Texas Rangers prospect Joey Gallo had one of the most, er, um. . .unique. . .that's the word I'll go with, unique. . .campaigns in the minor leagues in 2013.
Playing 106 games for Hickory in the Low-A South Atlantic League, he hit .245/.334/.610 with 38 home runs, 48 walks, and 165 strikeouts in 392 at-bats. Add in two home runs that he hit during an injury rehab stint in rookie ball, and Gallo bashed 40 homers on the season. He also stole 15 bases in 16 attempts, and showed better-than-anticipated defensive ability at third base, easing concerns from high school that a switch to first base was inevitable.
He posted a wRC+ of 163, led the Sally League in home runs, ranked fourth in OPS and third in SLG. This season from the 2012 supplemental first round pick is clear and obvious evidence that the power-mashing abilities he showed in high school weren't just a byproduct of playing in Nevada.
Ah, yes, but you know the next problem here: the strikeouts. 165 in 392 at-bats, 172 in 411 counting the rehab stint. That's, well, an obscene number of strikeouts, enough to call his ability to thrive at higher levels into question. Another oddity in his statistical profile is an unusual reverse platoon split: he hit .228/.311/.563 against right-handers, but .309/.417/.790 against lefties. Weird stuff.
The best breakdown I've found about Gallo is this wonderful Fangraphs article by Nathaniel Stoltz from earlier this month. Stoltz saw Gallo play several times this year, charted pitches, and took a bunch of video. It is a fascinating and detailed study and you have to read it. He includes several enlightening videos.
If you don't have time to read it, or just want a quick summary, here are some key points from Stoltz:
***Gallo has pure 80 power; this is not some sort of park/league illusion. When he makes contact, the ball simply travels farther than it does for other hitters.
***His swing has issues, namely a "huge loading mechanism" that "helps him generate the extreme power, but almost totally compromises his ability to hit pitches on the inner half from righthanded pitchers."
***Gallo swings through a lot of mediocre pitching and has problems with even sub-standard fastballs.
***He doesn't make adjustments with two strikes. He swings hard all the time.
***He's worked very hard to improve his defense and looks like he can hold down the position at least for awhile.
Stoltz compares Gallo to high strikeout sluggers like Russ Branyan and Astros basher Chris Carter. Orioles slugger Chris Davis is another potential comp. But Stoltz also notes that Gallo could end up like Cody Johnson if he can't make some changes at higher levels.
Stoltz concludes: "No player in organized baseball offers such a polarizing combination of jaw-dropping power and inability to square pitches up with any consistency. Clearly, though, there are a lot of elements going on here that create the fascinatingly extreme statistical profile, and his development from this point forward will be equally if not even more fascinating."
I quite agree.
So, if you had to make a bet today, how do you think Gallo will perform at higher levels? Let's take a poll.