30 Prospects in 30 Days: Joey Gallo — Texas Rangers
Joey Gallo is going to be a very interesting major league player, to say the very least. There is no other player in the minor leagues that possesses the power that Joey Gallo has, but at the same time, there are very few players who come with the kind of risk that Gallo brings to the table. At times, it feels like there must be a hole in his bat, as he strikes out at a historic rate. While it’s possible to still be a very productive player if you strike out a lot, like Chris Davis and Kris Bryant showed us last year, it’s also very possible for it to be the bane of your career, like Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Howard have shown us.
Gallo attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. He won many awards in his senior year of high school including the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year award. In this season, Gallo slugged 21 home runs with 80 RBIs, while sporting a .509 batting average. In the first round of the 2012 MLB draft, the Texas Rangers selected Joey Gallo with the 39th overall pick.
#9 on MLB.com’s 2016 “Top 100 Prospects” list
#5 on Keith Law’s midseason top 50 list
#6 on Baseball America’s 2015 top prospects list
Gallo didn’t slow down his production after being drafted by the Rangers, as he went on to be named the Arizona Fall League MVP, quite a feat for someone making their first pro debut. In 43 games, Gallo launched 18 home runs, drove in 52 runs and slashed .293/.435/.733. In 2013, Gallo debuted for the Hickory Crawdads of the Class-A South Atlantic league, where he became the first minor league player since 1962 to hit 40 home runs in a season. However, Gallo hit just .245 that season, and struck out 165 times.
Over time, one would imagine that Gallo might be able to limit his number of strikeouts, though things only got worse as he progressed through the minor leagues. In 2014, Gallo spent his time between High-A and Double-A ball, while also participating in the 2014 Futures Game in Minnesota during the MLB All-Star break. During that game, Gallo hit a moonshot of a home run that broke the window of a Chevy Silverado that was on display in the outfield. It’s tough to explain just how ridiculous the home run was, so you really have to see it for yourself. But to put it best into words: Gallo hit the home run where fans enter the stadium by the right field bleachers. To be honest, I’m almost positive that ball is still circling the globe.
This past season represented Gallo’s first crack at the big league roster, as the Rangers called him up on June 1st. In his major league debut on June 2nd, Gallo showed fans that the hype surrounding his bat was not a myth, as he hit his first major league home run and drove in four runs. Just three days later, however, Gallo became the fastest player in Rangers’ history to earn a ‘golden sombrero’, or, strikeout four times in a single game. While he displayed to fans his absurd power, he also showed them the other aspect of his game, which is striking out a whole lot.
While it was expected that Gallo would struggle in the majors, one would doubt that the Rangers would have expected him to hit just .204 across his 36 games. Gallo didn’t start every game, as there wasn’t a clear opening for him once Adrian Beltre came back from injury, so he spent some time pinch-hitting. Gallo was sent back down to the minors on June 30th to make room for the newly acquired Josh Hamilton. Gallo finished his first trial run at the MLB level with six home runs, 14 RBIs and a .204/.301/.417 slash line.
What will Gallo be in the future? Gallo could very easily be the next Chris Davis, where he hits a ton of home runs, strikes out a lot, and provides the team with just enough defensive value that it doesn’t hurt them. There’s also a good chance that he becomes Adam Dunn, but not the Reds’ Adam Dunn, think more of the White Sox Adam Dunn. This isn’t a knock on Adam Dunn, by the way, he had a great career, and I’m just merely using him as an example.
There are two ways that it could go here. Adam Dunn’s 2012 campaign is what this author believes is the more likely route. In 2012, Adam Dunn hit 41 home runs, drove in 96 runs and walked 105 times. Now, Gallo doesn’t walk as much as Dunn did, though he still walks quite often, as shown by his OBP. This is where it gets interesting. In that very same season. Dunn posted a .204 batting average and struck out 222 times. That’s two hundred and twenty-two times, just in case you thought you read that wrong. That was far and away the most strikeouts in the majors that year. Let’s not forget Dunn’s 2011 season, which could very easily be exactly what Gallo turns out to be.
In 2011, Dunn hit 11 home runs, drove in 42 RBIs, while hitting just .159 and striking out 177 times. At home, you might be saying to yourself, “well, aside from the sapped power, his numbers weren’t that different. In that 2011 season, Dunn posted a -2.9 WAR. The very next season in which he hit 41 dingers, Dunn posted an even 2.0 WAR. There is a lot of value that comes with power, and it’s increasingly difficult to come across a player with this kind of pop nowadays. However, there is also a huge risk in a player with this kind of strikeout capability, so proceed with caution.
Mr. Dunn was labeled as the man with “Three True Outcomes” during his time in the MLB, as (for the most part) he would either hit a home run, strike out, or walk. Throughout the research for this article, it is safe to say that Gallo can be given that very same nickname. In Gallo’s 1,638 trips to the plate in the minor leagues, he has come away with one of those outcomes 931 times. For those of you that aren’t good at math, or don’t have a calculator handy, that’s nearly 57 percent of the time. This past MLB season, only one player in the entire league had a mark that was above 50 percent, and that was Mr. Chris Davis. During Gallo’s time in the major leagues, that 56.8 percent mark jumped to 63.4%. As stated above, proceed with caution.
What can we expect from Joey Gallo this year? Currently, the Rangers don’t have an immediate need for Gallo on the big league club. Prince Fielder seems to be cemented at first base, with Mitch Moreland occupying the DH slot. Don’t even think about moving Adrian Beltre off the hot corner, as that would go over about as well as touching his head. As for the outfield, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see Gallo replace Josh Hamilton at some point this season if Hamilton gets off to a slow start. Nonetheless, barring an explosive spring, expect Gallo to start the season in Triple-A to get some seasoning before cracking the major league roster for good.
Fun fact to impress your friends: Joey Gallo and Bryce Harper were on the same little league team.
Statistical information gathered from Fangraphs.com and Baseballreference.com