This question was in the mailbag a few weeks ago and with Opening Day upon us, it seems like a good time to answer it.
This question is from someone named "Steve1989TK".
"I'm a big Rangers fan and I was glad to see them get a rotation anchor with the trade for Yovani Gallardo with the Brewers. At least I think he is a rotation anchor. I don't remember him being a hot prospect when he was young but I didn't pay much attention then. Is he as good as he is supposed to be?"
Well Steve1989TK, you are in luck because we have lots of historical Yovani Gallardo information right here at Minor League Ball.
The first big article we wrote about him was nine years ago, back in the dark ages of 2006. That was back when Phil Hughes and Homer Bailey were prospects, too.
Yovani Gallardo was drafted by the Brewers in the second round in 2004, out of high school in Fort Worth, Texas. He had a scholarship to Texas Christian, but the Brewers convinced him to sign. Gallardo has exceeded even optimistic expectations, reaching Double-A in just his second full year and dominating the level at age 20.
Gallardo was drafted in great part because of his athleticism: he was a fine soccer player in high school. He was 6-2, 190 when drafted, but has added an inch and 25 pounds of muscle to his frame. The increase in size and strength has boosted his fastball. It was 89-93 MPH in high school, but hits 95-96 MPH at times now, with movement. His curveball, slider, and changeup have all improved, particularly this year. Mechanical refinements have sharpened his control, enabling him to locate his pitches where he wants to in the strike zone. He is cool on the mound and doesn't get emotional.
Gallardo has improved at each level, which is what you want to see. Note the steady decline in his ERAs as he has moved up the ladder. Note his strong K/IP and H/IP ratios, and the low home run rate. His main flaw last season was occasionally spotty control, but that hasn't been much of an issue this year. Overall, there are no flaws in his numbers. Add in the fact that he is 20 years old and pitching great in Double-A, and you have yourself a top prospect.
No problems thus far. His athleticism should help him stay healthy, although there is of course no guarantee when pitchers are concerned.
Gallardo is an excellent pitching prospect. There isn't much more that can be said. He isn't far behind Bailey, and has actually outpitched Hughes since being promoted.
We then did a Not a Rookie article about him in February of 2008, followed by Francis Ford Coppola's Not a Rookie Redux in March of 2010. I looked over the historical parallels to get a feel for how Gallardo could project. Those two articles can be summed up as thus:
"Gallardo should be recognized as a Number One starter and among the best pitchers in baseball in the 2008-2012 window, but that by 2014 he'll be more of an inning-eater type, with no massive shock injury but a gradual decline."
That didn't quite pan out: Gallardo never became a truly dominating ace or "best pitcher" type. But he was certainly solid enough from 2008 to 2012 with multiple 200 strikeout seasons. And then in 2013 the projected gradual decline did begin, notably a slippage in his strikeout rate from right around 9.00 in 2008 to 2012 to 7.2 in 2013 and 6.8 in 2014. This has tracked very well with weakening ERA/FIP marks and a decline in fWAR, from a high of 4.6 in 2010 to just 1.8 last year.
From the look of this the Rangers traded for a declining stock. The current Sim Score comps are Josh Beckett (he shows up in a lot of these), Jack Morris, Chad Billingsley, Kevin Millwood, Jake Peavy, Kevin Appier, Dennis Leonard, Jack McDowell, Gio Gonzalez, and Tim Lincecum.
Beckett's decline began at age 30. Morris chewed through 200 innings a year through age 37. Billingsley is an exact contemporary so that tells us little; likewise Gio Gonzalez. Lincecum is a couple of years older and struggling to find his early magic. Millwood, Peavy, and Appier all had moments of success past that age but had to deal with physical issues and a gradual loss of effectiveness. Leonard's arm fell off at age 31. McDowell began to slip at 28 and was done at 31.
My take is that Gallardo will do in Texas what he did in Milwaukee the last two seasons: pitch 180 to 200 innings of better than average baseball most of the time, but without returning to the days when he struck out 200 men per season.
The Rangers needed someone who could give them 30 solid starts and Gallardo still fits the bill. The prospects they gave up for him were not the elite ones in the system, so I think it is a good deal even if Gallardo remains merely solid and not excellent.