Since the time Jon Daniels became the general manager of the Texas Rangers, the franchise has placed emphasis on developing its minor league system. In the last eight years, Texas has transformed its farm system into the envy of Major League Baseball, and the Rangers have prided themselves on building a pipeline of quality big-league talent to help future Ranger teams compete in years to come. Many notable minor leaguers from the Rangers system have developed into big-league players such as Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Chris Davis and Jurickson Profar. A name you may hear rumored to join that list in a few seasons could be Joey Gallo.
As last year’s 39th overall pick in the MLB Draft, Gallo produced a historic season for the Rangers single-A affiliate Hickory Crawdads. In just his first full season in professional baseball, Gallo finished the year leading the South Atlantic League in slugging (.610) and home runs (38), fifth in RBIs (78) and third in total bases (239). The 40 home runs (he hit two in rookie ball before his promotion) he clubbed lead all of Minor League Baseball, thus winning him this season’s Joe Bauman Award. According to Aaron Cox of the Hickory Crawdads, Gallo is the first teenager since 1962 to hit 40 home runs in a season.
While there are many things to smile about if your name is Joey Gallo, there are a few things the Rangers need to address with him in the offseason. This season, the teenager appeared to be an “all or nothing” type of hitter. While leading the league in home runs, Gallo also finished third in total strikeouts with 165 and was just 26 strikeouts behind the league leader, teammate Lewis Brinson. Although the third baseman has time to develop into a more well-rounded hitter, he needs to cut down on his punch outs. Once he gets closer to the major-league level, teams will study videotape and figure out ways to exploit holes in his swing. If he is unable to make adjustments, he may find himself struggling to hit major-league pitching, much like a former Ranger prospect, Chris Davis, did early in his career.
Gallo may also need to spend the next few offseasons working on his defense at third base. Just 167 games into his professional career, Gallo has already racked up 38 errors at the hot corner. As current third baseman Adrian Beltre gets older, he may transition to the DH role, and the team will look to replace one of the best defensive players in the Major League Baseball. Replacing a four-time Gold Glove winner will add pressure to any player who mans third base in Arlington in the future. A switch to first base could be in Gallo’s future if he keeps progressing through the farm system quickly since fan patience is starting to wear thin with Mitch Moreland.
Joey Gallo’s feats this year should be celebrated by Rangers fans, but in no way should they expect Gallo to be on the big-league radar any time soon. At just 19, Gallo will most likely spend a few more seasons in the minors. If he is able to replicate most of the power he displayed this year, however, he may find himself in Arlington sooner than anticipated.