Ht/Wt: 6'2", 180 lbs.
DOB: 10/8/94 (18.80 on draft day)
Alex Jackson is widely considered to be the top prep prospect in the country for the 2014 draft. The five-tool catcher has dominated at the PG National and the Area Code Games, so it's no surprise that a lot of scouts are heading to Rancho Bernardo High School to see him play. While they're there, though, many of them are finding out a less widely-known secret, and that's his teammate, Gosuke Katoh.
Katoh is a rarity in the 2013 draft class: An up-the-middle defensive whiz. His instincts, feet, and glove are as good as anyone in the country. His quick hands bring Jose Altuve to mind. The downside? His arm simply isn't strong enough to move to shortstop. He might be able to cross over in a pinch, but he's going to play second almost exclusively.
Don't think that he's a glove with no bat, though. He's got good bat speed with some lift, and has an extremely good approach at the plate. He keeps his hands away from his body and generates hard pull contact. It's unlikely he'll ever develop home run power, but the gap power potential is certainly there, and with his wheels, he could become a triples machine. High school statistics mean nothing - nothing - but consider that he may finish his career at Rancho Bernardo High School with better numbers than many of their elite alumni, including Hank Blalock and Cole Hamels.
Katoh's family is from Tokyo. His parents put him in Little League so he'd learn English. A natural right-handed hitter, he transitioned to the left side because his idol, Ichiro, was a lefty. Ichiro is an interesting comparison for him (though he says he took "the best parts of Ichiro and Robinson Cano and put them into [his] swing.") He's a quick-twitch guy with outstanding instincts, a very level line drive swing, and a lot of patience at the plate -- and he busts it down the line, with a 6.42 60 time (99th percentile).
There are a lot of fears with a guy like Katoh. Despite the excellent instincts, the fast hands, the flashy glove, and the speed, when a guy only has enough arm to play second base, there isn't a lot of room for error. Particularly if his bat ends up not translating to the pro game very well, there aren't many rosters that can absorb a backup second baseman who can't play the rest of the infield. It's hard to come up with any sort of a reasonable comparison, but the guy who comes to mind is Jose Lind, a slick-fielding second baseman whose glove kept him employed with the Pirates and Royals despite a lackluster bat.
If everything comes together, you've got a speedy second baseman with a great glove and a little bit of gap power - someone who sees a lot of pitches, makes contact, and draws walks. Luis Castillo, the three-time All-Star for the Florida Marlins, is a decent comp for his ceiling. He's a guy who can certainly win Gold Gloves and be a premier leadoff hitter in his prime years, given his combination of speed and plate discipline.
Projected Draft Round
Katoh isn't in the conversation for the first round, and it would be a surprise if he went before the third. Given the limitations that his arm provides, he probably goes somewhere between the 4th and 10th rounds, though likely at the front end of that range.
Will He Sign?
Katoh is currently committed to UCLA, and there's a good chance that he'll honor that commitment if he falls too far in the draft. It may take a slightly overslot deal to get him, but his combination of tools is such that it certainly wouldn't be a waste of money.
Combining the Average and Power projections I have for him with plus defense and outstanding speed there’s honestly not much to worry about when it comes to Katoh. He should be one of the safer bets from this class to reach the majors. If June was to not be up to his standards then he is committed to UCLA and while they do have a shot with him as it stands right now in April, by June I expect them and others to realize there’s slim to no shot he makes campus. I wouldn’t allow it if I had the choice but we’ll have to wait and see what others who do have the choice feel.
I understand he's going to UCLA, where he can slap the ball around and run, which would suit his game. The marine layer at Jackie Robinson is a real mother, so you've been warned. A plus runner and a sound fielder, arm a little short so he'll have to work hard to make it up, limited power but good instincts. Gamer who didn't seem to play out of his reach. Comes from as good a high school baseball program as you'll find in those parts.
While he's better at second base because of his average arm strength, Katoh is a very good defender. The UCLA recruit has a handsy swing and good bat control at the plate and is an above-average runner.