Gallo loses HR title, continues development

Rangers prospect Joey Gallo hit 42 home runs in the minor leagues this season. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The minor league home run crown will go to Chicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant, who hit his 43rd of the season Monday night for Triple-A Iowa.

What about Frisco’s Joey Gallo?

Well, the 20-year-old who won the minor league home run title last season with 40, finished the regular season with 42 for Double-A Frisco.

It’s been a remarkable rise to stardom for Gallo, a 2012 supplemental first-round pick by the Texas Rangers. Last week, he was named the Carolina League MVP for his time at Myrtle Beach (Class A), and after being moved to Double-A, he was selected to the Texas League postseason All-Star team.

“It’s been a good year so far,” Gallo told ESPN Dallas last week. “Obviously it’s been a great learning experience for me. Moving from Double-A was tough, but it’s been good. I didn’t know I won so many awards or whatever, not that it’s a huge deal anyways, but it’s kinda cool getting an award at the end of the year. It’s always a great feeling.”

Gallo is one of the top prospects in the Rangers' minor league system but you won’t see him among the September call-ups this season.

He’s competing with the RoughRiders in the Texas League South Division championship series which starts Wednesday.

The Rangers need to see him develop more into a true power hitter, who does more than hit home runs.

Home runs and strikeouts are what Gallo has been known for in his two years in the minors. Frisco is 14-6 when he homers. He’s had four game-winning hits, three have been homers, including a grand slam July 29 against Midland.

His battles with Bryant, a childhood friend, have kept baseball observers on watch. One night it’s Gallo taking the league in homers.

The next night it’s Bryant.

“I always tell people, it’s not really a big deal, it really isn’t,” Gallo said. “It’s a little special because I’m battling with Bryant, who I grew up with and who I’ve known my whole life, that’s kinda the crazy part about it. So whoever wins, I’ll be happy.”

Gallo needs to curtail the number of strikeouts.

Plate discipline is the key issue for him. In his last 16 at-bats for Frisco, he struck out six times with just three hits, two of which were home runs. Despite 104 minor league home runs and a slash line of .263/.377/.627, Gallo has struck out 429 times.

“Cut down on strikeouts, control the strike zone better,” said Mike Daly, the Rangers' Senior Director of Minor League Operations, of Gallo. “He’s gotten better pitches to hit and his batting average and home runs were up. Everything was better. He earned his way through Double-A, but it’s been challenging. But we’re very happy with where Joey’s been and he continues to improve offensively and defensively.”

Said Gallo on his strikeouts: “I haven’t reduced them too much. I try to take a better two-strike approach and get a better overall approach and get some things down with my swing that I’ve been working on all season.”

With the Rangers going through their own struggles, the need to push Gallo and other talented prospects through the system is great. Daly said Frisco is loaded with talent at every position, but those players need time to develop both mentally and physically.

Gallo views it as a compliment that fans would like to see him against big league pitching, but it’s not happening right now.

There is so much to learn about hitting and improving at third base.

“It’s nice to hear that,” Gallo said. “Most people don’t say that after seeing how many times I strike out, but yeah it’s always a cool feeling (fans) wanting you to be there. But I got to be patient. But we got a lot of really good guys down here in Double-A that will make an immediate impact at the major league level. I really believe that.”