Gallo brings A+ power to Class A ball

Hickory third baseman looks to build on strong rookie season

Joey Gallo belted 22 home runs between two levels in 2012. (James Snook)

By Sam Dykstra / Special to | April 6, 2013 6:00 AM ET

Only a handful of people on the planet can throw a baseball in excess of 95 mph, and during his time at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Joey Gallo was one of them. He could use his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame to fire the ball past helpless Nevada high schoolers if he wanted to, impressing any player, coach or scout nearby along the way.

There was just one issue. He didn't want to.

"I really just wanted to hit and play every day," he said. "I didn't have the passion to pitch every fifth day and wait it out the rest of the time. I loved hitting and playing the field, and that's something you're not going to do as regularly when you're a pitcher.

"I don't like to sit. I don't want to sit. I want to help the team win every day I can. It's as simple as that."

Then again, it's also easy to make that choice when you set a Nevada state record with 65 career home runs, 46 of which came in your final two seasons. Power's as good a fallback plan in baseball as anything.

It hasn't even been 10 months since the Rangers took Gallo as a power-hitting third baseman with the 39th pick in last year's Draft, but already it looks like the slugger made the right decision.

After foregoing a commitment to LSU and receiving a reported $2.25 million signing bonus with Texas, the then-18-year-old put up the most impressive rookie season of any 2012 Draft pick thus far.

Assigned to the Rookie-level Arizona League, it didn't take long for Gallo to get warmed up to his new surroundings. In just his ninth game in the Grand Canyon State, he went deep twice for his first multi-homer game as a professional slugger. (It was his fifth time that year, counting the four with Bishop Gorman.) Five days and four games later, he began an eight-game stretch that saw him go deep six times and drive in 12 runs.

It appeared he began to hit a wall in August -- understandable for a guy who had played an entire high-school schedule months earlier. The power remained though, even following a late-season promotion to Class A Short-Season Spokane. The left-handed hitter batted just .212 between the two stops but still managed eight home runs in 18 games, including a two-homer, seven-RBI performance in his fourth game with the Indians.

In total, Gallo's 18 blasts in the AZL broke a circuit record, and it was no surprise when he was named the league's Most Valuable Player. Combined with his senior-year totals, his 22 homers gave him 47 since the start of his baseball season.

Impressive numbers to be sure, but ones that also came against high-school and lower-level pitching as well. Still, Gallo, who will begin this year with Class A Hickory, insists he kept his focus away from the box score.

"It was more of a learning experience, really," he said. "Obviously, I had a good year numbers wise, but at the end of the day, that's all they are -- just numbers. For me, it was more about it being my first pro season, my first time living on my own and playing every day."

But where to go from there? For Gallo, he went home back to Vegas to train with Troy Tulowitzki and Jason Giambi at the Philippi Sports Institute -- just a rookie and two greats of the game.

"It was amazing working with them," said the Rangers' No. 9 prospect. "They taught me a lot, especially about how to get my body ready to prepare for a long season. I got to hit with them, and we got to talk about my swing a little bit. They said they liked it, and it's definitely pretty cool any time you can get All-Stars giving you compliments on your swing."

Despite his mighty chop at the dish, there remain other holes to be patched in the youngster's game. Given his hulking frame, some have contended that Gallo has more of a future at first base, though that wouldn't utilize the strength of his arm. As such, he knows he'll need to improve his footwork if he wants to stay at the hot corner.

There's also the issue of strikeouts. Gallo whiffed 78 times in 206 Minor League at-bats last year (once every 2.63 at-bats), a rate that could increase against the advanced pitching at the higher levels.

"The key for me is swinging at good pitches and not going after the ones out of the zone," he said. "I have a tendency to be overaggressive, so that's something I've tried to improve over time."

Maybe if he gets those kinks out of the way, Sally League pitchers will soon start suggesting he at least tries playing once every fifth day.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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