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MLB Rookie Report: Joey Gallo, INF-OF, Texas Rangers

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With the big league team hampered with injuries, the Texas Rangers promoted top prospect Joey Gallo to the major league roster yesterday. Although he saw substantial playing time in the bigs last year he is still a technical rookie with just 109 at-bats on the resume.

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book

Joey Gallo, 3B-OF, Texas Rangers
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-5 WT: 205 DOB: November 19, 1993

2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade A-

What Joey Gallo did in the majors last year is exactly what he should be expected to do with his present skill set: show outstanding, 80-grade power, draw some walks, and strike out at an historic level. In many ways Gallo is an easy player to analyze as both his strengths and weaknesses are obvious, but in other ways he is also a tough case for future projection. He’s shown some ability to adjust and will obviously destroy any mistake from the pitcher, yet his contact problems remain quite serious as demonstrated handily by PCL and AL competition. If you put him in the lineup right now he might struggle to hit .200 over a full season and could strike out 220 times, while hitting 30 homers. How do you value that? Can he improve from there? Sure. You can draw a case where he ends up as a Chris Davis-caliber erratic slugger who hits .280 some seasons and .190 others. You can make an Adam Dunn projection. You can be really optimistic and think he eventually becomes Jim Thome. Or you could say he never fully solves his issues and becomes a Russell Branyanish journeyman. All are entirely plausible outcomes. I tend towards the optimistic side with this one but can’t guarantee that it will be a smooth path to get there. Grade A-.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

Gallo was hitting .265/.415/.639 in 83 at-bats for Triple-A Round Rock before his promotion, with 22 walks and 24 strikeouts. Both his walk and strikeout rates showed substantial improvement compared to last year's sojourn in Triple-A, where he hit .195/.289/.450.  Pacific Coast League observers report Gallo making the needed adjustments to hone the strike zone and adapt to more advanced pitching. He was playing third base at Round Rock but was scuffling thus far with a .902 fielding percentage, though showing decent range.

Overall, the pre-season take hasn't changed much. Gallo offers tremendous power and will draw walks but will ring up a considerable number of strikeouts and isn't likely to hit for average right now. Gallo does have a persistent pattern of struggling with contact in his first look at a level then making some adjustments and boosting his production. My guess is that the same pattern will occur in the majors; his true breakout may wait until 2017.

Adam J. Morris at Lone Star Ball notes that it is unclear right now how much playing time or at what positions Gallo will see action in the short run. We'll have to see how that pans out; sitting on the bench would not be good for his development, as Gallo needs consistent at-bats to refine his approach and do this as often as possible: