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Texas Rangers’ Joey Gallo Is Here to Stay

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Former top prospect finding his way in the majors

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Entering 2015, third baseman Joey Gallo was one of the most tantalizing prospects in Major League Baseball. Ranked in the top 10 of their 2015 prospects chart by Baseball America (6th) and MLB.Com (9th), he would feature in the same arena the following year.

Future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre has the hot corner on lockdown in Arlington, moving Gallo to the outfield and first base for experimentation. Gallo even made a MLB start in centerfield during the 2015 season, though the Rangers also used Mike Napoli in left field that year, for some added context.

Gallo appeared in 36 Rangers games in ‘15, but ‘16 clogged up all roads to the bigs and he played in just 17 games, collecting a lone hit (a homer!) in 30 plate appearances.

First base seems his likely home, at least until Beltre retires. Left field sounded good in theory given Gallo’s athleticism, but 6’5”, 235 pounds only moves so well in the outfield grass. (Besides, what’s the deal with people thinking gloves are wasted at first?)

As highly touted as Joey Gallo has been for what seems like an eternity —not dissimilar to the way things feel with his teammate Jurickson Profar— he’ll be 23 for the duration of the 2017 baseball season. One he seems intent on spending entirely in the majors.

Left field was again the residence taken up by the 2012 first round pick to begin this season. A timeshare with Delino DeShields looked like his permanent place, forecasting another year without much else to prove in the minors, but with no real role in the majors.

Then Adrian Beltre got hurt and Gallo took off with the third base job. Opportunity struck, and the still-very young pro seized it.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, his numbers are deceiving. Joey Gallo is a unique player. That’s always been the outlook for him. He has out-of-this-world power but also strikes out a lot. A lot. The Adam Dunn comparisons weren’t just stereotypically matching the big lefties.

Opening Day of the 2017 season marked just his 54th career game. Beltre’s injury at least temporarily enabled Gallo to play full-time, with no interference.

Gallo already had seven home runs by April 25th, a night where he slugged a pair for his first multi-home run game of his budding career. The aforementioned athleticism even saw him swipe three bags (caught nonce) and his signature stat of OPS clocked in at .945 during the time frame.

Which is the stat to look at with Joey Gallo. It’s tempting to dwell on and hard to ignore a batting average hovering around the dreaded Mendoza Line, but when Gallo makes contact, he’s hitting the baseball very, very far.

He pulled a foul ball out of the stadium last night. Who does that anymore?

The same night as that mammoth foul ball saw the return of Beltre from the disabled list. Gallo moved to first base, his home from here until further notice.

The Rangers won’t trade him. If they could have, they probably would have by now, instead of Lewis Brinson or Luis Ortiz or perhaps a year earlier in place of Nick Williams or Jorge Alfaro or Jake Thompson. Same goes for Profar. The market for the former top prospects is not one beneficial to Texas at the moment.

The “fears” about Gallo —his proclivity for strikeouts, his all-or-nothing power— have all come true. It’s a popular notion to dismiss his Major League talents because of these much-discussed attributes, but he has also become a seriously gifted power hitter, as he was expected to be.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

He’s always been picked apart because of the holes in his game. But he’s a contributing Major League Baseball player with more room to grow and an everyday job in his hands. That’s far more than you can say about a lot of prospects, who all have various flaws. It’s just that Gallo’s involve the most prevalent and important part of the game: hitting the ball.

He enters May 30th tied for second in the league with 16 home runs, tied ironically with Chris Davis (and Mike Trout). Trailing only the Incredible Hulk that is Aaron Judge, Gallo is on pace for 51 home runs, wildly impressive in an age where the value of power is declining.

So don’t focus on his .205 average or his 71 strikeouts; league-leading “Crush” Davis provides a direct cautionary tale for the Rangers. Gallo has managed 23 walks, stolen four bases without being caught, his .548 slugging percentage ranks 23rd in all of baseball and a .861 OPS is also top 50 (42nd) in the league.

It may not be in the most traditional statistical sense, but Joey Gallo is a very, very unique player. He has certainly arrived, and is indeed here to stay.