Rangers prospect Joey Gallo hopes to become more than just home run hitter

Posted Sunday, Apr. 20, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Elsewhere on the farm

Triple A Round Rock: Right-hander Scott Baker, who pitched for the Twins from 2005-11 and made three starts for the Cubs last season, is pitching well. He is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts. … Second baseman Kensuke Tanaka had a .366 average entering Saturday, and outfielder Bryan Petersen had five home runs. ... Catcher Chris Snyder, who spent 10 years in the majors, retired Saturday.

Double A Frisco: Infielder Ryan Rua is coming off a strong 2013 campaign and is doing well again, batting .361 with two home runs and six RBIs through his first 12 games. … Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA over his first two starts, and reliever Matt West hasn’t allowed a run over his first five outings.

High A Myrtle Beach: Right-hander Cody Buckel landed on the disabled list with a left ankle sprain, and the organization also plans to work out a few mechanical issues with him. Buckel, who dealt with the yips last season, has issued 14 walks in 6 2/3 innings this season. … Right-hander Sam Wolff has a 0.98 ERA over his first three starts, and outfielders Royce Bolinger and Odubel Herrera are off to nice starts. Bolinger is batting .349 and Herrera is at .370.

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Power remains a cherished commodity in baseball. Everybody loves the long ball, after all, and it’s the No. 1 reason Joey Gallo has already made a name for himself as he begins his third professional season.

At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Gallo looks the part and certainly plays the part by smashing home runs that leave people wondering — how can a 20-year-old hit the ball that far?

“Huge power,” said Mike Daly, the Rangers’ senior director of minor league operations.

But the Rangers and Gallo have higher visions than him becoming simply a power hitter. They believe he has the ability to become a great all-around hitter, as well as an everyday third baseman in the big leagues.

As Daly put it, “We want Joey Gallo to be known as a hitter with power. Not just as Joey Gallo, the power hitter.”

Gallo, who is at High A Myrtle Beach, echoed those thoughts. Still, his big-time power is what separates Gallo from most at this point in his career.

Going into Saturday, Gallo had a .311 average with a Carolina League-leading six home runs, 13 RBIs and a remarkable 1.167 on-base plus slugging percentage. He was named the Carolina League’s player of the week for April 3-13.

“The start of the season has been really good,” said Gallo, who spent the off-season in his hometown of Las Vegas working out with big leaguers such as Jason Giambi and Troy Tulowitzki.

“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty well and this is a tough league to hit home runs in. I didn’t think I’d have this many this quick.”

Gallo is right when he says it’s more difficult to hit home runs in the Carolina League. The pitchers are more advanced and Myrtle Beach’s home ballpark is not considered hitter friendly.

In other words, there are no cheap home runs. But Gallo doesn’t need too much “help” to send a ball over the fence. He combined to hit a minor league-leading 40 homers in 111 games last season. He had 38 blasts in 106 games at Low A Hickory, and added two more in five games in the rookie league.

With power, though, comes strikeouts and it’s something Gallo is well aware of. He is making a conscious effort to limit his strikeouts, which will make him become a more complete hitter.

Gallo struck out 165 times at Hickory last season, about 42 percent of his at-bats. Early on this season, he has cut that number to about 36 percent (16 strikeouts in 45 at-bats).

“I’ve really focused on shortening up my swing with two strikes and I think about half my hits have come with two strikes,” Gallo said. “I’ve gotten more comfortable with that approach and really have taken it upon myself to be better in those situations.”

Gallo has also taken it upon himself to become a two-way player, known as much for his defense as his offense. He has heard the skeptics say he is too big and not agile enough to play third base at the big-league level, but that has never come from anybody within the Rangers.

The organization wholeheartedly believes that Gallo has the tools necessary to play third base and has made substantial strides on the defensive end early in his development.

Some within the Rangers point to former Angels third baseman Troy Glaus, as an example of a 6-foot-5 player who handled the hot corner for most of his big-league career.

“Playing third is very important to me and something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Gallo said. “I’ve been told that I can’t do it, but I’ve put in a lot of work there. I take pride in that and actually sometimes I feel better there than I do in the batter’s box.”

Said Daly: “He wants to play third base and our plan is for him to continue playing third base.”

And, hopefully, continue hitting more home runs.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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