Rangers Get Quantity and Quality in Return for Gallo

The much anticipated Joey Gallo deal is now official. You can read my colleague Dan Szymborski’s analysis of the Yankees’ side of the trade here. The Rangers are set to acquire infielders Ezequiel Duran, Josh Smith and Trevor Hauver, as well as right-handed pitcher Glenn Otto, in exchange for Gallo and Joely Rodríguez. Even if what was once a six-player return from the Yankees has fizzled down to four, make no mistake: this is a bulk deal. At the same time, there’s considerable quality to the quantity heading back to Texas; there are no throw-ins here. The Rangers were able to add a pair of players who enter their system’s top 10, while the remaining two both deserve the moniker of “prospect.” Meanwhile, the Yankees don’t just get the best left-handed power source in baseball, they also cleared much of their mild 40-man roster crunch, as Eric Longenhagen detailed on Wednesday.

The best prospect in the deal is Ezequiel Duran, a 22-year-old second baseman who was hitting .290/374/.533 at High-A Hudson Valley. His calling card is plus raw power, with maximum exit velocities pushing the 110 mph range. His plate discipline is solid, but his violent swing mechanics out of a 5-foot-11 frame produce plenty of swing-and-miss to go with the pop. He’s a fringy runner who lacks arm strength, and he’s already been moved to second base, where most scouts put a 40-45 grade on his defense. He projects as an offense-first player at the corner who can hit .250-.275 with 18-24 bombs a year to go with a decent walk rate. A more refined approach would up that projection a bit. He becomes the No. 3 prospect in the Rangers system.

While he’s not the best prospect in the deal, shortstop Josh Smith is in possession of the highest floor. A second-round pick out of Louisiana State two years ago, Smith is a scouting favorite. While his tools aren’t especially loud, evaluators struggle to find any holes in his game, and with a combined line of .324/.448/.641 in 39 games across two A-level squads, the performance has been attention-grabbing this year. At the plate, the 5-foot-11 Smith combines excellent swing decisions with plus-plus contact ability and enough sneaky pop to produce average power to the tune of 15-18 home runs per year down the road. He’s not a burner, but he has plus wheels that play up on the basepaths due to outstanding instincts. There were questions coming out of the draft as to his ability to stay at shortstop as a pro, but his fielding has grown on scouts, who now see him as an average defender at the position with enough arm to make the necessary plays. He’s the type of player who gets the most out of his tools, and those tools are at least average across the board. Barring injury, it’s hard to see Smith not making the big leagues with utility player as a floor, and a non-star everyday shortstop who doubles as a fan-favorite with his max-effort style of play the ceiling. He enters the Rangers’ top 10 at number eight.

Checking in at No. 31 in the system following the trade is Trevor Hauver, a 2020 third-round pick out of Arizona State who has taken the biggest step forward in 2021. While he’s cooled a bit since getting off to one of the hottest starts in all of the minors, he is hitting .288/.445/.498 for Low-A Tampa, though as a nearly 23-year-old coming out of a major college program, it would be expected for him to put up big numbers at this level. Hauver is a walking machine, with a 21.4% free pass rate this season. But there’s a difference between being patient and being passive, and Hauver works the count to an extreme degree, which often leaves him with only one or two swings per plate appearance; this approach has also led to an elevated strikeout rate (26.1%). His raw power falls in the average range, so the future dream for him is as an on-base machine who can pop 15-18 balls over the fence annually. The biggest questions revolve around where Hauver is going to play in the field. He’s stockily built and doesn’t ooze athleticism, with fringy run times and a slow first step that leave him a bit limited at his current position of second base. He has nowhere to go from here other than the wrong end of the defensive spectrum, which would put considerably more pressure on his bat. He looks like a potential plus contributor at the plate, but for many, the jury is still out until he gets tested at higher levels.

Finally, there is 25-year-old right-hander Glenn Otto, who enters the Rangers system in the mid-30s and is in the midst of a breakout campaign. He is also the one player in the deal who could see big league playing time for the Rangers as early as this year. Splitting time between Double- and Triple-A this season, Otto has an eye-popping 38% strikeout rate, but he’s not the kind of pure power arm you might expect from those numbers. His fastball has fringe-to-average velocity at 90-93 mph while touching 95, and it features a bit of rising action, but his out pitch is a present plus slider in the low-80s that produces some downright embarrassing swings at times. He leans on the pitch quite a bit, sometimes reaching 50% in-game usage. He controls both pitches well, but his changeup is still very much a work-in-progress, and his delivery and lack of arsenal depth have left many projecting him as a slider-heavy reliever in the end. The Rangers can (and should) use the remainder of the 2021 season to figure out just where his future lies in the big leagues.

The Rangers don’t have the best system in baseball, but they certainly have one of the deepest, and this deal adds to that depth considerably.

Kevin Goldstein is a National Writer at FanGraphs.

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2 years ago

Do you see any similarities between Josh Smith and Nick Solak offensively? Maybe I’m focusing too much on the Yankees/Rangers aspect.

2 years ago
Reply to  Brian

They’re similar offensively in that they are from major college programs with advanced approaches at the plate except Solak is a RHH and Smith is a LHH. That’s huge. Having the platoon advantage in the majority of your at bats is obviously major. Not to mention Smith actually has defensive value.