Low Level Prospect Review: Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers

Rick Yeatts

A new home run leader has emerged in the minor leagues with Joey Gallo hitting his 21st of the season on Thursday night. How long until fantasy owners can anticipate seeing him at the highest level, and what could he do when he gets there?

A funny thing happens the more you write about prospects, in that it actually becomes more difficult to remember at times which ones you have already covered with a profile. So I sat down at my computer on Thursday night, completely unsure of who to cover from the lower levels of the minors. In between dealing with a vomiting baby (moving fast, it turns out, is not good for small children with ear infections), I had determined to write up Cubs' SS prospect Javier Baez, fresh off his four homer night on Monday. So I started my usual research, which includes a quick glance through our archives looking to see which posts he had been mentioned in previously. That was when this was found, and after re-reading the post Craig gave us last year, felt I didn't have a ton to add onto what he had written. /deletes first draft, starts over/

Let's take a look at the current minor league home run leader instead, Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers. Gallo was considered to be the 12th best high school draft prospect by Baseball America in their 2012 Prospect Handbook, and by the morning of the draft BA had him going at the #22 pick to the Toronto Blue Jays. Gallo was widely considered to be the top prospect in terms of power potential in the draft, but that came with concerns about his ability to achieve that potential due to his proclivity to strike out and generally not make contact. That didn't stop the Rangers, who were happy to have Gallo still available in the supplemental first round at pick #39. The team signed him quickly to a bonus of $2.25 million, and sent him to their rookie league affiliate in Arizona.

In his time in Arizona, Gallo set the single season record for home runs in the Arizona Rookie League, clubbing 18 in 43 games, while hitting .293/.435/.733 in a very offense friendly environment. The team promoted him to their Northwest League affiliate for the last few weeks of the year, where he hit four more home runs in 16 games, but also hit just .214 and struck out in nearly 50% of his at bats.

The Rangers sent him (along with a lot of other really good prospects) to Hickory, their full season Low-A affiliate, where he continues to hit homers at a ridiculous rate. He is up to 21 on the season, but is continuing to show contact issues, striking out 102 times in 241 at bats so far and hitting .245/.337/.585 on the season. He has been better of late, hitting .381/.409/1.000 with 7 home runs over his last 10 games.

The power is always going to be Gallo's calling card, and he is one of the few players in organized baseball to have 80 grade power. The question about what Gallo's value is will turn on whether he can reduce the strikeouts even a little bit. He's currently striking out at a 37.5% rate, which is the 5th highest rate in all of the minors right now. There have been questions about whether he will be able to stay at 3B given his size, but his arm will definitely play over there, and the Rangers can give him as much time as possible at the position before a move to 1B or a corner outfield spot might be necessary. We ranked Gallo as our #9 prospect at 3B in the offseason, and I'd probably be inclined to leave him in that range until we can see even a little bit of improvement on the contact issues. He is absolutely worth an own in nearly all dynasty formats involving minor leaguers, as he could be a 40 home run bat in the Majors even with the contact struggles. It would be easy to say that he could turn into someone with a valuation similar to Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn (low average, high power) given how his performance looks so far, but neither player struck out THIS much in the lower minors.

Gallo seems likely to stay at Low-A for most of the season in my opinion, as he is crushing home runs at a ridiculous rate but not necessarily dominating to the point where he will force a promotion. With Adrian Beltre under contract for another three seasons after this one, and Mike Olt in AAA as well, the Rangers can take their time with Gallo to allow him to develop to his potential. I could see Gallo being a level-per-year type, which would still get him to the Majors at age 23.

Sources

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference
Fangraphs
Minor League Central

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