The Marlins signed former MVP runner-up Matt Kemp to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training earlier this week, but almost lost in the buzz of that move was that they announced a total of nine players have agreed to similar deals. The reason for that lack of coverage is that they were not high-profile signings—only two others beside Kemp have played in the majors before, and Ryan Lavarnway and Josh A. Smith are not exactly household names. The acquisitions were primarily about adding depth and solidifying key positions such as catcher considering that Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach are the only backstops on the 40-man roster. However, one name in particular stands out.
Gosuke Katoh, born in Tokyo before moving to California as a child, was labeled as a future major league player with a ceiling similar to former Marlins great Luis Castillo in the build up to the 2013 MLB Draft. The 18-year-old was known as a terrific fielder at second base with gap-to-gap power potential and plus-plus speed, although coming off the board in the first few rounds was seen as a little bit unrealistic. In a surprising move, the Yankees decided to select Katoh with the 66th overall pick in the second round—that allowed them to save some money from their overall bonus pool and entice some other picks in their draft class to sign.
Out of the gate, Katoh impressed in the Gulf Coast League after being drafted with a .310/.402/.522 slash line over 215 plate appearances, but that would be the start of a trend of inconsistent play. In Single-A in 2014 he struggled overall to adjust to the increased competition and hit .222 over 121 games. In 2015, he had an awful start at that same level before being sent to the Appalachian league rookie ball circuit and seemingly rediscovering his swing and salvaging his season. Back in Single-A in 2016, Katoh was slowed by injuries and hit .229 in 253 plate appearances, but was promoted to High-A in 2017 and torched opposing pitchers by batting .293 in 84 games, earning immediate promotion to Double- A the following season.
While never excelling at Double-A, he was given a shot at Triple-A in 2019 and impressed. After a blistering start to the minor league season—helped by an unsustainable BABIP—he cooled off and was demoted again, but returned later in the season and finished with a slash line of .279/.382/.443 at the highest level of Minor League Baseball, which is arguably the most notable feat of his career.
Having just turned 25 years old, Katoh is now formally a utility player given that he has over 350 innings at all infield positions and some experience in the outfield throughout his professional career. He could play his way into a bench role with the Marlins in the second half of 2020 if he is able to repeat his Triple-A performance from this past season and prove that he really has turned a corner. While he faces an uphill battle with Jon Berti on the major league roster and top prospect Jazz Chisholm lining up to get his first taste of the majors, Katoh could prove to be a signing which provides some upside for Miami. Again, the Yankees connection is impossible to ignore, but the player operations department is proving time and time again that they know what they are doing, and they must have faith that Katoh’s 2019 season was no fluke.
While it was only a minor league singing, bringing in Gosuke Katoh has the potential be another low-risk, high-reward signing.
Over/Under 9.5 regular season games played for Gosuke Katoh with the Marlins in 2020?
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