Six games into the 2021 season, Joey Gallo is impressing the Texas Rangers fan base and organization across the board. Has he finally turned a corner?
Since being selected 39th overall in 2012, Joey Gallo has been the talk of the Texas Rangers‘ organization regarding his high ceiling and light-tower power.
However, with big power comes big strikeout numbers that have left the Rangers and their fans seeking more production out of the big lefty, especially after his long-awaited debut in 2015, when the then baby-faced Gallo collected three hits, including a huge homerun.
Since then, Joey Gallo has failed to live up to the high expectations of the Texas Rangers, their fans and spectators across Major League Baseball.
We saw glimpses of success early in 2019, leading to his one All-Star appearance and game-changing homerun, but because of the hamate bone injury was never able to find that same swing.
In 2020, there wasn’t enough time for him to turn around a poor offensive season, but won the Gold Glove in right field.
Now in 2021 with a new simplified swing, a luscious beard and more balanced bat, Joey Gallo has been able to do some of that big-time damage in spring and into the regular season.
A .318 hitter this spring with six long balls, 15 driven-in and seven walks, Gallo found a rhythm early and has managed to maintain that success into the season.
Even in a short sample size so far, Joey Gallo is hitting .300 with one homer and four RBIs. Add to that a stolen base, a .481 OBP, .450 SLG and as many walks as strikeouts (6), he’s making a case to be an All-Star again.
Who in the Texas Rangers’ organization or fan base ever thought they’d see the day Joey Gallo had a batting average beginning with a three,?
Of course, it is still early in the season and a lot can happen over the remaining 156 games, but it’s a great sign for the Texas Rangers that his at-bats have been this good.
To put this all in perspective, Joey Gallo has only hit above .210 one time in his career (2019-.253) and has never had a season where his strikeouts didn’t at least double his walks.
Joey Gallo might be turning a corner for the Texas Rangers.
According to Baseball Savant, Joey Gallo currently ranks in the 83rd percentile in average exit velocity, 90th percentile in max exit velocity, 92nd percentile in BB% and the 83rd percentile in outfielder jump.
Digging into the numbers a little more, he is also tracking pitches much better this season than in seasons past.
Since his debut in 2015, Gallo has only hit above .200 against breaking balls once (2019- .254). In 2021, he is hitting .444 against the breaking ball, but has also whiffed at them at a 56.3 clip.
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To balance that out, though, he is average exit velocity against breaking balls is just over 97 mph. That ranks first over the course of his career.
Interestingly enough, as well as he’s hitting the breaking ball this season, he is also seeing a 10% increase of them at the plate, while seeing roughly 48% fastballs.
There are two concerning statistics that should balance out as the season progresses, though.
First, Joey Gallo ranks within the 86th percentile in chase rate.
So far this season, Gallo has chased 15.7% of the pitches out of the zone and made contact with 37.5% of them, as well.
While this is not a good look, he has also done a better job of drawing walks.
He has drawn a walk in 22.2% of his plate appearances this season.
The second alarming number would be his batting average against fastballs, currently hitting .200 against the heater.
That currently sits as second worst in his career, behind only a .155 average last season.
Obviously, if he sees almost 50% fastballs, that average will tick up eventually, but having a 30.4% whiff rate against heaters is not great.
Mechanically, the Rangers’ outfielder has made several adjustments to his swing, beginning with his launch angle.
Advanced metrics paint Joey Gallo in a better picture, which could be a good sign for the Texas Rangers.
Baseball Savant has the numbers to back that up, as well.
Joey Gallo has a career average launch angle of 22.4, getting as high as 37.6 in 2016.
However In 2021, he is averaging an 11.7 LA, which seems low, but results in more line drives.
Gallo has enough raw power and generates enough backspin that any ball he hits well has a chance to leave, but has needed to get more on top of the baseball.
So far this season, he has done that really well.
He has also closed his stance slightly, which significantly cuts down the time from his leg kick to planting his leg and swinging.
This was a similar problem that Isiah Kiner-Falefa faced, but since he changed his stance, he’s seen ample success at the plate.
Joey Gallo has likewise made the necessary adjustments so far to have long term success.
Adding his new balanced bat (a similar model to Nate Lowe’s) and a simplified swing, Gallo is setting himself up to have a monstrous season.
For the Texas Rangers, if they see him as a long term piece in Arlington, seeing the adjustments, improvements and continued success that he’s had only adds to a multitude of reasons to extend him.
For both the Rangers and Gallo, this season is a make-or-break year. If he plays well, they’ll more than likely extend him, but if not, there is a good chance he’ll be seeing his way out of the Texas locker room.
Only time will tell if the success Joey Gallo has had so far is for real, but all signs point to him turning a corner and fully establishing himself as the first-round talent that he is.