These numbers illustrate Gallo's defensive impact

February 7th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The shiny objects glistened over 's right shoulder. In the background of his introductory Zoom call, Gallo, who signed a one-year deal with the club, displayed his two Gold Glove Awards, visual examples of what he hopes to bring to his new team.

Gallo, 30, is a veteran on a young Nats squad that is looking to continue developing this season. He expects to be tabbed at first base and in the outfield, the latter being where he won the hardware in 2020 and ‘21.

“I like being able to play outfield and infield,” Gallo said. “Growing up, that wasn’t really a thing. But nowadays, it’s starting to be a thing again where you’ve got to bring that versatility. So I work really hard at being able to do both at a high level.”

Over his nine-year career, Gallo has played left field (2,477 innings), right field (1,716 innings), first base (1,068 2/3 innings), third base (724 1/3 innings) and center field (463 innings). His baseball journey began primarily as a third baseman, not consistently playing outfield until 2018. Last season on the Twins, he split time in the outfield (414 1/3 innings) and at first base (322 innings).

One area where Gallo has shined has been his arm strength in the outfield. His career arm value is +8 runs prevented, ranking him in the top 20 among all outfielders since 2018. Gallo has been worth -5 Outs Above Average (OAA) over the past two seasons, but he was worth 7 OAA during his Gold Glove seasons (including 8 OAA in right field, specifically). From 2020-21, Gallo also was notable on plays going to both his right and left, with a +3 OAA in each direction.

Joey Gallo's Outs Above Average on Responsible Plays in the outfield for 2020-21.

“I love playing outfield,” Gallo said. “It’s obviously the position I won a couple Gold Gloves at. I like being able to bring value with my range and my arm out there. I like to just be athletic.”

Gallo, who made his debut in 2015, began playing first base in the Majors in '16, and he has improved defensively at the position. After being worth -5 OAA in ‘16-17 across 467 1/3 innings, Gallo has been worth +2 OAA from ‘18-23 across 601 1/3 innings (Gallo did not play first base from '19-21). Gallo’s strong suit at first base is making plays going away from the line to his right (+2 OAA) and his back (+1 OAA).

Joey Gallo's Outs Above Average at first base from 2018-23.

“I never was an outfielder my whole life; I played infield,” Gallo said. “So I’m very comfortable at first base, and I thought I was able to do pretty well over there this year with Minnesota. I think having a big first baseman that can pick, make plays for you where you don’t have to worry about, ‘Maybe I throw a ball bad, I want to have a first baseman there that I can trust.’ So that’s what I try to bring at first base for our guys, and I’m excited about that.”

In Spring Training, outfielders will range from Gold Glove Award finalists Victor Robles and Lane Thomas to top prospects Dylan Crews (MLB Pipeline No. 7), James Wood (MLB No. 14) and Robert Hassell III (Nationals No. 8). At first base, where he will likely split with Joey Meneses, Gallo will anchor the infield with fellow veteran third baseman Nick Senzel around young middle infielders CJ Abrams and Luis García Jr.

“It kind reminds me of the situation we were in with the Rangers a little bit ago, where we had a lot of young talent and some veterans there,” Gallo said. “For me, I always loved having young guys around because I like them to watch me and how I run, how I play -- maybe not necessarily hit -- but just the way you go about your business.

“I had Adrián Beltré, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton. I had some very, very good leaders, and I learned a lot from those guys. I feel like I can translate that into helping these young guys that I’m going to have now. I love playing with young guys. They’re always energetic and they just want to play and have fun.

“So for me, I just want to bring that to the table of, ‘Hey, this is how you work, this is what it takes to be in the big leagues for six, seven, eight years sometimes’ -- and I still feel like I have a career still ahead of me. But I definitely want to help those guys out, just play the game hard. I always run hard, I always try to respect the game and that’s just something I try to have our young guys do as well.”