It may only be for a cup of coffee, but the Texas Rangers have announced that top prospect Joey Gallo will be called-up and make his major league debut on Tuesday. Former Seattle Mariner, Adrian Beltre, was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a thumb injury, making way for the third baseman. The club stressed that Gallo’s appearance in the big leagues will be temporary, though has the power to change that.
Gallo, 21, was drafted in the supplemental first round, No. 39 overall, in the 2012 amateur draft. He made an immediate statement in rookie ball that summer by hitting 18 home runs in 193 plate appearances. The left-hander’s performance, which included a .440 ISO and 1.169 OPS, earned him a promotion to short-season Class-A for a couple weeks to end his season.
The slugger picked up where he left off and belted 38 home runs in 446 plate appearances with the Hickory Crawdads of the Class-A South Atlantic League in 2013. Gallo split his 2014 season between High-A and Double-A and added another 42 home runs to his impressive minor league resume. In 146 plate appearances at Double-A so far this year he already has nine home runs beside a .314/.425/.636 slash line. The left-hander started his season a couple weeks late after minor offseason ankle surgery.
What makes Gallo so special is his 80-grade raw power. It’ll play closer to the 70 range in games, but every time he swings the bat there’s a chance the ball is leaving the yard. What slows him down a bit is a less polished hit tool that is still below average — but has improved this year. At every stop Gallo has made in the minors he has produced more extra-base hits than singles. When he hits the ball, he hits it hard and far. It’s just been a matter of making contact more often.
As is the case with many sluggers, Gallo strikes out a lot. He’s regularly seen a K-rate north of 30 percent in the minor leagues. Considering how much power he’s able to utilize and a demonstrated ability to draw walks — 16.4 percent walk rate at Double-A so far this year — the strikeouts aren’t so concerning. As long as he’s piling up the long balls, nobody is going to be overly concerned about the whiffs.
Gallo isn’t a highlight-reel in the field but is no slouch either. He’s played a solid third base and has a 45-grade fielding tool — just below major league average — with some room to improve. The slugger’s bat isn’t his only tool that grades out in the 70-to-80 range; his throwing arm is right there with it. As a pitcher in high school Gallo regular hit the radar gun in the low 90’s.
There’s been talk of Gallo eventually becoming a first baseman while Beltre is in the fold, but he could easily end up in right field — not to suggest he isn’t capable at third, which he is. The Gold Glove third baseman, Beltre, is under club control through 2016 so there is room for the top prospect at the hot corner in the near future. The veteran is revered in Texas, though, and is an extension candidate playing this year at 36-years old.
It may be a little early to call Gallo up to the big leagues, but he has proven that he at least deserves a look while Beltre is injured. He will have to show he belongs at the major league level though as the Rangers as there isn’t much room on the roster now that Josh Hamilton is back on the roster — and playing well, I may add. It’s unlikely the club would immediately place him in the outfield without seeing consistent time in the minors first.
He may not come with the hype that followed Kris Bryant — who had a more polished bat and more national intrigue in Chicago — but there’s no reason to believe Gallo won’t be able to make an impact on a Rangers team that sits one game over .500 and is very much in the AL West race.