SDI Prospect Rankings: #1 Joey Gallo
Running through my mind are a superlative amount of superlatives to describe Joey, but none come to the forefront of my consciousness. Gallo’s power has been obvious since he broke the Nevada high school career home run record with 67. He did this in the amount of plate appearances for an MLB season for a hitter generally hitting in the bottom third of the order. Though he threw a fastball which sat mid 90s, rumored to have hit triple digits during a championship game, Joey was resolute to remain in the field.
He graduated in 2012, just like I did so we are basically the same person. Thank CJ Wilson for his greatest gift to the Rangers: the compensation pick to select Joey Gallo 39th overall in 2012. The front office was so determined to sign Joey that they paid him a $2.25 million signing bonus to lure him away from the purple and gold of LSU in the SEC. It didn’t take long for Joey to make a splash as a pro baseball player. Less than three months after graduating high school, Gallo broke the record for long balls in the Arizona Rookie League with 18 in 150 at bats.
Though that caught the eye of the more in depth prospect junkies, Joey didn’t jump on to the national scene until 2013. Gallo was the poster child for that Hickory team: lots of whiffs and long balls. Despite missing a month to injury Joey, was the first teenager in over 50 years to swat 40 homers. He did so hitting .245 with a 37% strikeout rate. Scouts locked in on that percentage and immediately started writing him off. In a fantastic piece on Grantland by Ben Lindbergh, Joey talked about how frustrating it was to be written off at age 19.
Joey says “It’s possible you can make adjustments and be a different player. It was frustrating, obviously, only being 19 years old, being the first full season, that people were already writing you off”. I can’t imagine being completely dismissed like that at 19. If I was completely written off as a writer in my first full season, I probably would have quit on it. Granted nobody ever gave me millions of dollars to write because they thought I had potential.After a season filled with vast peaks and valleys, Nathaniel Stoltz wrote an exhaustive analysis of the polar nature of Joey Gallo’s future in baseball. While turkeys were stuffed in preparation of Thanksgiving, Gobbles Gallo filled his plate with the knowledge of hometown mentors.
In Las Vegas, the recently retired Jason Giambi owned the batting cages for which Gallo’s father worked. Giambi had seen Joey hit since he was a child and the two worked out together during the off season. One day Joey asked the former MVP if he would help him work on his swing. The veteran slugger was more than happy to help. Jason worked hardest on helping Joey to self-diagnose issues in his swing and how to fix them. Another Sin City baseball star. Troy Tulowitzki, worked with him on improving his fielding. Sticking at third base long term is something Joey greatly desires. At 6’3” 215lbs, Tulo won two gold gloves at short stop and is the perfect player to teach an oversized dude how to play the left side of the infield. Joey’s winter was like a learn-to-ski camp for kids. Except instead of college kids on break, his teachers were MLB superstars. And instead of learning to ski, Joey learned tips on how to achieve his dream of being a big leaguer.
The first time I saw Joey in 2014 was in a big league spring training game. Joey went 0-6 with five strikeouts and a fielding error. Now fast forward to June. The Rangers are a mess. Everybody and their dog is injured (sorry Derek). A glimmer of hope rises from the distance. That hope came from Joey. His offseason adjustments were significant and successful. Joey destroyed the Carolina League slashing .323/.463/.735, leading the league with 21 homers even though he played his last game in June. Joey played his first game in Frisco on June 9th in front of thousands of fans looking forward to seeing the man they had heard so much about. Gallo went his first four trips to the plate and came away with three K’s and an RBI groundout.
In his final at bat of the night, Joey stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 9th. A well-placed single would win the game. The reliever fell behind Gallo 2-0. On the third pitch he threw a changeup low and off the plate away. Joey crushed it. Walk off home run, Frisco wins the game. As Joey rounded the bases, euphoria overcame him and everyone in the ballpark who went ecstatic after the home run ensured victory for the Riders. Thousands of spectators who had been filled with grief caused by a nightmarish Rangers’ season came to watch Gallo do something amazing, and he sure didn’t disappoint.
After the walk off, Joey became a national star. He was the most talked about Ranger for two months and he hadn’t even sniffed the dugout in Arlington. On the national scale, Joey was selected to participate in the All-Star weekend futures game. His batting practice alone was more entertaining than the home run derby. A ball he hit to right field broke the windshield of a truck that would have been a giveaway to the MVP of the All-Star Game. He didn’t stop with a killer BP; he also hit a 2 run bomb during the future’s game to put the US on top to stay. This earned him the game’s MVP.
All-Star weekend ended up being the climax to Gallo’s 2014 season. Every national writer wanted to do a piece on Joey, which left him swamped with media attention until the end of the season. It might have been a distraction for him that took significant time away from his development schedule. I don’t know because I was denied a chance to talk with him given my lack of national media credentials. August left Gobbles distraught at the plate. Texas League pitchers began to find his weaknesses and exploit them. Full season fatigue coupled with constant media bombardment left Joey exhausted.
Towards Texas League playoff time, Joey had regained a slice of his groove enough to finish the season on a positive note. He ended the year with 42 homers, one shy of longtime friend Kris Bryant for the minor league lead.Frisco will be the likely starting place for Gallo’s 2015 campaign. There is no reason to rush him to the big leagues with Adrian Beltre sitting comfortably at the hot corner for the foreseeable future. Youth is also one of his assets. Joey just earned the right to buy his own victory champagne last November. A likely timetable for his 2015 could include a midseason trip south down I-35 to Round Rock if he shows the type of immense improvement put on display in Myrtle Beach. If all goes especially well, Joey could be seen in a cap with the letter T on the front when those rosters expand in September.
This would be my best guess since I haven’t had a chance to talk with JD about it. Once I get his cell number, I’ll be sure to ask him and relay the information (DM me secret JD account if you’re reading this and want to get in touch). What I do know for certain is that there is something special about this Gallo kid. Every one of you should buy a ticket to see Chuck Greenberg’s DFW baseball team play so you can catch a glimpse of this talented dude. Maybe you can buy yourself a nice chair from Ikea while you’re in the area. I don’t know what you’re into. I do know that if you like watching good baseball, you will like Joey Gallo.