An Improved Joey Gallo Joins the Rangers

The Rangers lost both Drew Stubbs and Shin-Soo Choo to injury over the weekend, leaving them relatively bare in the outfield. To fill the void, they’ve called up top prospect Joey Gallo, who’s perhaps one of the most exciting prospect in baseball due to his exceptional power. We’ve been here before. The Rangers called Gallo up last summer, too, but thanks to a .204/.301/.417 performance in the show, they wisely concluded he needed more seasoning in the minors. Most concerning of all was his 46% strikeout rate, which was literally over twice the league average.

Based on his recent performance, it seems Gallo’s gotten the seasoning he needed. Last year, Gallo hit .240/.342/.520 between Double-A and Triple-A, and struck out in a super-concerning 37% of his trips to the plate. This year, he’s slashed his strikeout rate to a merely mildly-concerning 23% in Triple-A. As a result, he’s hit a gaudy .265/.415/.639.

Despite last season’s struggles, every publication still ranked Gallo among the top prospects on the planet. Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, Keith Law, 2080 Baseball and John Sickels all ranked him between eighth and 12th on their respective top-100 lists. The prospect community didn’t give up on the powerful slugger, and rightly so. While his first go-around in the show was a cacophony of swings-and-misses, his power and walk numbers were more than enough basis to maintain hope, especially for a guy who was just 21. KATOH was a tad more weary of the strikeouts, but still ranked him 30th overall heading into the year with a forecasted 6.7 WAR through age 28.

Adding his 2016 numbers into the mix, his forecast bumps up to 8.6 WAR, which would have placed him #17 on KATOH’s preseason ranking. Although he logged just over 100 plate appearances this year, they were an exceptionally good 100 plate appearances.

To put some faces to Gallo’s statistical profile, let’s go ahead and generate some statistical comps for the powerful slugger. I calculated the Mahalanobis Distance between Gallo’s Double-A and Triple-A numbers since the start of 2015 and every season at those levels since 1990 in which a third baseman or outfielder recorded at least 400 plate appearances. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues.

Joey Gallo’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Michael Cuddyer 8.7 7.7
2 Steve Hosey 8.5 0.1
3 Lance Berkman 9.6 27.8
4 Jim Thome 9.6 27.8
5 Jack Cust 8.3 3.1
6 Andy Marte 9.3 0.3
7 Eric Hinske 5.4 8.5
8 Evan Longoria 8.5 38.6
9 Curtis Granderson 6.8 23.9
10 Mike Kelly 5.7 1.1

Players who have trouble putting the bat on the ball often struggle with the jump from Triple-A to the majors. Gallo obviously fit this description to a T, and looked completely over-matched his first couple of trips around the league. There’s very good reason to think this time will be different, however, due to the improvements he’s made in the strikeouts department this year. Yes, it’s a small sample; and yes, a 23% strikeout rate is still pretty high. But it’s a massive improvement nonetheless. Gallo seems to have made the right adjustments.

Gallo’s always had 80-grade power, but the concern with him has always been his ugly strikeout rates. Now that he’s improved on his biggest weakness, he looks primed to put up some crooked power numbers. It remains to be seen what the Rangers will do with Gallo once Stubbs returns from the DL, so Gallo could very well wind up back in Triple-A in a couple of weeks. But for now at least, the Rangers are giving Gallo another chance to show what he can do against the best pitchers on the planet. He should be better prepared for the opportunity than he was last season, and has the potential to make a huge impact right away with his bat.





Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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asreitz
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asreitz

Yeah…could be a Chris Davis situation. Davis needed several years of seasoning to find his groove. If i’m a Rangers fan, I expect little from Gallo. Sure, his ceiling is higher because of his power but…Mazara and Brinson are still better prospects in my opinion.

Concerned Reader John
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Concerned Reader John

I don’t see Mazara at his level, though I think he’ll be a very good player. Gallo makes up for his lack of contact with a great eye – his walk rate has never been lower than 10%. He could (probably will) have an MLB ISO of 200-250 as a twenty-two year old – very few players have that kind of power at that age. Neither projects to be a great fielder, but Gallo might be able to stick at third base, which also helps his value. Again, I like Mazara but I think Gallo’s elite power makes him a more valuable player.

cornflake5000
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cornflake5000

Eff you… Nomah’s bettah (clap, clap, clap) 😉

Jackie T.
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Jackie T.

As Sporer pointed out in his chat re: Mazara last week: “Three OF have gone .300+/15+ as a 21-year old since 2000: Pujols, Trout, and J-Up. “