The Rangers are seeing a different version of Joey Gallo this season.
After previous stints with the big league club during the last two years, Gallo looks like he’s finally here to stay. The 23-year old slugger was once heralded as one of the top prospects in the Rangers organization, even appearing a couple of times on the cover of Baseball America.
The numbers may not jump out at first on the stat sheet through the first nine games of the season. Gallo is hitting .207 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 29 at-bats. However, that’s not the improvement that has some feeling like Gallo has arrived.
The young third baseman is showing better discipline at the plate this time around when facing major league pitching, something that was a glaring weakness before. Gallo is laying off pitches that he would have previously whiffed at, making better contact and giving himself a chance to display his power while showing he’s not just a one-dimensional hitter. He’s also hitting both right and left-handed pitching, which is a major plus. The strikeouts will still come but not at the rate they were before.
After the first week of the season, manager Jeff Banister stated that Gallo seemed to have more confidence this time around and it’s showing in his play at the plate and on the field. One reason may be the amount of playing time he’s getting with Adrian Beltre on the shelf with a calf strain. Gallo is penciled in the everyday lineup at third base, getting more chances to get into a groove and not worry about the pressure to perform in limited time. This also allows the organization to play it safe and not worry about rushing Beltre back.
Gallo busted onto the scene in 2015 when he launched a moonshot home run and drove in four runs in his major league debut. He struggled afterwards as pitchers “read the book” on him, knowing he would chase pitches out of the zone. The same trend continued last season during his brief time in Arlington, looking like an “all-or nothing” hitter. With no place to play on the field and not putting up the numbers to force the situation, Gallo was sent back to Triple-A Round Rock, where he started working on improving contact at the plate while playing at first base.
The question will be what to do with Gallo once Beltre is ready to go. The versatility to play multiple positions may come into play in order to stay in the everyday lineup because third base belongs to Beltre, a future Hall of Famer. There are many different scenarios concerning where Gallo will land, including at DH. That would likely force Shin-Soo Choo back into the outfield with Nomar Mazara moving to whatever spot Choo doesn’t take.
As for the here and now, Gallo is taking steps to become a force in the Rangers lineup, much like what many envisioned two years ago. The process continues but the results appear to be positive during the first month of the season.