Katoh finds great fit in Blue Jays, Ray's pants

March 18th, 2022

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Back in mid-December, with the MLB lockout still in its early days, Gosuke Katoh’s name trickled along the transaction wire, signed to a Minor League deal by the Blue Jays.

Katoh was his own best publicist out of the gates, tweeting out a video of Munenori Kawasaki’s famous “I am Japanese” interview with his own name dubbed over Kawasaki’s. That’s a look into the mind of the 27-year-old, a gifted defender who knows when to keep things light.

Katoh spent 2021 in Triple-A with the Padres, hitting .306 with an .862 OPS while splitting his time between second base, first base and left field. Add in an ability to play third and some experience at shortstop, and Katoh represents depth at half the positions on the diamond for the Blue Jays.

Get to know Katoh, the self-described “late bloomer” who you’ll be seeing plenty of in Spring Training:

Why did Katoh sign with the Blue Jays?
“I’ve played against this organization coming up,” Katoh said. “I came up playing High-A ball against Cavan Biggio, Vladdy, Bo and all of those guys. They were just raking. I always wanted to know what the secret was, so when these guys called me it was an easy decision for me to come here.”

“Their first four or five hitters are almost the [Blue Jays’] first four or five hitters now. [Lourdes] Gurriel [Jr.] was there, too. It was kind of fun to watch, even from the other dugout. It was stupid, actually."

Katoh’s philosophy on defense goes beyond the diamond
In a full season of Triple-A ball split across five positions in ’21, Katoh made just one error. He’s been praised for his defense coming up as a prospect, first with the Yankees’ organization, and the way he views defense really came into focus last season, when his Triple-A club went 51-79. Even if they weren’t competing for a championship, he was determined to compete for the man on the mound.

“I take it personally,” Katoh said. “Hitting always overshadows fielding and that’s just part of the game, but there’s a pitcher on the mound who’s my teammate. That’s not just his career, it’s his life. That’s how I view defense. I am going to do anything in my ability to help this guy’s career out and also his life. That’s the way I view the infield. I think that’s what leads to some of the edge that comes out of me on defense.”

Katoh has a modern view on versatility, too. Years back, utility men were typically glove-first slap hitters hanging near the bottom of the roster. Now, even the game’s best players move around the diamond through a season.

“I love playing multiple positions,” Katoh said. “Being a utility guy, I feel like there’s a lot of them here. I think there’s a lot of them across baseball, too. If you don’t play multiple positions, it’s pretty easy to see yourself out of the industry. I love it, and I think they value it here.”

Katoh on the role of social media:
“Social media can be a good and a bad thing. There have been guys that have been on the other side of the spectrum, but thankfully there have been a lot of good fans who have enjoyed some of the weird content that I put out there. Some content, though, I feel really strongly about, like on International Women’s Day in The Players’ Tribune.”

Katoh on the diversity he’s experienced within the Blue Jays’ organization:
“I think it’s just the way the world is changing. When the world changes, baseball changes, too. I mentioned in the article, it changes fast. Baseball changes really, really fast. When I stepped foot into this amazing complex here, the first thing I noticed was the amount of minorities and women who were here. That really hasn’t been the case in some or the organizations I’ve been with. I’ve had women in the dietician and nutrition field before, but Jaime [Vieira], she’s wonderful, she’s awesome with hitting. We have Clare [Padmore], she’s a biomechanist. We have strength coaches who are women, too. It’s just amazing how they’re able to grow into more male-dominated fields and I think it’s awesome.”

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants
Earlier in camp, when a picture of Katoh was tweeted out alongside Jordan Groshans and Nathan Lukes, Blue Jays fan @matttomic made note of how… well-tailored Katoh’s pants were, joking that they must have been Robbie Ray’s pants. The kicker? They actually were.

“I knew it was a thing. Robbie Ray’s pants are pretty famous on social media,” Katoh said. “There was one day when Mallex Smith said, ‘I want the tightest shirt you can give me.’ He wore a medium out to the field. So I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to copy you. I’m going to try to get the tightest pants.’ I knew Robbie had those tight pants last year and I wanted to wear them.”