Pipeline Perspectives: Gallo will win Minors home run title
Rangers top prospect hit most homers in '13, came in second last season
There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
Even Kris Bryant will tell you that there isn't another hitting prospect around who can crush a baseball like Joey Gallo. Bryant, who grew up with Gallo in Las Vegas and edged him 43-42 for the 2014 Minor League home run title, marveled at his friend's power when they were reunited at the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game last July.
Gallo stole the show, both before the game and during it. The Rangers third baseman smoked 15 homers in batting practice, including six that reached the third deck in right-center at Target Field and three more that carried over the right-field stands and onto the concourse. One of those latter shots smashed the windshield of a pickup truck parked there as part of a promotion.
Gallo delivered during the Futures Game, too. He turned around a 95-mph fastball from Astros right-hander Michael Feliz, blasting it into the second deck in right field for a two-run homer that provided the decisive runs in a 3-2 United States victory. If MLB had kept Gallo around for the Home Run Derby, he might have won that too.
We're kicking off a new year of Pipeline Perspectives with a series of predictions for 2015's Minor League superlatives, and with Bryant expected to graduate to the Cubs, Gallo was an easy pick to succeed him as the home run leader. Jonathan Mayo's choice is Athletics first baseman Matt Olson, who ranked third last season with 37. (If you're wondering which of our selections deserves more faith, let me note that I called Bryant's home run crown in a Pipeline Perspective last March.)
Topping the Minors in homers would be nothing new for Gallo, who did so with 40 during his first full professional season in 2013. His track record of producing for power dates back much further than that.
Gallo slammed 21 homers as a senior at Bishop Gorman High School to finish his prep career with 65, a Nevada state record and the sixth-highest total in U.S. history. His power enticed the Rangers to spend the 39th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft and a $2.25 million bonus to land him, and he has continued to produce. Gallo went deep 22 times in 59 games in his pro debut, setting a Rookie-level Arizona League record with 18 longballs in just 43 contests.
Gallo led the Minors in 2013 (despite missing three weeks in July with a groin injury) and came one homer short last year of becoming the first player to do so in consecutive seasons since Eric Anthony in 1988-89. The last slugger to win two home run crowns was Phil Hiatt, in 1996 and 2001.
For what it's worth, Anthony hit just 78 homers in the big leagues and Hiatt managed only 13, but Gallo is destined for much more success. Neither Anthony nor Hiatt could match his raw power or his willingness to take a walk when pitchers refuse to challenge him.
Gallo has all of the ingredients necessary to produce tape-measure shots on a regular basis. His 6-foot-5 frame gives him tremendous strength and leverage, and his considerable bat speed is another asset. Gallo's aggressiveness at the plate always will lead to strikeouts -- he ranked third in the Minors with 179 last year -- but he has made significant strides with his patience, setting career highs in 2014 with 87 walks and a 16.2 percent walk rate.
Despite the growing hype about his power, Gallo should spend all or most of 2015 in the Minor Leagues, an obvious prerequisite to winning the home run title. His numbers dipped after his promotion from high Class A (.323/.463/.735) to Double-A (.232/.334/.524) last June, and Texas is set at third base for at least another year or two with Adrian Beltre. Gallo is still just 21 and would be best served by another year of seasoning as the Rangers try to climb back into contention.
In addition to needing more time to adjust to upper-level pitching, Gallo also must work on his defense. He has a cannon arm and was clocked at 98 mph on the mound in high school, but his size and below-average speed limit his range and agility at the hot corner. Gallo might be a better fit at first base or on an outfield corner, and it would make more sense to get him acclimated to those positions in the Minors than to have him learn on the job in the Majors.
In the long run, Gallo's defense won't matter much. His power is going to play so well at Globe Life Park in Arlington that he should add multiple big league home run crowns to the pair he'll win in the Minors.