Is Joey Gallo a star or a mirage?
June, 14, 2014
By Staff | ESPNDallas.com
Grantland recently featured a story on Rangers prospect Joey Gallo (The Most Interesting Man in the Minors) discussing the adjustments he's made this season and the record home run pace he's on. Among the highlights from the story:
Joey Gallo's power has set him apart since the days when he batted cleanup behind Bryce Harper on club travel teams. He set state home run records in high school, tagged a name-brand pitching prospect with one of the longest home runs in Petco Park history at age 17, and led the minors with 40 often majestic round-trippers last season. “When you see him hit something, you won’t forget,” says Justin Mashore, the Rangers’ Triple-A hitting coach, who tutored Gallo at multiple minor league levels from 2012 to 2013. “You’ll tell your grandkids about when you saw him hit those home runs that everybody talks about.”
That home run pace hasn’t slowed this season: Gallo had mashed 23 homers while posting a .320/.459/.745 line across two levels. His superhuman hitting earned him a June 8 bump from Single-A to Double-A, where he has already delivered walk-off homer heroics. Gallo’s breakout has been the silver lining in the Rangers’ lost season, and he could be bashing balls into light towers in a big league ballpark near you next year.
Gallo’s 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame is nearly Giancarlo Stanton–size, so he was never in danger of being underestimated because of his build. Yet PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’s Nate Silver–developed projection system, couldn’t draw upon its dispassionate algorithms to cut through the bias and lay bare the abilities beneath. In Gallo’s case, PECOTA was just as uncertain as the scouts.
According to PECOTA, Gallo’s most comparable player prior to the 2014 season was Stanton, the Marlins outfielder who hits home runs farther than anyone else.
Gallo struck out 78 times in 260 plate appearances in his 2012 post-draft debut. Last year with Hickory, he batted .245 — Cody Johnson's career average — and whiffed in 37 percent of his plate appearances, walking once for every 3.4 K’s. For context, last season’s major league leader, Carter, struck out 36.2 percent of the time. Since 1985, only three players (Mike Simms, Charlton Jimerson, and Josh Booty) have made the majors after a Class A season with a strikeout rate as high as Gallo’s, relative to the league.
Among players with 25 or more measured batted balls (including fouls) — a pool of 31 A-ball batters in 2013, and 115 High-A hitters in 2014 — Gallo’s batted-ball speed was the best, and it wasn’t particularly close. For reference, the average exit speed among major league non-pitchers last season was 75.9 miles per hour, and Miguel Cabrera led the league at 84.9 … 0.8 mph slower than Gallo’s exit speed this season. With the aid of his revamped approach, Gallo has hit the ball harder this season than any major leaguer did in 2013, including the two-time MVP.
You can read Ben Lindbergh's entire story on Grantland here.