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Gallo on K's, defense, big power season

Rangers slugger enjoyed breakout season with 40 home runs
December 10, 2013

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Joey Gallo had one final memorable moment in his 2013 season, but it came in a suit on a stage in front of hundreds of Minor League executives Monday at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Gallo drew some laughs from the audience in collecting an enormous silver trophy -- the Joe Bauman Home Run Award -- after his 40 home runs led the Minors. 

He smiled and told the room simply, "Thanks."

"Obviously the speech was quick," Gallo laughed. "They just told me, 'Hey, say thank you.' So I said, 'All right.'"

Gallo let his bat do all the talking for him this summer, hitting 40 homers in his second season with the Rangers. Texas' first-round pick in 2012 broke into the Minors with 22 home runs in 59 games, most coming with the Rookie-level Arizona League Rangers. He moved up to Class A Hickory in 2013 and, along with sluggers such as Ryan Rua, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro, helped set a new team record for home runs in the South Atlantic League with 178. He did all that while missing time in July with a groin injury, too.

The third baseman owns immense raw power and a strong arm, but he strikes out a lot (172 times in 111 games) and admitted he needs to work on his accuracy with his throwing arm. The 20-year-old took a few minutes with us at the Winter Meetings to talk long balls, sleepovers with Bryce Harper and the best moment of his breakout season. I just saw you accept the Bauman Award for the most home runs in the Minors. Congrats on that -- what was it like to win and take home a trophy?

Joey Gallo: It was awesome, obviously overwhelming. Being here and seeing all these people you see on TV, all these big names, the coaches and GMs -- it's a lot of fun. It's awesome to get a big trophy and a check for having a good year. You've had some time now to reflect and look back on the season, 40 home runs. Has it soaked in yet that you had such a huge year?

Gallo: It still kind of hasn't, it's obviously kind of overwhelming. But looking back, I can't believe I had 40 in one season. It went so fast. I can remember every one -- I can almost count them all. That's just how I am -- I remember all my home runs; I remember most of my hits. It's kind of weird, though, to think I led the Minor Leagues in home runs. I didn't think I had a chance after I got hurt. You hit eight home runs in your last 10 games, three in one game. Was finishing strong to win the home run crown something you were pressing on and knew about it in your mind?

Gallo: I had 33 home runs the last week, and I was like, "Oh, that's cool." I ended up beating our club record of 32, and I had 33. And then I had the three-home run game and I thought, "Oh man, I can actually make a run for this." I hit two more, and I ended up with 40, so it was a hot streak. It worked in my favor. Some people have compared you to Russell Branyan, Adam Dunn, maybe someone like Mark Reynolds, a corner infielder with a lot of power. Do you think that's a fair comparison in terms of the hitter and fielder you are?

Gallo: It's nice to be compared to anyone in the Major Leagues -- that's obviously a compliment. I like to think of myself more as a guy who can do more than hit home runs. I feel like I can run the bases pretty well. I've gotten a lot better at third defensively -- I feel like I'll be able to stay at third base. I think that's overlooked a lot when you put up power numbers -- the rest of my game gets overlooked a bit. It's an honor to be mentioned with guys like Adam Dunn. You were 14-of-15 in steals this year -- it's pretty rare to see someone who has power like that and is still so efficient in steals. Is that something you said-- I want to be an aggressive base stealer? Has that always been a part of your game?

Gallo: Not too much -- I wanted to steal bases, I never really thought of it. It just kind of happened. If I got a good jump on a pitcher or saw something, I just took a base. I kind of prided myself on being able to run the bases well and being smart and aggressive. It all kind of worked out. The strikeouts are a large part of your game. Is it something that frustrates you as a hitter or does it just come along with being a power hitter?

Gallo: I struck out obviously a lot this year, but I think we were working on a lot of different things -- our whole team was. We were young, so we're all trying to figure out where we fit, what our approach was. This next coming year, we're going to cut down a lot of those strikeouts -- we're not worried at all. We know we'll be able to change it and what to do to fix it. Obviously, I'm going to strike out more than most people because of the power, but I'm not worried about it. You guys had a very potent lineup -- seven with at least 13 home runs, six players with at least 100 strikeouts. What was it like being the centerpiece of a lineup like that?

