As the Texas Rangers were on their way to a showdown with the New York Yankees, Joey Gallo hit his 17th home run for the Arizona League Rangers. That homer gave him the Arizona League record with 14 games to still be played this season. It took Gallo just 41 games to capture the record and they came at a rate of about one per eight plate appearances.
So far Gallo is hitting .300 with 41 RBIs (which is one per game) and a 1.191 OPS. He is 19-years-old and was drafted in June with the 39th overall pick by the Rangers. Some had thought Gallo would go higher, because of his insane power, but concerns about his strikeout rate pushed him down to the Rangers in the supplemental round. So far his strikeout totals have not gone too crazy in the Arizona League, but they have been creeping up as of late, which should be an indication of the way he is being pitched and frustration causing him to expand the zone out.
One of the interesting things about Gallo is that many believe he would have gone higher in the draft as a pitcher. Gallo who graduated from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas was known to light up radar guns at 100mph, yet told all teams he wanted to hit. He might have gone a bit higher as a pitcher, but his power was so prolific that even with his flaws he was able to be drafted as a supplemental pick.
A year ago this month at the Perfect Game All American Classic in San Diego, Gallo hit a ball 442 feet with a wooden bat which was the 10th longest home run in Petco Park history. Gallo has power out of this world, which is something that is not up for debate. There are plenty of issues he has to work out, but the power is already there.
Now Gallo sits in the Rangers' organization, destroying the Arizona League on a roster full of talent like Ronald Guzman, Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson and leading many Rangers' fans to question why in the world he is still in Arizona and not in Spokane at the least.
Unfortunately we still live in the world where we hear things like, "Let's bring up this Gallo kid, he can hit." Yes, Gallo is 19-years-old, is from Las Vegas and is a friend and former teammate of Bryce Harper, but he is far from big league ready. In the Rangers mind and it is as good of a mindset as can be found, he is not ready for A-ball. He is young, inexperienced and needs time to develop and work out his game.
He is playing third base and has a complete cannon, but that arm does contribute to throwing errors and he needs plenty of time to develop there or possibly as a corner outfielder at some point. Gallo just needs more time and the Rangers have no need to rush him. The Arizona League is a very short sample size and nobody is going to have their dreams come true after a few weeks in Rookie ball, most will not even see their dreams crushed after a season there. It is just a few months' time for kids to get used to the experience of professional baseball, nothing more.
To put it in perspective a bit, last night when Gallo connected for home run #17, which gave him the AZL Record, he passed Wladimir Balentien. Balentien hit 16 homers in 2003, but needed about 45 more at bats to get there than Gallo did.
Balentien is also destroying pitching this year and is leading the league with 26 home runs, however that is in Japan. Balentien's career high for home runs in the big leagues came in 2008 and 2009 when he hit seven homers in each of those seasons, but he is now officially out of organized ball and is experiencing success in another country.
Balentien is perfect proof that destroying minor league pitching and specifically Arizona League pitching does not translate to big league success.
Rangers' fans are super excited about Gallo and they should be. It is always fun to see a prospect from your team experiencing success, especially soon after being drafted, but the process does take time and you want to see that ballplayer experience success at the upper minor league levels as well. Watching prospects develop is one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a fan.
However, Gallo is far from big league ready and he in no way gives the Rangers more motivation to move Mike Olt. Olt is a better defender, has experienced success at the upper levels and is big league ready. Olt can impact the Rangers this season and next season in a variety of ways, but Gallo cannot. That is nothing against Gallo, it is just that he is 19-years-old with little experience. He can't be compared to a 24-year-old who played college ball and has multiple seasons of professional ball.
Joey Gallo is a perfect example of appreciating prospects for what they are. He is a young kid with off the charts power who is destroying the Arizona League, but nothing more than that at this point. Hopefully he fully develops and can impact the big league club down the line, but unfortunately it is just the Arizona League and he could just as easily be another Wladimir Balentein. The fun part is sitting back and enjoying what he does do and how he develops along the way.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
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