Joey Gallo didn’t disappoint in his Double A debut.
He had an RBI groundout and three strikeouts his first four at-bats, but showed his hype is well-deserved in his final at-bat of the night. Gallo unloaded on a 2-0 changeup and sent it into the left-center field lawn to become the walk-off hero in the Frisco RoughRiders’ 7-4 victory over Midland on Monday night.
“It’s pretty huge,” Gallo said of his late-game heroics. “I knew going up to the plate I’d been taking good swings. I felt good at the plate and our coordinator [Jayce Tingler] was like, ‘You going to do this big boy?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do it.’ Ended up having a good opening debut.”
It was Gallo’s 22nd home run of the season and is another example of why he’s among the best power-hitting prospects in the game. He hit 40 home runs in the minor leagues last season and is not far off that pace this season.
The Texas Rangers could certainly use some power and pop in their lineup, but Gallo knows he isn’t the answer now. Maybe at some point next season.
For now, Gallo is where he should be — Double A Frisco.
“I didn’t really think I’d be 20 years old and be in Double A,” said Gallo, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound third base prospect who earned a promotion to Frisco on Sunday.
“It’s really a surprise to me.”
As far as Arlington, Gallo stated the obvious: “I shouldn’t be in Arlington right now. I have a lot to work on and that’s why I’m here still and we’ll see how I handle Double A.”
Gallo had an RBI groundout in his first Double A at-bat followed by strikeouts in his next three before the game-winning shot with two outs in the ninth. But his development at this point is more important than his debut.
Gallo has made significant strides in his approach at the plate. He admitted he became infatuated with his chase to be the minor league home run leader last season, which might have played a part in his high strikeout rate. He struck out 172 times last season, more than 41 percent of his at-bats.
“I was 19, I was kind of young, it was like, ‘Oh, that’d be cool,’ ” Gallo said of his goal to lead the minors in homers. “But now I just want to develop and just turn into a good major leaguer. I don’t care about the stats too much right now. I just want to continue to develop.”
As Gallo has found out, even with a more sound approach, the home runs will come. He had 21 long balls in 189 at-bats at High A Myrtle Beach before his promotion to Frisco. That number is even more impressive considering it’s 11 more than anyone else in the league, as the Carolina League is known as a pitchers’ league and Myrtle Beach is known as a pitchers’ park.
“There are no wall-scrappers in that league,” said right-hander Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, who was promoted along with Gallo.
“His power is unreal. It’s like watching a video game, man. You just wait for him to get up. If you see runners on, you start feeling bad for the other pitcher. He’s just an awesome guy to have on your team and it’s been fun watching him.”
Equally important are the other numbers Gallo has put up. His strikeout rate has decreased to about 34 percent, and he drew a league-leading 51 walks. He also led the league with a 1.199 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
“How he commanded the strike zone is what was really impressive to us,” said Mike Daly, the Rangers’ senior director of minor league operations.
“It’s a big credit to him to be focused on having quality at-bats every time he’s up. With his swing, he’s going to hit home runs.”
It didn’t take long for Frisco to see it first-hand Monday. And, one day, maybe Arlington will, too.