Rangers' Gallo setting sights high and far
Ninth-ranked overall prospect credits Giambi as mentor, working to become a complete player
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- So what kind of a baseball career will Rangers power prodigy Joey Gallo have? How about one where he puts up the exact same numbers as Jason Giambi?
"Yeah, I'll take that," Gallo said. "He had an amazing career. He was at one point one of the best power hitters in the game. I wouldn't mind having a career like that. That would be pretty nice."
Gallo has known Giambi since he was 10 years old and has been working out with him the past two years in Las Vegas.
"He's my biggest mentor," Gallo said. "Just not only being a good player but being a good person and handling certain situations. I honestly don't know if I would be where I am right now without him.
"He has been through so many situations. We talk about that and on the field stuff: don't get too frustrated, play with your heart, don't play with your head. Enjoy the game because it is going to go by quick. He's helped me enjoy the process instead of being impatient and trying to rush my way to the Major Leagues."
That last part has people wondering. The 39th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Gallo has hit 104 home runs in just 2 1/2 years. He is the top Rangers Minor League prospect and ranked ninth overall by MLB.com. There have been plenty other accolades and accomplishments over the past 2 1/2 years but it all can be condensed down to one simple fact.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound left-handed-swinging third baseman is the Rangers' best power-hitting prospect since Juan Gonzalez 25 years ago, and his talent will be on display during his first Major League Spring Training.
So the two biggest questions are: When will Gallo arrive in Arlington for good and what kind of player will he be when he gets there?
"Trust me, I wonder too," Gallo said. "But I know it's more than just home runs. That's something that's going to be fun in Spring Training. There will be more people getting a chance to watch me live and understand my game is more than just going up there, closing my eyes and praying I hit one over the batter's eye.
"I try to do all the little things right," he continued. "I don't want to go out there and be just another power bat. I want people to understand that when they get to see me and not just think he hits a lot of home runs and strikes out a lot."
The strikeouts are also prodigious: 179 last year between Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco. Hitting coach Dave Magadan played with Giambi in Oakland and they've had multiple conversations about Gallo.
"The No. 1 thing on the agenda is to quiet [Gallo's swing] down," Magadan said. "He's a big guy so he has a lot of moving parts. If we can cut down those variables and be more consistent with his swing, we can cut down those strikeouts, and his pitch selection will improve. It improved last year over 2013, so if we can continue that trajectory, we'll have a pretty special player."
Gallo, 21, is still learning, but there have been significant improvements as he learns the game and his swing. He made an adjustment with his hands last winter and his batting average went from .245 at Class A Hickory in 2013 to .323 at Myrtle Beach.
"The strikeouts are something I'm going to work on," Gallo said. "But at the same time it's something I can't worry about too much because I want to be a guy who hits with power and is an impact bat. So if I strike out a little more than I should, sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, so we'll see.
"I hear about the strikeouts a lot," Gallo continued. "You can't pay attention to that. It's kind of hard, but at the end of the day, you got to go out there and play. If I'm going to be a high home run, high strikeout guy, that's what I'm going to be. One of my goals this year is to remain in my game and stay with it. If I start striking out too much, not panic and change things. Stay with my solid foundation."
Gallo is not expected to make the team. He played in just 68 games at Double-A in 2014 after a mid-season promotion and needs more development time.
But if he starts knocking a few balls out of the ballpark in the Cactus League, Gallo could cause quite a stir. At a time when power has diminished all over baseball, a hitter with Gallo's talent is capable of creating a serious Spring Training feeding frenzy.
"There are a lot of expectations about me," Gallo said. "That's something Giambi and I talked about a lot. You can't control that. You go out, enjoy the game and have fun."
There is also a matter of his defensive position. Gallo has been playing third base and a left-handed power hitter there would be a tremendous asset for any team. But his size might suggest a move to either first base or the outfield.
Don't even mention designated hitter. Gallo wants to be a complete player and his goal is to stay at third base. The Rangers will give him that chance.
"That's why I love being in this organization," Gallo said. "They have the trust in me that I'm going to work my tail off to play over there and now it's up to me to show it's possible."
Ultimately his position could be superfluous. If the power is there, the Rangers will get him in the lineup. It's just a matter of how soon and how good he will be.
It could end up being the No. 1 topic in Rangers camp.