On July 10, Baseball America's article "The Baseballist: Nine Position Prospects Seeking Second-Half Rebounds" included Charleston RiverDogs second baseman Gosuke Katoh among the players that needed to overcome a rocky start to the season. Perhaps no one noticed that Katoh was not seeking a rebound - he was already experiencing it.
After batting just .190 in the first half with 75 strikeouts in 57 games, Katoh leads the RiverDogs with a .329 second-half average and also enters this homestand with a career-best and team-high 15-game hit streak.
"It was just all mental in the first half," Katoh said in a recent interview with RiverDogs broadcaster Sean Houston. "Starting the second half, I just told myself, 'It is a new season.' I got three days to just not think about baseball. When I came to the field, I was just ready to go and I was locked in."
Offensively, Katoh has modeled his swing after Ichiro Suzuki. He makes a lot of contact with his compact stroke and takes advantage of his plus speed. - 2013 MLB.com draft profile excerpt
Katoh attended Rancho Bernardo (CA) High School, nicknamed as "The Factory" in baseball circles. He was drafted in the second round last year, taken by the New York Yankees with the 66th overall pick. His professional debut with the 2013 Gulf Coast League Yankees 1 was very successful as he led all Yankees minor leaguers with a .310 batting average.
Katoh has patience at the plate, leading to both walks and strikeouts. - 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook excerpt
A member of Charleston's Opening Day roster, Katoh struggled in the first half of the season and ranked among the league leaders in strikeouts at the South Atlantic League All-Star Break. Katoh made a change in his approach to turn his first-half struggles into his second-half rebound.
"In the first half, I was just trying to be patient, and that that did not really work out considering I had a lot of strikeouts because I was just falling behind," Katoh said. "Hitting in the bottom half of the lineup, I get a lot of fastballs first pitch, and I just started to jump on those and it started to work out great."
Katoh recorded a couple of multi-hit games during Charleston's first homestand in the second half. On June 26 in the homestand finale, Katoh hit a single in the fourth inning against the Savannah Sand Gnats to start his 15-game hit streak. In 11 games played to start the month of July, Katoh has extended his streak with exactly one hit in each of those outings.
His high baseball IQ and athleticism make Katoh a fine defender at second base. He has quick feet and turns the double play well. - 2014 MLB.com Prospect Watch excerpt
Along with his hit streak, Katoh's defense in the last few weeks has been nearly perfect. His natural fielding range, coupled with Charleston's propensity for putting its defense into shifts, has allowed Katoh to make a plethora of smooth defensive plays.
"The coaches do a great job of positioning ourselves," Katoh said. "Defensively, I think that is the biggest thing right now, just all the shifts that we are doing that are working out most of the time."
Consistent success at the plate and at second base has given Katoh a big boost as he and the RiverDogs move along with the second half of the season. Although his early-season assignment to Charleston was a pleasant surprise and his first-half struggles were disappointing, Katoh embraces the opportunities that lie in front of him and the support that he has in the Lowcountry.
"I really liked how they pushed me a little bit," Katoh said. "I like to face these challenges, and then I obviously faced a lot of failure, too, in the first half. But if it was not for my teammates, especially the older college guys, I do not think I would have rebounded from that."