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Is the New York Yankees Giovanny Gallegos poised for MLB debut?

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The Yankees cut ties with some familiar faces this offseason to make room on the 40-man roster for some new ones. Can Giovanny Gallegos crack the Opening Day roster?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There has been some buzz lately about Giovanny Gallegos. Ever since the New York Yankees made some moves to open up space on their 40-man roster for the 25-year old reliever, he went from under-the-radar to top 20 prospect.

It’s not that Gallegos came out of nowhere last year. The 6-foot-2 righty had a big 2016, but it built off of a promising 2015 in Tampa. The Yankees have quite a few starting pitchers on top of their prospect lists — like James Kaprielian, Chance Adams, Jordan Montgomery and the more recently acquired Justus Sheffield — that relievers sometimes get lost in the mix. Especially one with a few question marks surrounding him.

Gallegos signed with the Yankees in 2010 out of Mexico. A slow start to his career from knee and Tommy John surgery set him back a bit as he slowly climbed the ladder. He was a 22-year old when he made his NYPL debut, still in the starting rotation. As he climbed to the SAL and then the FSL, it was fair to question how much of his success was due to him being one of the older prospects. 2016 was able to show it may just be that Gallegos has the goods to succeed.

He moved full-time to the bullpen, becoming a relief pitcher for Tampa in 2015. There, he made 30 appearances, posting a 3-1 record while going 5-for-7 in save opportunities. He started a trend that has continued, posting low ERAs and microscopic WHIPs behind high strikeout and low walk rates. He struck out 64 and walked just nine over his 63 innings, behind a 1.35 ERA and 0.79 WHIP.

The thing is Gallegos doesn’t have eye-popping stuff, but he has great command of an arsenal that is a little more full than that of your average reliever. It seems that his velocity is back to where it once was. In a 2013 scouting trip, Jessica Quiroli reported that he was hitting 91, mostly sitting in the high-80s with his fastball. Since then, he seems to be back from the injuries that once plagued him, with reports of him hitting 94 more consistently this season, topping out at 95. He also has good command off his three off-speed pitches, a high-70s slider, curveball and changeup. Again, a reliever that doesn’t rely on two pitches is certainly one worth watching.

Gallegos 2016 can be summed up in one word. Dominating. He started at Trenton and went 2-for-3 in save opportunities behind a 1.09 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. He struck out 53 and walked a stingy seven batters over 33 innings, proving 2015 was no fluke. He was quickly promoted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and didn’t skip a beat. He went 5-1 behind a 1.40 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. He did blow two of his four save opportunities, but still posted a 53-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’s a combined 106-to-17 strikeout-to-walk rate over 78 innings, and that is really good.

Something else worth noting, especially if he intends to be successful in Yankees Stadium is that he has a career 0.92 ground out to air out ratio. Strikeouts and ground outs seem to dominate his out ratio, and explains how he was able to strand a mind-boggling 95.8 percent of his runners with the RailRiders.

No Run DMC was a rare and exciting entity. The strikeouts they piled up were in record-setting fashion. Aroldis Chapman is now back in the mix and Dellin Betances is ready to set him up, Gallegos could be a very deserving candidate to be the connection to them. There are certainly a couple names on the 40-man roster who have their spots all but secured — Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, and Chasen Shreve (assuming he has an arm left) come to mind — but as always in a Joe Girardi bullpen, there will be openings. Gallegos should have that opportunity this spring to earn that role on opening day. With names like Dietrich Enns, Jonathan Holder, Ben Heller and some incumbents like Johnny Barbato and Rocky Bleier in the mix, it will be an interesting competition to keep an eye on come March.