Gallo: It was unlike anything I've ever been a part of, team-wise, high school, anything. Our whole team has Major League potential. It was amazing to play with a team like that. Our power numbers were great, we won most of our games with home runs in the last inning. That's how we scored most of our runs. It was pretty awesome, obviously, we broke the Sally home run record and then we broke the strikeout record. Best of both worlds, I guess. Next year, most of you will probably be at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. Do you think it'll be more of the same, a lot of home runs and strikeouts, or do you see guys improving as you move up?

Gallo: We're all going to improve on making contact more and becoming all-around better players, but I don't know if our power numbers will be quite as much moving up the ladder, and Myrtle Beach isn't known to be a great hitters' park. We're going to have to switch up our game a little bit instead of relying on home runs. You were a first-round pick in 2012 and received the largest signing bonus of any Rangers player that year ($2.25 million). What was that like -- to be drafted in the first round and see your dreams start to come together?

Gallo: It was obviously amazing. As a kid, you dream of being a first-round pick and signing for money that makes some people jealous. That was my dream as a kid, so it was obviously exciting, but it didn't mean much. At the end of the day, you have to go out there and put the work in and prove you're worth the money and the pick. I'm trying to do that every day. Did you buy anything cool with the signing bonus money?

Gallo: I bought a car. I had a used car, so I gave that to my brother and I bought a new car, a Mercedes. I always kind of wanted something luxury, something nice. I was able to do that with my own money. You were selected to the Futures Game this past year. What was that like?

Gallo: I was hurt so I didn't go, but being selected, I was like -- Jorge Alfaro was on our team, they announced us both. I didn't think I had a chance. I was shocked, I was like a kid, I didn't know what was going on. Being selected to that is a tremendous honor, it makes me feel good about what the Rangers think about me. I wish I'd have been able to play. You were the Arizona League MVP a year ago, 22 homers in about 60 games. What was your Minor League debut like?

Gallo: It was crazy -- I had no idea that I would even remotely come close to that. I put up home run numbers in high school, but no way was I thinking I'd come here and start hitting even more home runs. I hit more than I did in high school, so it was overwhelming, crazy. I didn't expect that at all.

Joey Gallo accepts the Bauman Award as the Minors' top home run hitter. (Danny Wild/ What do you remember of your experience playing in the Arizona League in terms of the crowds and atmosphere?

Gallo: It's pretty much like high school scrimmages. It was like a reality check for us, because it's like -- you get drafted and you're a big star -- and then you go down there and suddenly you're like, "What is going on?" You're playing on side fields -- it was kind of weird for us. You're playing with guys who can't speak English, I'm playing next to a guy I can't even talk to. It was definitely a reality check and close to my home, so I enjoyed it. You're from Las Vegas, same as Bryce Harper, who was drafted a year ahead of you.

Gallo: I played with him since I was 8 years old, he used to come over and sleep at my house. We were really good friends. We still keep in touch. I see him in Vegas, and I think he's going to start working out with us, so it's pretty cool to have a guy like that. You're known for your arm strength, but you also had 20 errors last year. Is that something you're working on in terms of accuracy?

Gallo: Just kind of working defensively on how to field and throw the ball to first. It sounds simple, but there's a lot of things going on. That's where I started to realize a bit that I was doing some things wrong, throwing-wise. I had the arm strength to make up for some stuff, but I couldn't do what I was able to in high school. So I feel myself, I'm getting a lot better defensively, that I'll be able to stay at third base. A lot of people think because I'm big I won't be able to, but most haven't seen me play physically. I'm pretty athletic for how big I am. The arm strength helps out. What would you say was your favorite moment of this past year?

Gallo: I think probably my most memorable moment was obviously hitting my 40th home run. That was pretty cool, just to get that achievement. I went back into the dugout, I remember sitting down and thanking God. It was insane -- I can't believe it worked out like that.

Danny Wild is an editor for Follow his MLBlog, Minoring in Twitter.