Texas Rangers

Gallo knows he’ll be a ‘good player in the major leagues’ for Rangers

Back by popular demand: Rangers prospect Joey Gallo takes batting practice

Joey Gallo, the Rangers top prospect, takes batting practice Tuesday. Check out his final swing (video by Jeff Wilson).
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Joey Gallo, the Rangers top prospect, takes batting practice Tuesday. Check out his final swing (video by Jeff Wilson).

Word spreads quickly whenever Joey Gallo hits a home run, and almost immediately people want to see it and want to know the distance traveled by the baseball he just punished.

Just a simple video of Gallo taking batting practice during spring training is a hits boon for the website that posts the footage.

Word also spreads quickly whenever Gallo strikes out three times in a game, or four times, and almost immediately people wonder if he is ever going to make enough contact to be a quality player in the major leagues.

“It’s what people have worried about my whole life,” said Gallo, who is only 22.

His 80-power grade, something scouts don’t hand out with regularity, and his strikeout rate have created a split among evaluators.

When Joey has a bad game it’s all over the country, and when he has a good game it’s all over the country. It’s hard for him

Rangers assistant hitting coach Justin Mashore

The Rangers could hit it big with Gallo, all 255 pounds and 77 inches of him. He could be Troy Glaus, a big-bodied All-Star third baseman, or Chris Davis, the former Rangers first baseman who has hit more homers and struck out more the past four seasons than any other player.

Or better.

Gallo could also be Dave Kingman, who hit for power but never for average, or Adam Dunn, who was Kingman-like late in his career.

Or worse.

Or he could be Gallo, a hitter who can’t be compared to others before him because there hasn’t been anyone like him. Gallo, for his part, just wants to be better than he was in what turned out to be a disappointing 2015.

“It’s not going to be too tough to do better this year,” said Gallo, who is in his second big-league spring training. “I feel great. I feel the best I’ve felt at the plate in a long, long time, probably since last spring training. It’s been a while.”

Despite his 2015 struggles, Gallo remains one of the top 10 prospects in the game and was rated as the Rangers’ best prospect by Baseball America and mlb.com.

The contrasting forecasts for his career are nothing new. The third baseman hears the negative projections, and actually understands why people feel that way.

Joey Gallo became only the second Rangers player since 2000 to homer in his major league debut, joining Jurickson Profar (2012) and became the first in franchise history to homer in his first two starts.

He knows he must increase his contact rate and reduce his strikeouts, which he has shown he’s capable of doing in the lower levels of the minor leagues. He had only a 26 percent strikeout rate in 2014 at High A Myrtle Beach and was at 33.6 percent last year at Double A Frisco.

His career has shown another pattern: He fares far better the second time at a level than the first. Hence, his belief that he will be better in 2016 at Triple A Round Rock, where he batted only .195 with a 39.4 percent strikeout rate in 53 games after he was demoted by the Rangers following his initial stint in the majors.

“For me, that’s just how it usually goes,” said Gallo, who had a 39.4 percent strikeout rate at three levels in 2015. “You go and see what it’s all about and see how things are, especially in Triple A. It’s a different game down there. I know that a lot of people are going to pitch around me, so I need to be patient and just take what they give me.”

Assistant Rangers hitting coach Justin Mashore has been with Gallo at two minor league stops, including last year at Round Rock. Mashore sees the work Gallo does and believes he will be a quality big-leaguer.

Mashore hears the same buzz, good and bad, that Gallo has heard since his days at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas. Mashore has his own take.

“We don’t really have a lot of comparisons of people that have played that are that big and hit the ball that hard,” Mashore said. “It’s all uncharted territory. Hopefully he learns to manage his body in the batter’s box and barrel more balls up, but at the same time, everybody that watches the game, it’s not a time to look away when he’s hitting.”

196 Strikeouts for Joey Gallo in 2015 over 497 plate appearance at three levels, including the majors. That’s a strikeout rate of 39.4 percent.

After flourishing at Double A and initially with the Rangers, Gallo went into a prolonged funk that he could never shake. At Round Rock, he was being fed mostly off-speed pitches in all counts, and even this spring opponents have been pumping secondary stuff.

They already know of Gallo’s power and want to make him beat them with anything but the long ball. If they don’t want to pitch to him, he doesn’t need to swing at their pitches.

“I know I can’t strike out 50 percent of the time, but if I strike out 30 percent of the time, I’m going to be very good,” said Gallo, who entered Wednesday 1 for 10 with six strikeouts and four walks this spring.

“I don’t have to worry about strikeouts anymore. They’re going to happen. I don’t get fastballs down the middle. They don’t want me to hit the ball.”

In the Rangers’ second game, Edinson Volquez, the No. 1 starter for the reigning world champion Kansas City Royals, threw Gallo back-to-back full-count changeups in an effort to get a strikeout/avoid the long ball.

“If they’re doing that, that means I’m doing something right still,” Gallo said.

It’s up to him to find an approach and keep making adjustments to minimize the holes in his swing that will allow him to reduce strikeouts and develop into the high-upside prospect many believe he can be.

“It’s a challenge,” Gallo said. “I know I’ll be a good player in the major leagues. It’ll take time. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I feel a lot better than I did last year.”

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