Blue Jays notebook: There’s no quit in Gosuke Katoh, top prospect Gabriel Moreno among first cuts
DUNEDIN, Fla.—In Japanese, Gosuke means “great fighter.”
And it takes a lot of don’t-stop-believing grit to hang in for going on a decade in the minor leagues, as Gosuke Katoh has done.
The 27-year-old utility infielder was born in San Diego to parents from Tokyo. The Blue Jays signed him to a minor-league deal in December as a free agent and invited him to spring training, where he’s a cheerful face in the clubhouse.
He has yet to make his MLB debut.
“The drive has always been there, ever since I started my baseball career when I was six.”
That was when his folks moved back to the U.S. and put their boy in Little League, primarily to learn English.
“The goal’s always been the same. It’s never changed throughout my long minor-league career, so I’m just going to keep going.”
Drafted in the second round by the Yankees in 2012, the future looked bright. That glow dimmed however over the next 6 1/2 years toiling in the New York organization. In all, Katoh has laboured for nine teams in seven leagues.
For love of the game. Certainly not for money. Even less for job security. In 2020, 42 minor-league teams — affiliates of major-league clubs — were axed. Most minor leaguers make between $8,000 and $14,000 (U.S.) from April to October, according to the uniform contract. U.S. federal guidelines peg the poverty line at $12,880. A handful of prospects receive lavish draft bonuses; 21 per cent received $1,000 or less, as per Baseball America’s study from 2016.
“I was really fortunate to be able to sign right out of high school and then, once the changes started being made, I wasn’t making the minor-league salary anymore. But it’s really rough for everyone.
“I’m blessed to have a job right now because a lot of my former teammates, due to the pandemic, the COVID year, even last year, a shortened draft, loss of some affiliates — it’s tough to get a job in baseball. I’m just thankful to still be able to put the jersey on right now.”
The Jays made their first cuts at the spring training bivouacs on Monday and at least one player took the news with a crushed heart.
Gabriel Moreno is not so quixotic that he thought he could crack the Toronto lineup out of camp in a fortnight, on a team that’s already expected to carry three catchers this season. The 22-year-old from Venezuela has played only three Triple-A games, after all. But in a surreal 2021, he slashed .367/.434/.626 with eight home runs in 37 games across three levels of baseball, despite a thumb injury, before heading to the Arizona Fall League.
Still, Toronto’s No. 1 prospect — ranked No. 7 by Baseball America, behind only Baltimore’s Adley Rutschman among backstops — just got here last Thursday, stuck in a hotel room because of visa issues. At the very least he’d surely hoped to get into one (1) Grapefruit League game.
Instead he was called into manager Charlie Montoyo’s office and informed he’d been optioned, directed to the minor-league side of the development complex, with the less swanky clubhouse. Around the corner and a world away. Deep Fungo tells us Moreno required fatherly consolation from the skipper.
Fifteen players were optioned or reassigned, including Thomas Hatch, Anthony Kay and Josh Palacios in the former group. Also dispatched, among the latter group, was infielder Orelvis Martinez, the No. 2 organizational prospect.