Joey Gallo Scouting Report: Third baseman Joey Gallo is ranked #1 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 30 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 32 (and weren't traded). I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2014. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Joey Gallo...
Joey Gallo is a 6'5", 220 lb. lefty hitting third baseman who was drafted by the Rangers out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gallo impressed the draft evaluators, ranking #23 on Keith Law's list and #33 on Baseball America's list, with ESPN saying Gallo would have been a potential top 10 pick as a pitcher if he'd chosen to focus on pitching rather than hitting. However, Gallo's bonus demands scared off a lot of teams, resulting in his sliding to the #39 pick in the draft, where the Rangers grabbed him with one of the compensatory picks they received after losing C.J. Wilson to the Anaheim Angels. The Rangers signed Gallo for $2.25 million, the highest of any of their 2012 draftees.
The story on Gallo heading into the draft was that, like fellow 2012 Ranger first rounder Lewis Brinson, he had some impressive tools, but also had questions about his hit tool. ESPN gave him an 80 power grade, as well as raving about his arm, with those two tools being his most impressive. Baseball America wrote before the draft that Gallo had the 10th longest home run in Petco Park history in 2011 in a showcase game when he was hitting with wood. However, questions about whether he has the range to stay at third base had scouts suggesting that he could end up in right field or at first base in the future. And of course, questions about his hit tool, and whether he'll make enough contact to be able to utilize his hit tool, were why Gallo lasted into the supplemental first round, rather than going in the top part of the first round.
Gallo signed quickly and, in 59 professional games split between the Arizona Rookie League and the short-season A Northwest League, validated both those who loved his power and those who questioned his hit tool. He had an incredible AZL campaign, putting up a .293/.435/.733 line in 193 plate appearances for the Rangers' complex team, hitting 18 home runs and winning league MVP honors. In the Northwest League, against more advanced competition, he continued to flash power, but also had major contact issues, going .214/.343/.464 in 67 plate appearances. Overall, in his first pro season, he had a .272/.412/.660 slash line with 22 homers in 260 plate appearances. He also showed off both his potential and his rawness in the field, impressing with his arm, but making 17 errors in 56 games at third base.
Post-2012 rankings for Gallo varied widely from source to source. He was ranked third in Baseball America's AZL prospect list, behind only fellow 2012 first rounders Addison Russell (who went #11 overall) and Albert Almora (who went #6 overall). However, he was only #10 on the Baseball America Rangers' list. John Sickels and Jason Cole each ranked Gallo #11 on their respective Rangers prospect lists. However, Scout.com ranked Gallo at #95 in their overall MLB prospect rankings, and Jamey Newberg had Gallo ranked #7 overall in the Rangers' system.
The 2013 season saw Gallo spend the year (other than a rehab stint in the AZL, after he was on the d.l. with a groin injury) at low-A Hickory as a 19 year old. In the Sally League, Gallo had one of the more insane statistical lines you'll ever see, at any level. Gallo had a .245/.334/.610 slash line, with 165 Ks and 48 walks in 446 plate appearances. Gallo put up only 34 singles, along with 19 doubles, 5 triples and 38 homers. It was truly a bizarre season, one of the more extreme Three True Outcome campaigns you'll come across.
As far as the 2013 post-season rankings went, Keith Law, MLB.com and Baseball America all ranked Gallo 5th in the system, while Jason Parks had Gallo at #7. MLB.com had Gallo as the #92 ranked prospect in baseball, and Parks had Gallo ranked #95. MLB.com also picked Gallo as the 9th best third base prospect in baseball.
Then came 2014, when Joey Gallo broke out in a big way. Gallo started the year in high-A Myrtle Beach, and went absolutely insane for two months. He homered 21 times in 246 plate appearances for the Pelicans while striking out just 64 times and walking 51 times, putting up a .323/.463/.735 line, and forcing the Rangers to promote him to AA Frisco. While Gallo started off well in Frisco, he slowed as the season went on, and ended up logging just a .174/.297/.337 line in the month of August, part of a .232/.334/.524 line overall at AA, with a frightening 115 Ks in 291 plate appearances. In between, he had a legendary batting practice session at the Futures Game, and became something of a minor celebrity, being highly sought after by fans at Frisco games.
Every ranking I've seen of the Rangers' system has Gallo as the #1 prospect right now, and while the top 100 lists aren't out yet, I'm guessing he is in the top 20 in all of them. Gallo was #4 on the BA midseason top 50 prospect list, and #18 on Keith Law's midseason rankings. Baseball America ranked Gallo #1 on both their Texas League top 20 prospect list and on their Carolina League top 20 prospect list.
Last year, in my Gallo writeup, I wrote:
Gallo is a guy with a ton of upside, but with a lot of questions about whether he'll hit enough to actualize the upside potential. He has elite power, but as we've seen before with Chris Davis -- a player with a very similar skill set to Gallo -- if you can't make contact regularly, you're not going to be able to utilize the power tool. And Gallo, who struck out 78 times in 260 plate appearances in his first season as a pro, and then 172 times in 467 plate appearances this year, still has to prove that he can make contact enough for his power to play. Some observers are concerned that he lacks the barrel control to consistently make contact with hittable pitches in the zone, and that, at the upper levels, pitchers will be able to just throw pitches past him in the strike zone...while he'll connect occasionally, it won't be often enough to make up for all the Ks.
And you know what? Pretty much all that still applies. Observers praised Gallo for improving his approach and barrel control in 2014, but really, despite the huge numbers and the upward spike in the rankings, the concerns about Gallo are still there. Gallo's K rate improved in Myrtle Beach, but then spiked dramatically in Frisco. Now, Gallo was one of the youngest players in AA when he was at Frisco -- at season's end, he was the 4th youngest player in the Texas League, and 15th youngest in AA, and he had one PA all season against a pitcher younger than him. He also wore down as the season went on, having to adjust to all the attention he drew and the spotlight being so bright on him, and I suspect one of the goals for Gallo this season will be to avoid that late season fade.
But, while there are still questions about Gallo, he's at least put a lot of the concerns to rest. His floor is significantly higher than it was heading into the 2014 season, and he's gotten good marks for his work ethic and makeup. The areas you want to see Gallo work on and improve in 2014, he worked on and improved, showing a willingness to make adjustments as he faces better pitching. He's also gotten improved marks for his defense, and while he may end up in right field or at first base long-term, there are more and more folks saying that they think he can stick at the hot corner, where his bat would be even more valuable.
Where does Gallo go for 2015? He will almost certainly start the 2015 season at AA Frisco, where he will likely be one of the youngest players, once again, in the Texas League. The Rangers are going to want to see him rebound from his late-season struggles at Frisco in 2014, and show an improved contact rate. If he performs up to expectations, a mid-season promotion to AAA Round Rock seems likely, and a September call-up isn't out of the question. I suspect that he'll be up in the majors for good at some point in 2016.
What is the upside for Gallo? He's a three true outcomes player with raw power considered among the best in the game. If you really wanted to dream, you could dream of Giancarlo Stanton. Troy Glaus is another guy who Gallo has drawn comparisons to, or maybe Adam Dunn with defensive skills. Last year, we said that "you probably would hope to see Gallo turn into Russ Branyan, another three true outcome type with huge power combined with contact issues," but after his big 2014 campaign, I think its reasonable to hope for more than Branyan, at this point.