With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

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Aug 7, 2014; Frisco, TX, USA; Frisco Rough Riders third baseman Joey Gallo (24) hits a foul ball during the game against the Springfield Cardinals at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Springfield beat Frisco 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

"“‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ -Stan Lee” – Michael Scott."

Offensive power in baseball is at a premium right now. The Rangers know it, the MLB knows it, and the fans know it. If Joey Gallo would have ended his season June 8th when he was promoted to Frisco, only 40 MLB players would finish the season with more home runs than him. He would also have had 2 more homers than anyone on the Rangers roster. Gallo hit more bombs than any MLB player this year in only 126 games. The baseball power premium is the reason why it took a huge piece like Kinsler to get a power hitter Prince Fielder after two consecutive down years and also why Nelson Cruz is going to get a big fat contract from someone willing to dish out the dough and the years. Chicks dig the long ball. Long balls play in the postseason. Have you seen what the Royals and Cardinals are doing? Yes, both of them were last in their respective leagues in homers. Yes neither of them had a player hit over 21 bombs in the regular season, BUT long balls win post season games. Nobody doubted whether or not Eric Hosmer, or Mike Moustakas, or Matt Carpenter, or Matt Adams could put one 10 rows back if they got a hold of a meatball. Do you remember when the Rangers did damage in the postseason? They had Hamilton, Cruz, Napoli, Beltre, Kinsler, and Vlad all putting up 25+ homer seasons with an average pitching staff. With all that said, let’s take a look at the impressive season put up by the kid who can’t buy himself victory champaign for another month.

The tear began in Myrtle Beach the 2013 High A Rangers affiliate. His hard off season work with Jason Giambi really payed off. Gallo’s swing in years prior had so many moving parts it was easy for him to get out of sync. This year he made his leg kick and barrel tip less exaggerated, and as a result he was able to more easily adjust to pitches. His main struggles stem from hard stuff in on his hands and above the belt. Anything slow and either low or away is his danger zone. Once he gets his arms extended and puts any part of the bat on the ball, that thing is going to travel a long way. Carolina league pitchers either took a long time to figure these things out or couldn’t execute their game plans effectively for their two months of facing Gallo. Another improvement was that Joey didn’t try to crank everything within a foot of the strike zone into the bleachers. This selectiveness led to an astounding 51 walks in 246 plate appearances in Myrtle Beach. Many times young power hitters will get frustrated at the plate when they are hot and pitchers won’t come after them. Joey Gallo isn’t like most young power hitters. His fantastic results came from knowing his swing, and knowing which pitches were his. That walk off homer in his first Frisco game? Happy zone.

