Yankees saw Katoh's batspeed, elite defense and his 6'2" 180 lb frame and decided to take him in the second round of the 2013 draft. After Katoh agreed to a bonus of $845,000, the Yankees sent him to the Gulf Coast League to kick off his pro career. Katoh immediately impressed, slashing .310/.402/.522 with 6 homers in just 50 games. Although nobody should ever take Rookie Ball numbers seriously, it was hard not to think the Yankees possibly had a real player on their hands in the lefty hitting second baseman.
Charleston (A): 121 G, .222/.345/.326, 19 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR, 20 SB, 142 K, 96 wRC+, 0.7 WARP
As scintillating and drool-inducing as Katoh's 2013 performance was, 2014 was vastly different. Katoh was bumped up to A-ball, but struggled right out of the gate with Charleston, hitting only .175 through the first two months of the season. He struck out 60 times in 166 plate appearances during that time, which is pretty ugly. Katoh picked it up quite a bit in June and July, hitting .282 during that time, but his strikeouts were still very high. He came back down to earth in August, hitting only .181, and ended up slashing .222/.345/.326 with only 3 homers for the season and 142 strike outs in just 465 plate appearances.
Katoh did show some speed, nabbing 20 stolen bases, but he was thrown out 10 times in the process, which isn't good at all. One huge positive for him was that he was able to walk 71 times. That patience helped him boost his on base percentage and afforded him more opportunities to take advantage of his speed. Even though he didn't do much with it on the base paths, speed kills, and you can't teach that. He could always learn to run the bases more efficiently as he matures, which would make him more dangerous when he gets all those walks.
This is a big year for Katoh. He really needs to show that last season was merely a bump in the road, and that he can play a lot more like the guy the Yankees saw in June and July, rather than the one flailing away at everything in April, May and August. Even just reversing his splits (three good months and two bad months instead of the other way around) would go a long way to getting his stock back up. Despite the better second half last year, I don't think Katoh has earned any kind of promotion, so I fully expect him to be back in the Sally League this season. Unless he utterly dominates there, I think it's wise for the Yankees to make sure he has mastered this league over a full season before promoting him anywhere, possibly in 2016.
I think there's still hope that Katoh will not become another Dante Bichette, Jr. type bust (although, to be fair, Bichette isn't quite a lost cause yet). He has that great patience, and he's just 20 years old and still growing into his body. He also done his part to validate his defensive reputation at second base, which is an overall position of need for the Yankees right now. Here's hoping Gosuke bounces back.