Astros Future Interview: Kobe Kato
The Astros have consistently drafted well over the last decade finding diamonds in the rough and quality players despite the round they were selected in. We have also seen them value the ability to get on base. In the 2021 draft, the Astros selected a second baseman out of the University of Arizona who had those traits in Kobe Kato. In his first professional season he drew 24 walks in 31 games and had a .405 OBP. I was able to chat with Kobe for a bit and ask him some questions. Let’s get to the interview!
Astros Future (AF): I know you were born and raised in Hawaii. How is baseball there year round?
Kobe Kato (KK): “I was born and raised on the island of Oahu and even though there isn’t much exposure out there the talent is and there are a bunch of athletes who just need the chance. Baseball is very competitive out there as I would say the most competitive behind football as the talent is spread across the whole island making it very competitive.”
AF: You had some phenomenal numbers in the summer leagues before having a breakout junior season. How much did you take away from the summer leagues?
KK: “Every summer I feel like I’ve grown as a person and a baseball player. Being able to play in a bunch of different states with people from other colleges you get to learn about swings, fielding, and understanding the game from all perspectives.”
AF: Can you describe the feeling of being drafted?
KK: “It’s like no other hearing your name called saying that you’ve been drafted can’t be described. It was exciting and fulfilling knowing you’re ready for the next step and that someone sees something in you.”
AF: In college and professional ball so far, you’ve put up incredible walk to strikeout ratios. Has this always been your game and do you take pride in being a guy who can get on base and not strikeout?
KK: “Yes I have always been the on base over power guy and I take pride in it. My college coach Jay Johnson taught me this one saying “the at bat is made by the pitches you don’t swing at” and ever since then I honed in my skills on swinging at only the pitches I know I can do damage on allowing myself to take those close pitches leading to a free ticket to first.”
AF: How do you feel your first professional season went?
KK: “I feel like my first season was pretty successful. I don’t want to look at it statistically because I know it’s a tough game and personally I did what I do best and that’s play defense and find a way on base at a high level and compete. I got to experience a new level of pitching which is exciting and with every at bat you learn more. And If I’m in the game, I’m playing to win and give my team the best chance to be successful.”
AF: I noticed you had really good stolen base numbers in the summer leagues but your junior season you stole six bases. Do you see yourself projecting as a base stealer as you move up the system?
KK: “I see myself as a smart base runner. I will take a base when the opportunity presents itself. In summer it’s easy to run carelessly but in college there was more purpose as I learned to be smarter and pick my opportunities. And also by playing at Arizona you can score from first with the big gaps taking away the risk of stealing a bag but I still know when the times are right since the higher level you play at the harder it is to steal.”
AF: Is there anything specific you have been working on this off-season?
KK: “This off-season I have been working on obtaining more power and the ability to drive the ball more with less effort. I have put on 15 lbs since the last season and I have seen some progress but I have been working on some swing changes with my load and movement to give myself the best opportunity to be successful and more powerful.”
AF: You played all over the infield in 2021. What position do you feel is your best and what position is most comfortable to you?
KK: “I feel my best position is second base I am most comfortable there as I have played it my whole career and I understand where I’m suppose to be on every play and the angles I need to take for every ball with the footwork coming naturally. ”
AF: What are your goals for the 2022 season?
KK: “My goal for the next season is to just compete and see where is goes. I’m not going to get lost in the numbers and production is shown in not only the stat sheet. I want to see myself produce and help my team win with both my bat and my glove as I’ve been working on driving the ball I want to see myself put my new swing into play and put balls in gaps with some enthusiasm and continue to play lock down defense.”
Thanks to Kobe Kato for chatting with me last week and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for 2022!
**Photo Credit: Joe Dwyer**