After that lovely introduction to the Texas League, the rest of the season was not as dominant. He did have some great moments, specifically at the Futures game and this beauty I witnessed live, but after mid July Texas league pitchers started to figure out Gallo’s weaknesses. In 246 Carolina league appearances Gallo struck out only 64 times to equal a manageable 26% rate. However in 291 Texas League appearances Joey K’d 115 times or a 39.5% rate. That’s bad. If AA pitchers are doing that to Joey, imagine what AAA guys who have already been in the majors would do to him. His on base percentage dropped well over 100 points and his ridiculous slugging percentage dropped over 200 points. Don’t fear that slugging drop. Any 20 year old in AA slugging .524 is an impressive feat. What does this say about his struggles though? This shows with a slugging percentage 302 points higher than his average that when he got his pitch he didn’t miss it. Of his 58 AA hits, 21 left the yard and 10 were doubles. Gallo’s keen eye also didn’t desert him. It showed in his Frisco walk rate of 12.4%.
According to my sources, Gallo’s crucial areas of improvement lie in closing the hole up and in as well improvement with his footwork in the field. Let’s start with that hole. Looking back at every homer of which I can find video, I have yet to see one off of something hard up and in. Joey clobbers soft stuff over the plate and down. Few hitters can drive breaking stuff low in the zone out of the park because it takes so much force. Because of his ridiculous strength, Gallo is able to get loft on stuff at the knees and put balls in the seats that most guys would put shallow in the outfield. This is the reason he has a ridiculously high fly ball rate and has only grounded into 5 double plays in his career. Joey does a good job of taking the ball to either field and not trying to be a dead pull hitter. Of his 42 homers this year, 12 went to left field, 11 went to center, and the rest went to right field according to MLBfarm.com. Once Joey hits a bomb off of something hard up and in it’s game over for pitchers everywhere. A suggestion on fixing the hole (a piece of knowledge from a scout) would be for Joey to back off the plate a bit. Since Gallo can barrel up pitches well off the plate, backing up would allow him to get around on inside pitches more easily while not limiting him on pitches away in the zone. Another suggestion would be for him to shorten up his swing. Though he might lose a bit of power, Joey will still be able to hit long balls in bunches. If he could fix that glaring weakness, who knows what kind of insane offensive numbers Joey could put up? On to his defense. To all the critics who say Joey can’t stick at third base long term, I say go actually watch him play. Standing in at a hefty 6’5″ and roughly 240 pounds, you wouldn’t think he could play the hot corner well. If you watch him field the position you can see that he belongs for now. Before this year, Gallo had never played anywhere besides third base. He owns a solid career fielding percentage of .923 at third. This year, since Frisco had a truckload of third baseman, Joey started 7 games at first base to get his feet wet. In 68 chances at first, Joey only had 2 errors. Gallo has a rocket arm that he does a good job of not trying to show off on every throw. For his size he moves very well laterally but needs some improvement to stick there. Joey makes good decisions in the field. I have seen him make the patented Adrian Beltre bare hand off balance one leg play on a well placed bunt more than once. In the instructional leagues of Arizona some wacky stuff has been going on. Jorge Alfaro and Joey Gallo both played wait, center field? Also you might wonder: what was Joey doing at short stop?

You might be wondering: is Joey Gallo going to unseat Elvis or Profar at shortstop? There is no need to worry. In this article Jim Callis talks about how playing shortstop will help Joey improve his quickness and first step in the infield. My guess as to why they put Joey in center field for a couple of scrimmage games is for the kid to have fun. He is only 20 years old and was bombarded from all angles by media and fans placing ridiculous expectations on him. Joey had to fight through swarms of autograph hounding fans to get to and from every game and had to do countless interviews with both national and local media. A baseball season is an exhausting grind by itself. When you add the circus Joey had to go through for 4 months to i,t and for him to handle it with the class and maturity that he did, it’s more impressive than hitting any number of home runs. Why not put a 6’5″ kid out in center field just for the fun of it? It’s incredibly hard to survive the grind if you aren’t enjoying baseball. For most of August Joey didn’t look like he was enjoying baseball. I tried on 3 separate occasions to get an interview with the big dude and was denied 3 times because of the ridiculous amount of interview requests for Joey. Maybe next year I can get penciled in for some Gallo face time but who really has any clue.

I hope after fall instructs Joey just goes home, puts his feet up, and decompresses after this darn good season. Then come November go pick up a bat, a glove and go play ball with the Vaunted Vegas Vanguard (trademark pending). The Vaunted Vegas Vanguard: Giambi, Tulo, Harper, Bryant. Remember that in baseball player development takes a long time. Almost nobody is Mike Trout where at 23 you’re the best position player in baseball. There is no need to rush him, and the Rangers have done a good job so far at taking their time with this young dude. Joey isn’t going to suddenly forget how to play baseball and drop off the map. If he makes it to the majors for the majority of 2016 that will be a big success. Joey would be 22, which is youthful for an MLB rookie. Even if he didn’t make it to the show until 2017, Beltre might no longer be a Ranger or in baseball and Joey would be 23. The point is not to worry that Joey isn’t MLB ready at 20 because he isn’t Ken Griffey Jr. I have no doubt his hard work will get him to the show and make him a force in the majors. Only time will tell when. Look for Joey to start 2015 in Frisco. When he shows he can dominate the Texas league, then he will get the call to head south down 35. I can’t wait to tell you what I see in spring training. As always keep loving baseball!

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